Saturday, 25 September 2010

It's Not All About Cheese

Just in case my cheese stories were starting to grate on you, I thought I’d give you a slice of some different action (two jokes in one – bargain!).

Whilst travelling around I’ve also visited some fantastic wine producers in Burgundy and here in the Côte Roannaise – I had to find something that would go with all this cheese I was eating. It all started with a gentle weaving cycle ride through the Puligny and Chassagne Montrachet vineyards before arriving at Meursault. Here we stopped at the negociants ‘Ropiteau’. Generally only available in on-licence (restaurants, hotels) in the UK, I’d never tasted their wines before. But a friend at Beacon Purchasing enabled me to visit their cellars to have a taste with their cellar-master, Nicolas Burnez and Ropiteau’s UK Manager Jean-Pierre Grangé. The wines were fabulous, classic Meursault taste with just the right hint of oak. Tasting straight from the barrel with their cellar-master was a real experience, as he hopped about the cave drawing off wine here and there. It also meant I could taste wines that weren’t quite ready and needed a bit longer to see how they develop.

After tasting quite a few wines, I mounted my bike and made my wobbly way through the vineyard lanes to Beaune. There I had an appointment with the export director of Louis Jadot. I’d tasted their wines before, working at The Balmoral Hotel and was looking forward to this tasting – their Burgundy pinot noirs are impressive. Here the operation was on a different scale to Ropiteau: Louis Jadot’s cave was as long as the eye could see, filled with bulging burgundy barrels (or pièces as they call them). This time I didn’t make the same mistake of drinking too much at the beginning of the tasting, but saved myself for the impressive premier and grand crus of the Côte de Nuits. Again, I’m not going to bore you with what they tasted like, just be assured that I left Louis Jadot in love with pinot noir!

When I returned back to the Roannaise, I visited a little producer named ‘Palais’, almost next door to the Mons affinage tunnel. A different story again here! Yann Palais has about three fields surrounding his farm and instead of following the appellation regulations he plants something a little different alongside Gamay – Gewurtztraminer, Viognier and Syrah. His small production is all done in his barn and he stores his wine in a tiny cellar. In this small home production he produces several lovely wines, which will perfectly suit my copious cheese supply.

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