Archives for the ‘France’ Category

Joesph Drouhin-cellars under Beaune

Joseph Drouhin is a historic Burgundy name. So a cavernous walk a few metres under the city of Beaune to view their bottle collection history is a wondrous site.

There are cobwebs, dark corners, dusty old bottles, medieval height entrances (you must crouch to pass) and shining new wine pieces (barrels) to contrast this display place of wine storage, bought in 1880.

And there is no better watering hole in Beaune than here to complete a visit by drinking from Drouhin burgundy bottles carefully selected from all over the appellations (small vineyards) this negociant (trader) either occupies or purchases.

VISIT

Our France wine tours take guests through the villages of Burgundy; into Beaune, Pugliny-Montrachet and Nuits-Saint-Georges, offering introduction-only visits to caves, only some open to the public.  If you’d like to find out more about this exclusive guided experience for lovers of wine and food, you can call me direct on +61 427 705 391 or email denisew@uncorkedandcultivated.com.au.

Our tasting guide describes the cleverly placed, mood-lit surrounds: built in the 14th century, one level below the town established by the King of France at that time, then we step into another section built in 1450. Wish the wine was that old.

The view at the chamber end gives the herringbone style of 4th Century Roman brickwork which is the base of this cavern. Perfect for the bottle museum (all sizes; 375 ml, normal, magnum to jeroboam) with its uneven stone flooring, always cool or cold.

The modern day Drouhin family has set about retaining their drinking heritage, though the interruption by WW2 has caused many gaps.

The oldest date on a bottle is 1911, then the rest are post 1961, and as time passed, as much as 5% is retained for tasting, drinking, exhibiting, auctioning and donating.

WHAT TO DRINK

All are unlabelled save the chalked identification on each bin patch-very much a burgundian habit this. If there are spare labels or new ones produced they will be in the label storage section, more pristine a place than in this dusty series of caverns.

Caves Joseph Drouhin

Caves Joseph Drouhin-Roman inscriptions, cellars, barrel aging, ancient press, Hospice wine

We were offered brilliant new papyrus paper style labelled wines such as Joseph Drouhin Chorey-Les-Beaune 2012, a village wine from north of the town, known to be terribly drinkable as oh so supple for entry pinot noir. This had that level of deliciousness. Thank you pinot.

Joseph Drouhin Chorey-les-Beaune

Joseph Drouhin Chorey-les-Beaune   1er 2012

 

A significant drink for sharing is Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches 1er 1996; a vineyard of both chardonnay and pinot noir purchased in the 1920s and now held up to be part of the soul of the company.

Joseph Drouhin 1er Clos des Mouches

Joseph Drouhin Beaune 1er Clos des Mouches 1996

The pinot is most expressive, dense and rapturing to see and smell, then succulent, alluring and mouthfilling, a touch of age but pinot with backbone. The vineyard was once circled by bee hives (mouches).

From the northern Cote de Nuits poured was Joseph Drouhin Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Damodes 2008; this now perfumed from bottle time, oozing red fruits yet contrite on taste; both black and red fruits, supple, rounded, expressive.

Joseph Drouhin 1er Damodes

Joseph Drouhin Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Damodes 2008

 

The cellars of Joseph Drouhin once had uses apart from maturing wine.

At the end of WW2, Maurice Drouhin escaped the Gestapo underground via a “door to freedom” to a corridor into the Hospices de Beaune hospital, hidden there over four months until war’s end.

Beaune: pinot + chardonnay

Beaune is the charming hub of Burgundy. I just love the place.

And it is small. As we would say in Australia, Beaune is like a country town.

But there is a big reputation; it’s all about some of the biggest ticket wine sale items in the world.

Bottles of red burgundy, from tiny but hallowed sandy clay plots on a low slung hillside village called Vosne-Romanee, are in great demand. Supply is tiny.

Vosne-Romanee grand cru vineyards June 2016

Vosne-Romanee grand cru vineyards June 2016

So there is a knock on effect that producers drip in the dollars from high priced sales. But not really.

Beaune producers in relative terms are understated, less showy, have dumbed down entrances, show quiet business practices but great history in this mean inland climate.

Burgundy wine is a small industry, 12-18 million bottles (dependent on frost and hail damaging the yield as in 2012, 2013, 2016), while Champagne is 314 and Bordeaux 780 million bottles.

Uncorked Wine and Food Tours walk into the fabric of Burgundy at all levels for just the pinot noir and the chardonnay experiences; cold climate wines, delicacy, high acidity, faint texture, subtle finish, great complements to hearty continental dishes.

