On the road with my friends – reflecting about Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in central Burgundy

… One of the main attractions in Burgundy that I recall from 30 years ago: “Ici commence le Chambertin – ici finit le Chambertin”

When I was in Burgundy 30 years ago, I visited the vineyards of Gevrey-Chambertin and I remember the panels “ici commence le Chambertin” and “ici finit le Chambertin”.  I loved these merry panels and now, back in Burgundy thirty years later, I keep on looking for them. My friends do not know, what I am talking about. And I am getting more and more frustrated. I could not understand, why I could not find the panels of the Chambertin vineyard. But then, I found out. The direction départementale des territoires (DDT) of Burgundy wanted to give a common “corporate design” to their winegrowing business to become eligible for the list of Unesco World Heritage. They decided that the two Chambertin panels are disturbing that common design image and had the panels removed despite the protest of the wine growers. I was very disappointed about this act of bureaucracy, in particular because later I came across some ugly panels indicating the names of other domains. Why on earth have these charming panels been removed and what was wrong with them in the light of some common design principles? They were THE attraction, mentioned even in the former old Johnson wine atlas. What did my Russian friend Anna always say: “Bureaucrats of all countries – unify.”


Fortunately, there is another attraction that has not been removed: The smallest vineyard Larissa has ever come across

We stop at the smallest vineyard, Domaine de Jaques Prieur, just next to Chambertin Clos de Bèze. Larissa always comes back to this tiny vineyard, when she visits Burgundy.



It is now hiding in the November fog.


Nearby we try some of the few Pinot Noir grapes that had been left – no one else will pick them, as it is mid November.


We also enjoy seeing the rose bushes carry rose hips. Roses are often planted along the vineyards as an early indicator for diseases.


Yes, it is autumn – mid November. We soak in the famous names such as Château de Chambertin.


We study the old wine making equipment in Château Clos Vougeot…


… with an old wine press and an old fountain…


… in the November fog.


It is great to be here with Russian friends and exchange about our wine terminology. For instance how to put the sense of “tannin” into an image. I compare tannin to “fur” tickling and biting my palate (I call this a  “Pelzli” in Swiss German – it is not an official term). My  Russian friends also feel that tickling in their palate and describe it as a knitting woman (“вяжущая женшина”). Yes, the full bodied and sometimes tannic wines – let us look at some of the factors that have shaped Burgundy.


Сentral Burgundy has a long history in a varied terrain following a fault line and the vineyards are split between many, many owners

The wines of Burgundy mostly grow on east and south-east facing slopes of the Saône valley, capturing the sun early in the morning and benefiting from the warm temperature retained during the day. The slopes are shaped by a fault line that brings layers of various maritime epochs to the surface. The resulting structure of the slopes is very varied and has been studied by swarms of geologists – they found calcium from defunct shellfish and a mixture of limestone and marlstone, sometimes iron. Pebbles often retain the heat (the wines are then called “Les Cras”, “Les Caillerrets” or “Les Perrières”). Already in the 12th century, monks eagerly explored the potential of the terrain to find the best places for their vines – and wines. As a matter of fact, wine growing goes back to Roman times (mentioned first around 300) and to the early Burgundy empire (in 630 the duke gave a large domain to the Abbaye de Bèze which continues to live in today’s Clos de Bèze). Around 1400 Philippe the Bold (then duke of Burgundy) ordered the Pinot Noir grape to become the only red grape in central Burgundy. After the French revolution (1790) the ground belonging to the abbeys was sold – and this is why ownership of the vineyards is split today: 4900 domains, 115 trader-wine makers (negociant-éleveur) and 19 cooperations.

The terrain shapes the quality of the wines: East/east-southward facing slopes, altitude (less foggy higher up), ascent (the steeper the better), ground (more limestone than clay, sometimes pebbles) are some of the factors. There are about 2% Grand Crus wines, about 11% 1er Crus, and the rest are either labeled AOC communales or AOC régionales. The main grapes are Pinot Noir for red (thanks to Philippe the Bold) and Chardonnay for white.

