On the road – Chablis tastings – the Tuesday marathon

When spending some days in Chablis with my friends from Russia in November 2014, we did a marathon tasting  tour on Tuesday: We visited three wine cellars. I enjoyed all the tastings and I was impressed, how carefully my Russian friends evaluate each wine.


Régnard – an elegant traditional house offering all Grands Crus terroirs

Usually Régnard opens at 9:30 AM, but for us, Marion opens at 9 AM. We stand in front of a closed large gate, until we find out that the boutique is round the corner. Marion is waiting for us. She explains to us that Régnard has all seven Grands Crus (including Les Grenouilles – I do not understand, why La Chablisienne is said to have the quasi-monopole of Les Grenouilles then – and Régnard has Grenouilles on offer as well).

Marion guides us into an elegant room with a round table and proposes us to select the four Grands Crus that we want to taste. The tasting is free, when we buy something.


These are the four Grands Crus that we have selected for our tasting.

  • Les Preuses 2003: Due to the age the color is darker yellow. Nose is rich, taste is mellow – perhaps truffles and nuts, ends a bit harsh. Drink now.
  • Bougros 2007  (good year): Smooth , good balance with acidity, fruity (cannot say what fruit). I liked it and bought one bottle of 2006.
  • Blanchots 2009 : Toasted bread and pear in the nose, strong mineral and salty taste (Marion talks about pierre des fusils or flint stone).
  • Les Clos 2011: Mineral, salty and fruity (the Russians find green apple, while a find a touch of peach).

In addition to Bougros, I buy two half bottles of 1er Cru – Fourchaume (2010, vielles vignes) and Montée de Tonnerre. Régnard is a traditional house and carefully packs our treasures into boxes. They also have an excellent Marc.

One of the Fourchaume half bottles I share with a friend later. We had it with a corn soup. My notes: Fruity, nutty (perhaps almond) and mineral flavors.


LaRoche – splendid history going back to the 9th century, and more sober atmosphere in the wine shop

In the 9th century Saint Martin and his monks had to flee from the Vikings. They founded the church of St. Martin with a monastery, after having received this area as a feud from the French king, Charles the Bold.


The old cellar of the monastery became the cellar of LaRoche. We visited the impressive vaults and admired the old vintages in the shelves.


The tasting takes place in the sober atmosphere of the small wine shop.


These are the wines we tried:

  • Chablis 2013: Fresh and crispy.
  • Chablis Saint Martin: Mixed best “plain” Chablis climats. Mineral, balanced acidity, green apple, I like the fresh taste and buy two half bottles.
  •  Beauroy 1er Cru 2011: Mellow and well balanced.
  • Fourchaume 2011: Somewhat unbalanced (“eckig”), touch of almond.
  • Blanchot Grand Cru. 2010 : Pleasant, balanced, flowery (perhaps rose fragrance), I sense the oak. The assistant says:”il n’a  pas encore mangé son fut” (the wine has not yet eaten up its oak) and gives us Blanchot 2009 to compare which has a more fruity touch (perhaps melon).


Brocard – a family owned innovative winemakery in a great setting amidst vineyards

After a quick lunch next door to LaRoche, we head off to Brocard. His cave is outside of Chablis, about 5 km south east and amidst vineyards. There is a great view from here. Brocard also offers a large room for business and private events. In the tasting room I see Russian wine magazines.

Brocard is the largest family owned winemaker in Chablis.  Father Jean-Marc Brocard built this production site in the 1970’s. Now his son Julien has taken over. Julien introduced biodynamic methods for a large part of the vineyards. Our tasting assistant explains that Brocard does not mix the climats when producing wine to let the terroir speak. They use oak barrels carefully, just to make the wine softer.

We visit the caves with the oak and steel barrels, and come across these innovative egg-shaped barrels made out of concrete. The yeast circulates better in these barrels, our guide says.


These are the wines we tasted..


  • Chablis, Sainte Claire: Green color, fruity touch of green apple.
  • Chablis, vieille vignes 2012 (vines are 60 years old): Round, touch of celery, I liked it and bought two half bottles.
  • Château Vau de Vey 1er Cru 2012: slightly bitter taste, orangeade.
  • Montee de Tonnerre 1er Cru 2012: Salty, high acidity.
  • Bougros Grand Cru 2011: I can feel the oak.
  • Les Clos Grand Cru 2011: 18  months in barrel, touch of nuts, I sense the oak less.
  • Les Preuses Grand Cru 2011: Was in egg-shaped concrete barrel, salty, round. I like it and imagine it with shellfish. I bought a bottle.


