On a morning’s tasting we met some of the best, and friendliest, winegrowers on the Côte de Nuits. After a visit to Vosne-Romanée we motored down the road to Nuits-Saint-Georges to met Fabienne Bony. Through the luxury Land Rover’s open windows our guide David pointed out the Romanée-Conti, La Tâche and Richebourg vineyards. Scenes from an oenological fairy tale, the two Australian couples with us gazed as David showed us how a strip of premier cru vines, Vosne Romanée Premier Cru Les Suchots and Beaumont, are surrounded to the left and right by grand crus. There are seven grands crus here, arguably the greatest of the Côte d’Or: Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, La Romanée, Romanée-Saint-Vivant and Richebourg in Vosne-Romanée cover 64.7 acres; Grands-Echézeaux and Echézeaux are in Flagey-Echézeaux and total 115.8 acres. Grand crus account for a tiny 2% of all wine produced in Burgundy.
The diminutive Fabienne stood beaming at us beside her enormous tractor as we drove into the yard. Gallant lawyer and banking men in our group reported after that they felt like leaping out to come to her aid. The huge high-clearance vineyard tractor towered over her like a praying mantis. But Fabienne Bony cannot use help from our soft office hands. She works the estate entirely on her own. Her husband is a full-time cattle and cereal farmer. Their one and three year-old daughters are cared for by grandmother while Fabienne is in the vines or busy in the wine cellar. She is of the new generation of Burgundy growers who have done so much to improve quality and have moved from largely bulk wine sales to bottles.
We gathered around her on the edge of a vineyard adjoining the house for a short lesson on the particularities of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. It’s not only the skin colours which differ. The shapes of the leaves, the load per vine, the vines’ behaviour in particular climatic conditions – all vary enormously. The grape explanations over, we bent our heads and filed down the stairs into the cellar. Fabienne syphoned a few centilitres from barrels, squirting dark ruby coloured tasting samples into each of our glasses as we progressed around the cellar. We noticed some decidedly marked changes in wines depending on the type of oak used, some seemed sweeter than others, some had a very smoky taste. She explained how her premier cru wines are aged in 100% new oak while the other wines are aged in two, three and four year old barrels.
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From the barrel to the bottle; the bottle tasting was held in the Bony family kitchen. Comfortably installed around the dark oak kitchen table we were led through a maze of appellations, vintages and individual plots. Fabienne speaks fairly good English so Lynne’s translation services were rarely required. Tasting all the Nuits-Saint-Georges from parcels of vines only a few metres from each other but so different in flavour was a big learning experience. Lynne took us through some of the flavours and aromas to be expected in young Pinot Noir wines – raspberry fruit and cassis berry. After a discussion of the barrel ageing process David described aromatic characteristics in older red Burgundies. We tasted three different vintages of the single vineyard Nuit-Saint-Georges Les Damodes and found a gamut of mushroom and earthy farmyard aromas! One of our brethren from down-under asked Fabienne which wine she preferred. ‘It all depends on the dish which is accompanying the wine’ she smiled. On cue, we bid farewell to the lady winegrower from Nuits-Saint-Georges and head down to Le Morgan in Savigny-lès-Beaune for lunch.
An enticing menu of traditional Burgundy cuisine with special signature dishes of the chef kept us hovering before we could decide. Owner Jean-Pierre welcomed us, took our order, prepared the food and served it. And he looked after the other two tables of lunching winegrowers with as much care as he did us.
An Aussie accent rang out, “Rought, how mach time do we ‘ave for a snooze before going on to number three?”