The  Côte d’Or is surrounding Beaune. To the north of Beaune there are Gevrey-Chambertin (AOC wines are all red and there are 9 Grand Crus) and Nuits St. Georges (97% red and 3% white). Then there is the terrain of Beaune (85% red and 15% white). South of Beaune there are Meursault (mostly Chardonnay – white wines with an oak influence resulting in the typical buttery taste), Puligny Montrachet /Chassagne Montrachet (also mostly Chardonnay – white, but also some red from Pinot Noir) and Santenay /Maranges (80 to 90% red and 10 to 20% white). The Meursault/Montrachet Chardonnay wines must have been the model for the oaky/smoky international Chardonnays in the US, Chile or South Africa. The fresh and crispy Chardonnay wines from Chablis were not, what the international world liked – and they made “Chablis” a synomym of “cheap wine”. As Chablis is really my prefered Chardonnay wine, I do not care that the world does not know – let Chablis wines continue to be a well-kept secret…

I also learn that “Passe-Tout-Grain” is a wine blended from Pinot and Gamay (prevailing in Beaujolais)… this is what we call “Dôle” in the Valais (Switzerland).


Source: Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, The World Atlas of Wine, 5th edition, Beazley 2005, p. 55 (also the summary overview has been mostly extracted from Johnson and in addition from “petit guide: Les vins de Bourgogne”, Aedis éditions 03200 Vichy, Florence Kennel et alii).


When driving home from Beaune I found out that Burgundy is only a three hours’ drive away from my hometown Basel. Well, in early medieval times Basel was even part of Burgundy*. I decide that I will not wait another thirty years to go back to Burgundy. And maybe then – they will have reinstalled the charming Chambertin panels?

* around 1000 AD, Basel was part of the kingdom of Burgundy, see “historischer Atlas der Region Basel”, Merian Verlag 2010.



On the road – visiting wine growers around Beaune

In November 2014 I was in Beaune to participate in the Beaune wine festivals. I was with friends from Russia. Besides the events in Beaune, we visited wine growers around Beaune – to the north and to the south. My personal highlights around Beaune were the Château Pommard (great wines and welcoming staff) and René Lamy (very welcoming atmosphere). I also liked Henri de Villamont in Savigny (under Swiss management – great cellar tour) and La Veuve Henri Moroni in Puligny-Montrachet (charming, though I prefer her red wines). I felt a little less comfortable at Château Meursault (beautiful cellar, but snobbish staff), Leclerc in Gevrey-Chambertin (a kitchy restaurant, wines okay) and Domaine Bertagna next to Clos Vougeot (wines okay, atmosphere was a little cool).


Château Pommard

Château Pommard is a beautiful estate south of Beaune. The gate invites visitors to enter.


The garden is well cultivated with carefully trimmed bushes.


According to the rules of the château, the ticket for a tasting plus the Pomm’Art Gallery costs 20 Euro per person. We frown – we are not really interested in the gallery right now. The staff is very friendly and lets us in to just have the tasting. The assistant guiding us through the wines is full of enthusiasm. Pommard is the largest private monopole of Burgundy. His enthusiasm is contagious, and we buy some wines. Result: Now the tasting is free, and in addition we can visit the Pomm’Art Gallery for free.

  • Auxey-Duresses 2010: Good, nutty nose, some taste of lemon
  • Pommard 2010: Flowery (geranium), tannin well integrated
  • Pommard 2008: Smoky, spicy, tannin well integrated
  • Pommard 2007: well balanced
  • Monthélie 1er cru les Riottes,  2011: Cherry, little tannin. We buy a bottle for our dinner.


René Lamy-Pillot

When traveling to Chassagne-Montrachet, we find the winegrower René Lamy-Pillot. A sign indicates “open”. We are kindly welcomed by Florence, the daughter of the house. The cellar is very clean and full of eye twinklings like this stair rail – a perfect match for this wine cellar. Their Website is charming.


Florence works with her parents, while her husband, Sebastian, buys grapes from various winegrowers and runs his own innovative business under the name “Lamy&Caillat”. Florence’s father, René Lamy, has some 1er Crus, but he also has some vineyards that are a little off the main climats – St. Aubin and Appelations Villages / Régionales – and some are a good value for money!

While we have delved into our tastings, the door opens. Three guys enter in a rush, an Englishman, a Dutchman and a man whose English and French accent identify him clearly as being from Zurich (they just cannot hide their accent). Of course, he immediately notices that I am from Basel (I cannot hide my accent either) and we exchange our impressions. They regularly buy wines in Burgundy and come to see René Lamy every year. He has prepared boxes ordered by them, and they just stay for a short moment to have a glass of wine and say hello.



