Got into Burgundy. Wished I was nowhere else. Headed from Dijon, south past the Mustard City’s urban sprawl. Dig the bowling alleys and pizza parlours. Then came the vineyards, and then the names: Gevrey-Chambertin. Vougeut. Vosne-Romanne. Nuits-St Georges. More Holy Grails than in a poker-hand of five aces.
Beaune. Hit that circular route around the old town. Circular route means you can’t get lost in this place. Unless you are trashed. Which I was. First night. Some joint on Place Madeleine. Had me a pastis. Then a beer. Bottle of Pommard. And two Marc de Bourgognes.
How pissed was I? Enough to take the wrong route, on foot this time. Headed left around the Circular, instead of right. About four extra kays to the hotel. Walking fast, but skew. Skew enough for attracting some cops. They stopped. No, I wasn’t planning to burn down the Hospice. Smash the Corton. Just walking. And allez les Bleus for the rugby.
The next day I found wine. And the next. Although it is not always easy, here in Burgundy. Can’t just, as in South Africa, walk into a cellar. Be greeted by smiling toothy tasting-room girl offering tasting of all things splendid.
No. In Burgundy you need to know those who you need to know. Get some access. To good cellars. Then the wine hits you. The best in the world. I swear.
Headed south Meursault way. Check out the leaf-roll virus. There. And in Chassagne-Montrachet. Red as ripe rhubarb.
Funny. In South Africa, been brainwashed. Into thinking leaf-roll is unacceptable. Nada.
Not in Burgundy. “It’s there,” says a winemaker. “It’s everywhere. Sometimes it is worse than others. We live with it. We still make wine.”
And how, Brother.
Trip of discovery, this. Down Route 974. Passed Chassagne-Montrachet. Santenay. Pulled into Prosper-Mafoux. Negociant central.
Mdme Pascale Rifoux gives me this tasting. I find I’m liking Santenay whites. Plenty. Noticed the soils get heavier on the gravel as you motor south. Taste this in the wines. Dry and herbaceous. Grippy and saucy. Fresh. Lean. Chablis on Creatine.
30 percent new oak. Rest old, up until fourth fill. Man, what wines.
There is also a Mafoux Volnay 2007 Premier Cru. Still too young, says Pascale. It blows me backwards. Floral and spicy punt on the nose. Fragrant palate. Smacking savoury. Hint of forest floor.
I buy this. 32 euros. Do the math.
Pascale gives me the money shot. A hit of Mafoux Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Clos St Jean 2002.
How easily the wine makes me drift. Turns the world into a Gauguin painting. Lush tropical fruit. Dense nuts, baked by the Pacific sun. Gushes of waterfall water. A hint of natural floral feminine skin. I buy this, too. It is here. This wine. With me. In Cape Town. I might not keep the wine much longer. But the memory will stay. For ever.
Back Beaune way, standing at Vinoboam. Hot wine shop in the middle of town. Recommended to me by a local. Shop has wine-tasting. Daily.
Christian Bellang 2009, like butter and croissant with fresh, lean lime aftertaste. Joseph Faiveley Gevrey-Chambertin 2003. Full, complete Burgundy. Not subtle, though. In your face.
The killer. Savigny-Les-Beaune. Domaine de Bellene. 2007. Underscored what I had been discovering. Dig the wines from the Beaune area. Right out of town. This white. Crunchy apple. Crushed dry flowers. Hint of herbs. Appetising freshness. Bit of nutty butter, but that’s it.
And so it went. On and on. Headed for negociants by appointments. Showing interest in wine shops. Asking, and getting tastings.
Ending up with a plate of ouefs en meurette or escargots, off the Carnot, with a bottle of house Beaune white. Usually awe-inspiringly good.
Love this place, damn, I really do.