Most notable here is the political history and its association with the placement of wine businesses inside old Beaune town.

Though Gallo-Roman in its early origin, the strong influence taken by the Benedictines and Cistercian monks in the Middle Ages towards wine growing, making and trading, became financial power.

IMG_6130

Gallo-Roman sculpted cellar-Chanson Bastion

Visits to the negociant firms of Domaine Chanson (established 1750) and Bouchard Pere et Fils (established 1731) finds them positioned on two of the five battlements which constituted the fort of Beaune in the era when the Dukes of Burgundy were independent of the French throne. And defended themselves.

A must do tourist walk is along the ramparts beside the circle road, the last connected walkways between the fortified towers.

Bouchard Pere et Fils Chateau de Beaune

Bouchard Pere et Fils Chateau de Beaune

These towers were perfectly made for wine production; heavy in stone from 7-20 metres wide, on a range of levels for gravity feeding wine, and at the lower dungeon level, closed for bottle storage in perfect security, and low temperatures of 10-14 oC all year round.

So good for a Beaune wine tourist to witness this underground marvel of stores and treasures; Bouchard’s oldest bottle is white Meursault Charmes 1846, and there are still many bottles of it.

Bouchard Pere et Fils pre-1900s dungeon cellar

Bouchard Pere et Fils pre-1900s dungeon cellar

Wine companies in this town run the story of how much they value their wine heritage; from many, many decades, and the regular practice on a rolling schedule is to replace corks every 25-30 years.

We know how disastrous cork is? So up to 10% of stocks would be deteriorating slowly.

Bins of wines (always without label and generally covered in black grime from the wet, humid conditions) are checked, tasted, re-corked, part-drunk or shared, or auctioned on a slow ongoing schedule by the chief winemaker.

What quantities in a bin? A few bottles up to several hundred, sometimes a thousand, in prevalent instances in magnums, and larger bottles up to 6-9 litre (they would be fun to re-cork!)

Joseph Drouhin (established 1880) owns more underground production area and storage below the town centre than buildings above. By judicious, purchasing after the French revolution (the country was broke) Drouhin assets include the original 17th century wine press operated across the street from the original Benedictine church.

Joseph Drouhin below Beaune-Gallo-Roman times

Joseph Drouhin below Beaune-Gallo-Roman times

So a visit to Beaune gives the wine tourist opportunity to kick back on a diet of chardonnay and pinot noir, drink history and see sights as unique as a delving wine mind can imagine.

And don’t be put off if you are served pinot noir before the chardonnay! That is the habit.

Krug: the only one

A visit to Krug. Maybe this is a wine travellers’ idea of Champagne heaven. Close. The wines will mesmerise and history rarely paralleled after Joseph Krug’s family efforts at Krug and Co since 1847.

The wine of the company – Krug Grande Cuvee contains a lattice of many wines. Sitting around a table festooned on persian rugs we spy a bottle, the minimum age range inside is 20 years but this one spans from numerous village wines from 1990 through 2006 (25 yo).

So the blend was tiraged (yeast added) in 2006 and lees aged until a 2013 disgorging-7 years dead yeast time.

And many vintages are stored in the chalk to make these Grande Cuvees – at present there are 400.

Storage -Krug's Juie Murez explains

Storage -Krug’s Julie Murez explains

Back vintages were once held in magnums (as Bollinger still do); but from the 1960’s that stopped and stainless steel is preferred.

What varieties? The three main ones grown in the champagne appellation – pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier are here; this bottle’s proportions were 44/33/21 in that order.

Krug Grande Cuvee- 2013 disgorging

Krug Grande Cuvee- 2013 disgorging

Krug Grande Cuvee NV AUD 250, 12%; always has bold colour (but so would any contributing white wine stored over 20 years); nose of power, scents of delicacy, broiche, not buttery but veins of sweets and roasted nuts, elegance from oak presence.

That’s just the aromas which will dictate a huge taste expectation. Creaming bubbles because the aged wines are so nut-like, power in the palate, dryness from oak-space and age accumulation. What a mix. A venerable powerhouse of flavour. Wine in a mouthful.

We tasted a second Krug Grande Cuvee NV, disgorged in 2012 but composed in 2003. This wine is chardonnay dominant from 120 wines, the oldest being 1988. From this tasting I am deducing that Krug do not make an annual cuvee blend but have another cycle of blending which is a house habit.

What is it in the anatomy of making Krug? Not one aspect but several; some very old base wines, strong use of pinot meunier, old barrel use and more.