These were some of the wines we tasted:

  • Saint-Aubin Les Pucelles 2013: Lemon, well balanced
  • Chassagne-Montrachet Pot Bois 2009: Well balanced, some oak, flowery
  • Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot 1er Cru 2011: Toasted bread, nutty, harmonious taste
  • Chassagne-Montrachet La Boudriotte 1er Cru 2012: Almost sweet with cherry taste. Aljoscha feels the leather boots of his father.
  • Chassagne-Montrachet Les Caillerets 1er Cru (Lamy&Caillat , produced by Sebastian): Nose of peach, nutty


I will surely also come back to this friendly house!


Leclerc in Gevrey-Chambertin, Rue des Halles 15

Coming from Chablis we enter the Côte de Nuits via road D31 crossing a romantic canyon. Our first village is Gevrey-Chambertin. This charming pig welcomes us.


In La Rue des Halles we visit Leclerc, a winegrower that also owns a restaurant. In my opinion, the vaults are a somewhat kitschy with the stuffed animals and horns hanging on the walls.


We are offered the following wines for tasting – I can see my Russian friends frown from time to time.

  • Bourgogne 2007: Starter wine “for every day”, a little thin
  • Chambolle-Musigny 2008: Dried prunes, mushrooms
  • Gevrey-Chambertin Appelation Village 2010: Griottes with a toffee twist, somewhat thin
  • Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Champeaux 2007: Prune, well integrated tannin
  • Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru La Combe aux Moines 2008: Denser, griotte, after taste short
  • Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Cazetiers 2010: Dense, fruity (griotte), tannin (he says that the ground is tough and the roots dig 6m down)
  • Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Champonnet 2010: I do not like the nose, but the taste is dense.



Domaine Bertagna

The Domaine Bertagna is a neighbor of Clos Vougeot. We visit them spontanteously. We are welcomed, though a little bit cool. We taste the following wines:

  • Chambolle -Musigny Les Plantes 1er Cru 2012: Too much biting tannin for me, but it may mature
  • Vougeot Clos de la Perrière 2012: Raspberry, well-integrated tannin – I bought half a bottle
  • Vosne Romanée les Beaux Monts 2012: Licorice, toffee, well integrated tannin
  • Nuits St Georges Aux Murgers 2008: Fruity (dried prunes), after taste a little bitter


Château de Meursault

At Château de Meursault we do not feel very welcome. They have their fixed procedures and stick to them. We have to walk through the never ending cellar vaults all alone to find the tasting room. We have to taste red before white. From the red wines, we had two 1er Crus, Beaune Grèves (mushroom, cassis) and Volnay Clos de Chênes (fruity, leather note and spicy, very balanced).  The white wines were Clos de Château Meursault 2011 (nutty, little after taste), Meursault Villages (nutty, toasted bred, mushrooms – chanterelles, little after taste) and Château de Meursault Les Perrières 1er Cru (dry, sweet nose, perhaps butter or honey melon). I will not return to Château Meursault.


Veuve Henri Moroni, Puligny-Montrachet

Larissa had recommended La Veuve Moroni. We find her in Puligny-Montrachet. She welcomes us in her plain tasting room and tells us that she has hosted a tasting of her wines with Coquilles Saint Jacques yesterday. She is a dynamic person full of entuhsiasm – her husband has died 30 years ago and she has continued the winegrowing business on her own. When I drink her wines at home, I prefer the red to the white.

  • Meursault les Tillets 2008 : Peach – bought a bottle
  • Puligny –Montrachet la Perrière 1er Cru 2007: Mushrooms, citrus fruit, clean- bought a bottle
  • Auxey-Duresses 2010: Very young and tannin not yet integrated, has potential.
  • Pommard les Noizons 2008: Taste of blackberry, tannin, my friends frown at this wine
  • Beaune les Vignes Franches 1er Cru 2006 / 2007: Soft and spicy
  • Without having tasted it, I bought a Crèmant de Bourgogne brut and a bottle of Clos Saint Denis Grand Cru 2001. The Clos St. Denis was a wonderful match with my beef meat pie Provence style.



Henri de Villamont at Savigny (Rue du Docteur Guyot)

Henry de Villamont’s highlight is the tour through the cellar. Villamont is under Swiss management. They have renovated the estate. The cellar is spotlessly clean. Our guide is very proud of his estate. He takes us first into the cellar for white wines: 4000 barrels of French oak à 228l mature at a temperature of 14-15 degrees. The cellar for red wine is cooler. We are 12m under the earth. Behind a locked gate they keep old treasures… the oldest wine is from 1911.