Rounding off with a short walk in the vineyards

After our tasting marathon, we stop in the vineyards around Brocard for a short walk….


… tasting the grapes that are left in November – they are sweet. Would ice wine not be a business for Chablis as well? Perhaps too risky, when freezing temperatures come early in autumn.


Our next tasting adventures will take place around Beaune.



Three Swiss in Florence – taking bus number 7 to Fiesole

Fiesole is an old historical town that was overtaken by Florence later

Situated on a hill north of Florence is Fiesole. The Etruscans founded it far above the Arno by to avoid the floodings. In 59 BC the Romans established Florence next to Fiesole. Diokletian made Florence the capital of Tuscany and Umbria. Medieval Florence conquered Fiesole (around 1000 AD).

Fiesole shows the remains of their Roman city as an archaeological site open to visitors. After a three day culture marathon with the Firence card, we now head to Fiesole to see the Roman remains and to look at Florence from above.


How to get to Fiesole – bus number 7

Besides giving access to museums and churches, the Firenze card also provides a bus ticket. We climb bus number 7 near Accademia in Via Giorgio. As the bus follows the winding road upwards, the gardens and houses are getting larger – a suburban residential atmosphere. The view of Florence is spectacular.


The archaeology museum closes at 2 PM

At Fiesole, we find out that the archaeology museum closes at 2 PM and now it is 12. No mercy, no lunch… Trying to calm down my empty stomach, I take a photo of these nicely set tables waiting for guests and I had a small power bar that Leni found in her bag.


We buy the entry ticket and wander around the Roman ruins. There are an amphitheatre,…


… archades that are left from the Roman baths (with a view of the Renaissance cathedral),…


… the remains of a Roman temple that was built on the foundations of an Etruscan temple…



… and a cobbled Roman road.


Beware not to climb around the ruins – this may be dangeorus.


We have a short look at the museum, but the guard warns us of a “terremoto” and does not let us access the upper levels. A terremoto? Why a terremoto? We learn later that at 11:36 a terremoto of 4.1 Richter magnitude scale has shaken the area of Florence. And this was the most serious of a series of earth quakes hitting the Chianti area today. Sitting in the bus, we had not noticed anything. We only observed that the cupboards in our hotel room were shaking, when there was a minor earth quake of about 3 around five o’clock early the next morning.

After having seen the Roman ruins, we return to the restaurant on the main square of Fiesole to have a pizza. Outside where the tables are nicely set, it is too chilly for us. We select a table under the garlic garlands…


… and soon enjoy a crunchy pizza on the rustic blue plates with the white dots.


The bus number 7 takes us back down to Florence. Again we dive into the streets of Florence, this effervescing city.


Three Swiss in Florence – enjoying more museums and palaces

Again to recapitulate: The architecture timeline  of Florence from Proto-Renaissance to Baroque


Let us now look at more museums, namely the Palazzo Pitti, the Uffizi and the Accademia.

Palazzo Pitti – Palace of the Pitti, then of the Medici, then of the king of Italy – and now a museum

With Leni, I crossed Ponte Vecchio admiring the Vasari Gallery that leads from Palazzo Pitti to the Uffizi. Vasari built this Gallery in 1564, after the Medici (now dukes reporting into Spanish Habsburg) had moved from the Palazzo Vecchio into the larger Palazzo Pitti. Using the Gallery they could walk from their new home to their offices and – at his point – even attend the service in Santa Felicita.


The Medici named the Palazzo Vecchio “Palazzo Vecchio” after having moved to their new Palazzo Pitti, and they enlarged their new residence.


1813 – 1821, Napoleon had a bathroom here.


And from 1860-1865 the king of newly founded Italy resided in this palace, for five years, until Rome became the capital of Italy.

The gardens behind the palace are called Boboli gardens. They are huge. We climb the stairs and reach the fountain with hercules.


We climb farther up and look back to the fountain, the palace and the town.


The Palazzo Pitti includes the Gallery Palatina that extends over several halls that are decorated with frescos by Pietro de Cortona (17th century). This is the allegory of war on the ceiling of the hall of Mars: It praises the Medici, as their emblem shows.