Since 1964 at vintage ferments are in 4000 old barrels, and these are maintained in a fresh but old state year on year. So the base wines have that unmistakable Krug stamp of conditioned oak character, more subtle than obvious.

While Krug focuses on its spotless non vintage for the majority of its drinkers, equally memorable are its vintage bottlings.

The 2014 had just been bottled around our visit. Tasted were 2000 and 2003; with 2003 being released before 2002 as there was general discussion all over the region about how the hot year of 2003 should be regarded. Some makers did not release 2003, others did.

The Krug 2003 AUD 350, 12% is a heavenly wine; vintage Krug has little resemblance to is blended non-vintage; so the year is on show as are the various parcels (46/29/25) selected to be an ambassador for the year (after 8-9 years in bottle). Has probably 30-40 village components, quite a masterpiece, the fermentation in barrels decidedly give it “Krug” character from oak seasoning aromas and taste. Lovely wine; full-bodied vintage, though never as full as Grande Cuvee.

Krug Brut 2003

Krug Brut 2003

And if you like music to contemplate while the Grande Cuvee is penetrating your mind and palate, try this:

Uncorked and Cultivated France Food and Wine Tours visit Krug’s cellars in Reims. Joseph Krug was originally born in Mainz, Germany.

Mont-Redon :Chateauneuf

There is an instant impulse to grab the big rocks as we drive into Chateau Mont-Redon or better still be photographed with these big gibbers. I did.

We are travelling into the southern Rhone to visit the land of mouth-embracing warm area reds in Chateauneuf du Pape (CNDP).

And our host is a jovial fellow, Pierre Fabre who travels the world to discuss the family business at Chateau Mont-Redon.

Now these gibbers; well this is the soil these guys are dealt. Walk up closer and I am relieved to say there is sand between the rocks where these old vines (no trellis) grow as bushes. There is no water supply save a deep root system to survive the blistering summer.

Big gibbers-old bush vines

Big gibbers-old bush vines

Some vineyards have these big pebbles, others are chalky known as calcare here for limestone. The mother rock comes from ancient sea deposits going down up to 200 m in parts, it depended on the sea depth, adding more clay; the pebbles were the river bed; once wider and of European Alps origin; now only the big rocks are left.

Old sea bed vines- Rhone Alps backdrop

Old sea bed vines- Rhone Alps backdrop

There are three large appellations in France: Saint Emilion with 5000 hectares, Chablis with 4000 ha, then  Chateauneuf du Pape with 3200 ha. It tracks one side of the Rhone River for 200 km and at a maximum only 20 km wide. Thirteen grapes are grown.

Mont-Redon started life in 1923 with 2 ha, and now has grown to 150 ha, including a 1997 purchase in Lirac nearby. This is the home of grenache, a special yet thin skinned grape which needs hanging late to ripen, and any late summer rain is disastrous though rare.

Chateauneuf is known mainly for blended red production from grenache, syrah and mourvedre though white is 5% of the surface. Mont-Redon make 15% of their production white, from blends of grenache blanc (main variety), clairette, roussanne, picpoul and the latter bourboulenc for acidity.

Significant exporters like this company receives a greater demand for white wine styles as countries like Australia and USA are big white wine consumers. They are a fullsome drink.

I just loved the Chateau Mont-Redon Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2012 (AUD ); lots of lovely bits to enjoy, sniff the aroma, it smells of the earth of the region, little flowers, spicy-black pepper grenache notes, all yummy and not a sip taken! Has lots of depth, velvet tannins that slip around the mouth, a great spice warmth; 95% is the grenache-syrah-mourvedre mix with 5% of old school varieties left in the older vineyard which are inter-planted.

Mont-Redon 2012

Mont-Redon 2012

Pierre could not resist being a good host so he opened some older bottles of the famous wine; 2007 and 2005 CNDP, both nice and rounded harvests to really enjoy.

Chateau Mont-Redon  Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2007 looks classic; more reds than purples, wine in harmony with itself; this bottle has not left the property, nose sweetened from an improvement in the bottle; nice brioche, honey-raisin, then an expanding palate of puckering spice, jam notes and the pleasant experience. Served unlabelled but easily identified.

Mont-Redon 2007

Mont-Redon 2007

Uncorked’s travel guests visit Chateau Mont-Redon winery and vineyard in the Southern Rhone on the France Wine and Food Tour, and get to have their pic taken amongst the gibbers.

Like the latest
wine & travel news?

Subscribe to our mailing list and get Peter's latest posts to your inbox.