To accompany the wine tasting, we are offered gougères – like in other places. I will have to look for the recipe – they go so well with the wines.


White wines

  • Savigny-les-Beaunes 2012: Plain, smoky Chardonnay.
  • Chassagne-Montrachet 2010: Nutty (Pistache ), dry-sour, almost too sour.
  • Meursault les Caillerets 2008: Quince, smoky.

Red wines

  • Savigny-les Beaunes-Le Village  2011: Cherry, tannin not yet integrated
  • Volnay le Ronceret 1er Cru 2008: Less nose than Villages, tastes flowery and has “furry” tannin
  • Chambolle-Musigny les Groseilles 1er Cru  2007: Pronounced flowery nose, roses, cherry, tannin – very harmonic
  • Pommard les Epenots 1 er Cru 1990: Light mold in the nose, something is wrong in  the palate – bitter and rotten prune. Obviously too old.
  • Nuits-Saint-Georges 1982: Leather, damp rose, caramel, dried prunes and mushrooms.


Visiting Burgundy with my friends from Russia was a great experience.We visited so many wine growers in Chablis and around Beaune. We shared so many tastings and exchanged our feelings. I was impressed, how careful my friends tasted the wines. I would love to go back to Burgundy to share more tastings – and also culture – with friends… now that I know that Beaune is only three hours’ car drive away from Basel and Chablis is not far from Beaune…

On the road – my highlights from the Beaune wine events

In November 2014 I was in Burgundy with friends from Russia. We tasted wines and I also bought some bottles. Back home I started to share my “treasures” with friends. Recently it was a “St. Denis Premier Cru 2001” (Veuve Moroni) – a perfect match to my beef meat pie Provence style. In the nose I found some fruit and a roasted note, in the palate the wine was spicy and fruity reminding me of dried prunes. This experience motivated me to go back to my notes about Beaune, where we stayed in a wonderful apartment  and enjoyed the wine events.

My personal highlights from the November Beaune wine events were Bouchard Aînée et Fils, Patriarche and the Marché au vin (Hospices de Beaune). I did not enjoy Besancenot very much, but I loved the medieval cellar of Bouchard Frère et Fils, and also the truffle-wine tasting of Vin des Tonneliers was a good experience.


Bouchard Aîné et Fils


Within the Beaune wine events, Bouchard Aîné et Fils invited for a tour in their cellar. We found a careful selection of wines and each wine was perfectly matched with a delicious bite (the bites had wonderful French names – as they are only possible in French). The selection contained some vintages even going back to 1962.

Students presented the wines along with the bites were full of enthusiasm, plans and optimism.

This was the selection of wines we tasted:

Grands vins blancs de Bourgogne

  • Crémant de Bourgogne en Magnum: Dry.
  • Rully 2007: Balanced taste of lemon. With it we had a millefeuille des pain d’épices à la gelée de pomme et de foie gras.
  • Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot 2007: Very strong, almost too much for me.
  • Meursault 1er Cru le Porusots, Cuvée Humblot Hospices de Beaune 2008: Fresh apple, acidity. With “coeur de Tsar de Saumon fumée d’Ecosse sur pain Porlane et beurre Bordier aux alges fumées”.

Grands vins rouges de Bourgogne

  • Beaune 1er Cru Clos du Roi 2014: Bitter and full of tannin (not (yet) perfectly integrated)) – we later had a Clos du Roi 1962 which shows, the 2014 has potential to mature.
  • Beaune 1er Cru les Marconnet 2012: Cherry nose and taste, soft tannin, already drinkable.
  • Gevrey-Chambertin 2012: Dried prunes, can feel the tannin. Served with it was a sausage marinated in Marc or in French “habit de Gentleman Farmer: Sabodet lyonnais … cuit dans le marc frais de pinot noir de Bourgogne”.
  • Savigny-Les-Beaunes 1er Cru Les Peuillets 2005: Smoky taste, prune, astringent tannin (I call this “furry”).
  • Corton Grand Cru Cuvée Docteur Peste, Hospices de Beaune 1998: Soft (“velvet paw”) and note of cacao. Served with “brillat Savarin couronné d’une dentelle de truffe de Bourgogne sur pain Poilâne aux raisins de Corinthe”.
  • Beaune 1er Cru Clos du Roi 1962: Color is orange, for 1962 still fresh and flowery (reminding me of roses).