The halls are decorated with silk wallpapers. The paintings are arranged on them according to esthetical considerations – as if the Medici would like to come back any time and live in these rooms. In each hall, there is a panel pointing out the outstanding oeuvres. And there are outstanding oeuvres such as this painting by Raffael (the “Mother with Child and St. John the Baptist”)…


.. and this is “La Bella” by Titiano. I am impressed with her sleeves – not very practical, but she obviously did not have to do a lot of housework.


The Palazzo Pitti is also playing a role in Magdalen Nabb’s Marshal Guarnaccia Investigation stories. Guarnaccia works in the police station of the Palace and from here he uncovers the crimes that happen in the small streets around Santo Spirito. I have read “Death of an Englishman” and “Death of a Dutchman” – two great criminal stories with a lot of humor.


Stunning and not digestable in one visit: The Uffizi

The dukes of Medici had the Uffizi built as an administration center. I feel like in a dream when walking up the large stairs to the top floor. There is a long corridor with many, many doors.  For citizens, this maze must have been terrrifying. I remember Mani Matter and his song about such governmental corridors: “Är isch vom Amt ufbotte gsy, am Fritig vor de Nüne, by Schtraf, im Unterlassigsfall, im Houptgebäud, Block zwo, Im Büro 146 persönlich go z’erschiine, Und isch zum Houptiigang am Halbi Nüüni inecho.” – “He has been asked by the government to appear in the main building of block two in office 146, on Friday before nine and risking punishment, when not coming.”  The poor guy gets lost in the corridors with all the many doors and never finds a way back. Perhaps, Mani Matter was in the Uffizi, when he invented that song.



Fortunately the Uffizi are now a museum and panels clearly show the way. Behind the first door I say hello to the duke and duchess of Urbino, portrayed by Francesco (ca 1470). Why are you so pale, Lady?


In one of the next rooms there is this highlight of Botticelli, called “the Birth of Venus”. A lady enters the room, walks directly to her Botticelli, opens her chair, sits down and just looks at the painting. Via email I share this foto with the godfather of my Ernst. He is also called Ernst and was a priest. Now he his 90 years old. He guides cultural tours to Florence and Rome. Enthusiastically he writes back: “Look at Botticelli’s wonderful painting. The name is wrong… it is not ‘The birth of Venus’, but it should be called ‘Arrival of Venus onshore’. Look at Zephir. He is blowing to push Venus to the shore and he makes flowers follow her.” Uncle Ernst plans his next tour to Florence in spring. I am sure that his guests will enjoy his lively explanations!


One of my favorite artists is Leonardo da Vinci. Well, I know, he was not just an artist, but also a scientist. Dumont says that both paintings in the Uffizi have been completed in the workshop of Verocchio and that Leonardo took part in them. In the “Annunciation” Leonardo must have participated in painting the angel and Maria.


And in the “Baptism of Christ”, Leonardo painted the left angel that is much softer than the other angel.


We looked at more paintings of Botticelli,  of Ghirlandaio… and then there was also Michelangelo Buonarotti: “the Tondo of the Holy Family”.


This painting by Lippi is very charming: “Madonna with Child and St. John.”


After a coffee we take the next level of the Uffizi, until we feel dizzy. I think I will have to come back. It is not possible to see and digest the Uffizi in one visit of half a day.


Also stunning and not digestable in one visit: The Galleria dell’Accademia

There is one highlight in the Galleria dell’Accademia that all tourists look for – the original sculpture of David by Michelangelo. The copy stands in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, where a committee of town representatives had decided to place it, after Michelangelo had completed it. Originally the statue of David was planned to be raised to the roof of the Duomo. Michelangelo cut  his David out of one block of marmor and it weighs 6 tons. It was impossible to lift David up to the Duomo. And this is why he ended up in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. This is also why his hands are oversized – seen from the ground below the Duomo the hands would have been perfectly in perspective. But on the same level they look huge. Florence knows what their David is worth. Rome wanted to take it (if not kidnap it), but Matteo Renzi, then mayor of Florence, could convince the Italian government that David belongs to Florence.


There is much more to be seen in the Accademia. Here is another example, the crucification of Bonaguida in 1310: Each fruit on the twelve branches is said to be a gift to mankind.


And I also liked this crucification of Bernardo Daddi, 1340, which shows so much suffering in the face of Christ.



 So much for the culture in Florence

With the Accademia, I am rounding off the cultural highlights that we visited in Florence. Fortunately, we did not end up in a hospital with the diagnosis “overdosis of literature”. We took our time in the churches and museums and we also relished the atmosphere in this lively town – in markets, restaurants, coffee houses and shops or just strolling through the streets.