5 Sep 2006

From Catford to Canons

I AM shattered.

I spent the last 24 hours (which felt like weeks) assisting my wine importing confrere Robert Fernandez, who trades as Oenotek and specialises in the wines of Burgundy. Alas my mobile, chosen for its high quality camera, gave up the ghost this AM, meaning my stash of pictures are lost.
Painting instead with prose (that left is courtesy of 'Wikipedia'), we left Robert's home in Catford at 4am yesterday to catch an early euro-tunnel passage. Once through the long shadowy spindle some call one of the wonders of the world, initial orders were transported from a warehouse in Lille to a depot in Dijon via a baguette pit stop in Reims (alas 'Scooby-Doo' chocolate pastries ordered alongside - it transpired - were inexplicably omitted by the giggling ginger girl at the counter).
We managed to fit in a nippy, but graceful tour of Notre-Dame de Reims where the Kings of France were once crowned. Apart from the sheer-scale, unlike its namesake in Paris, this cathedral was bright, war-splintered stained glass having been replaced with translucent, as in Ste-Croix, Orleans. You could also see the immense butresses from inside, emphasising the building's inclination to immortality. I wander what 13th century paupers thought entering this place? -Probably what its landlord intended them to.
We arrived in Dijon, Burgundy's calm, couth administrative capital, early afternoon, slaking our thirsts at 'La Comedie', a dedicated wine bar, specialising in small ISO style glasses nicknamed 'Canons'. These were filled with Montagny '04 [€3.10] and Rully '99 [€2.80] from Louis Jadot, the latter having a musky, atypical floral quality not dissimilar to 'Higher' aftershave from Dior [€38.20].
I was impressed by the timbered Medieval Hansel and Grettel style 'colombage' architecture of Dijon and the zig-zag patterned Flemish roofs echoing the Hospices de Beaune. The large enclosed market building, designed by Gustav Eiffel and picked out in various blues, also captured my attention.
A cocoa-centric patisserie from a former Edwardian pharmacy festooned with chandelliers turned out to be 'sweet revenge' when it slipped through my hands face down onto the pavement. I ate it anyway, only now feeling mildly disgusted by my fanatacisim for baked goods and chocolate.

In the evening the formal tasting ensued in a gravelly-grotto underneath the house of a chap named Jacques who joked about his wine fanatacism leading to divorce. Twice.
The highlights were a Chambertin Clos-de-Bèze Grand Cru '03, which was taught and gruff, but not yet complex, and a Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru '01 from négociant Nicolas Potel. This fluffy perfumed cat from this famous 125acre estate divided into around 85 pairs of hands (Burgundy suffers a property ownership hangover from Napoleonic times) was a "tingler" with a lovely, runny camembert nose. Whilst musing over the glass, I learnt suede shoes are not appropriate attire for tastings chez Jacques, the gravel carpet acting as everyone's spittoon.
We took the remainder of the above to Robert's parents house nearby to enjoy alongside Spanish Tortilla, retiring for a short snore and then a 4am return. Fortunately that blow was softened by freshly ground coffee, puffed-up croissants and homegrown peaches.
For these wines, please contact Robert