At Patriarche we find this note, that, twinkling with an eye, says “Charlemagne owned a vineyard in Corton. It could well be that this wine stimulated his genius and gave him the empire of the west”. Could well be.


As in Bouchard Aîné et Fils, students serve the wines and explain to the visitors, what they are tasting.

The student presenting the wine from Pernand-Vergelesses has lived in this village for five years. He loves his village and in particular the old church. The village is located above Aloxe-Corton on 350m, he says. The slopes are exposed to the south, the wines, he continues, show finesse and bitterness. He recommends to drink them with dark chocolate, lamb gigot or Reblochon cheese. The student dreams of runnng a boutique for wine and food, when he has graduated. From his explanations, I learn that a vineyard a little off the grand cru slopes might be a good and affordable option in Burgundy.

The student introducing to the Chambolle-Musigny will take over the winery of his family, Domaine de l’Évêché in Saint Denis De Vaux ( www.domainedeleveche.com). He does not only know his wines, but also his iphone – and he teaches me, how to generate the variations of “e” that are needed for French. Also the student at the stand of Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Cailles proudly tells me that he will take over the winery of his parents. And the young girl that presents the Grands-Echezeaux Grand Cru comes comes from the Côte du Rhone and dreams of emigrating to Australia or South Africa. I enjoy talking to these young people planning their life.


This is the long list of wines that we could taste.

  • Hospices de Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Dames Hospitaliéres 2004
  • Aloxe-Corton 2009
  • Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru 2012
  • Chassagne-Montrachet 2013: Soft, nutty, buttery; 2010 more open, lemon
  • Meursault Charmes 1er cru 2008: Reminds me of orange
  • Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru 2012: Cherry nose, flowery taste (violet?), tannins well integrated. I bought one bottle
  • Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Cailles 2009: Fruity (prune), good tannin, powdery cacao.
  • Hospices de Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Dames Hospitaliéres 2004
  • Hospices de Beaune Savigny Les Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Forneret 2000 (assemblage Vergeresses et Savigny): Soft and outgoing, dried prunes.
  • Chambolle-Musigny 1er cru 1980 (Magnum): soft and dense
  • Grands-Echezeaux Grand Cru 1977 (Magnum): Soft and slight taste of framboise toffees

Larissa has been here before, meets old acquaintances, and they offer an additional tasting just to us:

  • Meursault Charmes 1974: Color copper, taste woody and smoky, some caramel
  • Corton Renardes 2008: It was a lighter year. Cherry taste
  • Aloxe-Corton, 2009: Fresh and biting tannin, dense. I buy a bottle.


Marché au vin (Hospices de Beaune)

Alla and I had tickets for the “Marché au vin” belonging to the Hospices de Beaune. Again students presented a wonderful selection of wines, not only from the Hospices, but also from other châteaux/castles. The wines of the Hospices have the addtion “Cuvée…” indicating who donated the vineyard to the Hospices founded in 1443 by Chancellor of Nicolas Rolin of Burgundy as a charity hospital – very modern he was at that time!

The student responsible for the Beaune 1 er Cru Les Cents Vignes has a girl friend that is from Belarus. He can speak some Russian which eases our conversation. The student serving the Marsannay tells me with fervor that he wants to trade with wines.

The student at the stand of Gevrey-Chambertin tells me that he was taught not to say “wood”, because clients often associate “wood” with a bad taste that may dominate all other flavors. They should rather say “dense” or “strong”.

The student presenting the Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2011 asks us, whether we know, why “Charlemagne” is a white wine. The answer: Charlemagne loved red wine, but his wife would always notice drops of red wine in his beard, when he came back home from Burgundy. So Charlemagne decided to switch to white wine which did not leave traces in his beard. If it is not true, it is well invented.


Some of the wines have their price.


These were the white wines we tasted:

  • Marsannay Blanc Les Champs Perdrix 2013 : Lemon taste
  • Meursault (Château de Meursault) 2011 : Oily. Nutty taste
  • Meursault (Château Meursault) 1er cru 2008 : Taste of butter and minerals
  • Meursault 1er cru (Château Meursault) 2002: Almond, oily, perhaps some honey
  • Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2011: Flowery, spicy (vanilla), nutty (almond), mineral taste.

The red wines on offer were:

  • Marsannay Le Parterre  2011: Cherry, fresh, light Tannin.


  • Beaune Cuvée Marie-Sophie Grangier (Hospices de Dijon) 2009: Sour cherry (griotte), wood
  • Gevre- Chambertin  1er Cru 2008: Griottes, toasted bread, spicy (pepper), a little much acidity
  • Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Orveaux 2008:  Prunes, spices, acidity, still closed
  • Volnay 1er Cru  Clos des Chênes 2003: strong, cassis, well-integrated tannin
  • Beaune 1 er Cru Les Cents Vignes: Dried prunes, round, clean, tannin.


Vin des Tonneliers – Tasting with truffles

Vin des Tonneliers is a wine dealer that invited to taste wines with truffle bites.


I liked this Pommard en Brescul and bought a bottle.


These were the wines we tasted with the truffle bites

  • Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Guy Amiot, Baudines 2010: Melon taste, buttery
  • Meursault 1er Cru: good match with meat bites, less good a match with cheese from Savoy
  • Domaine 19 vingt (blended village and grand cru): Well balanced
  • Clos de Vougeot 2006: Griottes
  • Pommard “En Brescul” Giboulot  2008: Balanced
  • Corton 2003 (already harvested in August, as it was a hot year): Cacao, bitter tanning caramel. Recommended to drink it within thenext four years.


Bouchard Père et Fils

The highlight of Bouchard Père et Fils is their medieval location – in the Beaune Castle. The kings from Louis VI to Louis XIV used it to control the population of Beaune. The family Bouchard acquired the castle in 1775. Also since 1731 the family has been in the winegrowing business which they enhanced after the French revolutiuon, when most wine estates of Burgundy were sold. Today it is Bouchard’s 9th generation; they sold the estate to Henriot in 1995, but continue to manage and enhance it together with Henriot. The vinifcation takes place in Savigny and the wine bottles are stored in the castle caves, on a surface of 4000m2, 10m under the ground, at a constant temperature of 14 degrees and 80% humidity. A guide takes us down the steep stairs into the cellar. We are full of respect, when admiring the many bottles – they are “naked” without labels (the corks keep the identification of the wine). The family also keeps some old bottles, even from the 19th century, to be able to investigate the aging process of their wines. The oldest bottle is a Meursault from 1846 that was still drinkable. They recork their bottles every 30 years and then also taste them.


After having left the cellar, our guide took us to this romantic garden.


The tasting took place above the ground and was accompanied by cougères, the apéritif cookies of Burgundy. A perfect match with the wine.


These were the wines we tasted

White Crus

  • Beaune Clos Saint-Landry 1er Cru 2011 (Monopole)
  • Meursault Perrières 1er Cru 2011
  • Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2009
  • La Cabotte Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru 2003

Red Crus

  • Savigny-le-Beaune Les Lavières 1er Cru 2011
  • Beaune Marconnets 1er Cru 2009
  • Volnay Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot 1er Cru 1989
  • Beaune Grèves Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus 1er Cru 1976 (Related with the legend of Anne from Austria that  prayed for a son and then gave birth to the later Louis XIV).


Domaine Besancenot

The Domaine de Besancenot invited to taste eight grand cru wines, however… this winegrower was a disappointment for me. The atmosphere was sober and the cellar was not really clean. This was an “anti-highlight” and I would not return here.


We also visited some winegrowers around Beaune – not related with the November wine days. I will talk about them later, in particular about my personal highlights.

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.



On the road – Finding truffles (l’Or des Valois) with Elf, the lagotto romagnole

At Château d’Entre Deux Monts – the truffle farm (truffles are “the gold of the Valois” or “l’Or des Valois”)

At the Château d’Entre Deux Monts Thierry Bézeux and his family grow truffles, convert them to truffle delicacies (sold in the boutique) and in addition show tourists their truffles (visits to their orchard and truffle tastings). Tripadvisor gives good reports. Larissa has visited and liked this place before and has arranged a visit with us.

The Burgundy truffles are also called “the Gold of the Valois”” or “l’Or des Valois” (The Valois were kings of France from the early 14th to the late 16th century, then the Bourbons took over with Henry IV).


Finding the Château with l’Or des Valois

There is a mysterious mist lying over the hills above the Côte de Nuits and the village Nuits-Saint George.


Hidden in the mist is the Château d’Entre Deux Monts de Thierry Bézeux.


The boutique is open and Thierry Bézeux welcomes us.



Looking for truffles in the “truffle orchard” – with Elf

The son of Thierry and his dog Elf take us to their “truffle orchard” planted with trees that truffles like. I later found a study about growing truffles in the US, and they say that the Burgundy truffle is well suited for plantations, in particular with trees such as hazelnut and oak, but can only be harvested with a dog, as they grow under the ground.


Elf is a lagotto romagnole, similar to a poodle. When Yann opens the gate to the orchard, she starts to run around and immediately finds the first truffle hidden under the ground. Elf loves truffles and wants to eat the black ball it found, but Yann stops her and gives her a dog bisquit instead. Maybe the bisquit has a truffle taste, at least?


Elf continues to look for more truffles. Sometimes she loses interest in truffles and sniffs around the trees. Perhaps a badger (blaireau in French) has visited the orchard and Elf is reading what the bagder has to say. In the end, we have a handful of truffles to take home. Thank you, Elf.



Back in the castle, we taste the truffle delicacies

Back in the château we find the table set for our truffle tasting: Mustard, terrine of rabbit and pintade (guinea fowl or цеcарка), cheese, sauce aux truffes d’Italie, some slices of fresh truffle, ham with parsley (jambon persillé), saucisson, ice cream (glace) and Ratatruffe (Marc de Bourgogne marinated with truffles). The Ratatruffe may have influenced my camera… in the internet there are bettter images of this tasting set.




My thanks in the Château guest book

There is a guest book on the table and I leave this entry: « Merci, Elf, tu as bien travaillé, et j’aimerais bien savoir ce que le blaireau t’as raconté. La degustation était délicieuse. Petra de Bâle en Suisse.” (Thank y ou, Elf, you have worked well, and I would like to know, what the badger has told you. The tasting was delicious.)


On the road – our Sunday tastings in Chablis: William Fèvre and La Chablisienne

Our first day in Chablis was a Sunday. A  few wine making places are open on Sundays, amongst them the boutiques of La Chablisienne and of William Fèvre. No reservations are needed. Great.

On that Sunday, we also visited the Chablis market…


… and Auxerre with its beautiful gothic church of St. Etienne.



La Chablisienne – valued in Pocket Johnson and surely worth visiting with its broad selection of wines



La Chablisienne is a Cooperative that makes wines for about 300 wine growers. They are the largest wine maker in Chablis. They offer wines from a broad variety of climats (about 30 different Chablis wines), and they own the Château Grand Cru “Grenouilles”, the smallest of the seven Grands Crus terroirs (they acquired the quasi-monopole of Grenouilles in 1999).

Jean-Michel guides us through our tasting – with a lot of charm – listening and reacting, e.g. by bringing another Grenouilles from a different year… This is what we tasted:

  • Beauroy 1er Cru: Fruity – perhaps quince. Nose is more pronounced than taste.
  • Vaulorent 1er Cru : Fruity – perhaps quince and nuts. Nose also stronger than taste.
  • Fourchaume 1er Cru 2013: Young, fruity – orange, both nose and taste. Would like it with shellfish. Liked it and bought a bottle.
  • Montmains 1er Cru 2009: Liked it and bought a bottle.
  • Les Preuses Grand Cru 2011: More yellow than 1er Cru, less acidity, flowery, can imagine it with Asian food. Can age more.
  • Les Grenouilles Grand Cru 2007: Ready to drink, salty, mineral note, but somewhat ponderous (on “heavy feet” or “schwerfüssig”). 2010 is fresher than 2007.

It is surely worth visiting La Chablisienne with its broad selection. On  our Sunday they also hosted a cheese tasting event. Unfortunately, the cheese tasting lady was a little grumpy.


William Fèvre – “three stars” in Pocket Johnson and a lot of enthusiasm in the boutique – for me my second tasting highlight in Chablis

William Fèvre has three stars in the “Pocket Johnson”. For lack of family heirs, he sold his business to Henriot in 1998. He has the largest Grand Crus possessions in Chablis.

His boutique is nicely set up. To illustrate the terroir, there are brochures and samples of the Kimmeridgian soil. I enjoy the enthusiasm that the boutique assistant shows when explaining the Kimmeridgian stone samples to us. I ask him why William Fèvre is called “William”, though the family has long lived in Chablis – no Anglosaxon background. He smiles. And then tells me the story: When William was born, his parents could not agree on his name. After three days, the mayor reset the date of birth and gave him the name “William”. The assistant sees the “Pocket Johnson” in my hands. “May I see, what Johnson has written about us, I have not checked this out recently”, he says and then adds: “I have met Johnson once, he is an impressive person.”

This is what we tasted:

  • Petit Chablis 2013: Fresh, brisk, on “light feet” (“leichtfüssig”)
  • “Plain” Chablis: Almost no nose, a little more dense than the Petit Chablis
  • Chablis 1er Cru 2012, Montmains:  Round and crispy, I liked it again (liked it already at Chablisienne)
  • Chablis 1er Cru 2012, Mont de Milieu: Mineral taste, I like it less than Montmains.
  • Grand Cru Les Preuses: They assemble the wine from two vineyards in this climat, the one having more sun in the morning, the other more in the evening.
  • Grand Cru Les Clos: Touch of peach, sold out, but still some half bottles from 2010 left .


I buy a half bottle of Petit Chablis (great for an apéritif in summer), a half bottle of Les Clos and a bottle of  Montmains. The assistant packs my buyings carefully into boxes, whereby he fixes the half bottles with a “collar” to prevent them from bouncing in the box. I like these details. To me it shows that the winemaker is caring about his wines and his clients.

On the road – my Chablis tasting highlight: Patrick Piuze

Finding Patrick Piuze

When doing my research about Chablis, I came across Patrick Piuze . The “Pocket Johnson” mentioned him and on the Internet there were great comments.

Larissa was also impressed. I wrote an email to Patrick referring to the comments found. And the next day, I called. Patrick and his partner were very welcoming and we arranged a tasting for Wednesday morning, our last day in Chablis.

This is Patrick’s address: 25, rue Emile Zola in Chablis. We have found the address, but there are no signs, and no plates – nothing. Eventually, we see the label on the letter box: “Patrick Piuze”, in small letters. That is all. I ring the bell, and Patrick opens the gate. He gives us a friendly welcome and makes things clear right away: “You cannot buy any wine – I am sold out for 2014, but for the tasting, there is no problem.” And later he adds: “Usually, I do not make wine tastings for private people, but Petra was really insisting by writing and calling…”

Patrick has an interesting background – and I think that explains also his approach to winemaking. In a way he is an outsider in Chablis. He grew up in Canada, did not like school and traveled – working, when he needed money. He learnt about the wine growing business in Australia, South Africa and then came to Chablis, where he worked for Brocard.

Some years ago, Patrick started his own business buying grapes (often harvesting them himself) and producing his own wine. One of his specialties are (plain) Chablis wines from one terrain to bring them to a higher level. And he makes also 1er and Grand Cru selections. Patrick sells his wine to wholesalers in 30 countries.


The tasting: Patrick has prepared this “barrel” table for us


These were the wines we tasted (with my own personal impressions):

  • Terroir de Fye 2012,  2010 (“plain” Chablis from one climat): Round, herbs, acidity.
  • Vaillons, Melinots, 2010 (“plain” Chablis from one climat, warmest corner of Chablisienne with clay): more fruity.
  • Vaucoupin 2009 (1er Cru – slope exposed to the west, as I remember from the explanations): Flowery, metallic, “round”.
  • Bougros (Grand Cru): Rich, dense, fruity, good for aging.
  • Les Clos, 2012 (Grand Cru): fruity, “more heavy legs” (“schwerfüssiger”), for ageing.

I am overly happy to see my friends smile, when tasting the wines of Patrick. They never frown. For each glass they try I see a nodding compliment.

Patrick explained that he does not look for specific tastes such as lychees and quinces for “fruity” or violets and roses for “flowery”. He is just interested in the texture and whether he finds fruit, flowers, herbs or acidity. This makes him down to earth for me, and his honest modesty might also be part of his success. Modesty also speaks from Patrick’s Website: “Je tiens par-dessus tout à respecter le travail des ancêtres qui ont dessiné ce terroir, et j’essaie de trouver avec humilité mon identité de vigneron dans la splendeur et la diversité du terroir de Chablis.” (It is most important for me to respect the work of our ancestors that have shaped this terroir and I aspire  humbly to find my identity as a winemaker in the shine and diversity of the Chablis terroir).


Where to get Patrick’s wines

Back at home I searched who sells the wines of Patrick in Basel and found that DuBonVin has them. I will surely visit this shop very soon to have some of his wines in my cellar.