3 years ago I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the Burgundy Wine Board’s (BIVB) tutor programme. This effectively saw me heading out to Burgundy for a 5 day in depth course on the wines of the region. Our mornings were classroom sessions on the intricacies of the region, the afternoons were spent in the vineyards and visiting flagship Domaines, effectively ‘illustrating’ our book work! Lunch each day was in a different village with the wines of the village scattered around the table for sampling during the course of each meal. Before you all break down the door to apply for this program I’ll mention the short exam at the end, though don’t let it deter any Burgundy fiends out there, the immersion we had and fantastic visits meant that we had absorbed much of the information without even realising it and passed the exam to be awarded with the BIVB certificate.
Every 3 years, you enjoy a refresher course, this March I went on mine. 3 days this time, but no less interesting and again the trip highlighted the limited scope of my understanding of the region.
Day One took us to Chablis. We spent time in the vineyards looking at the different aspects of the Grand and Premier Crus. A visit to family Domaine Jean Dauvissat certainly enlivened our palates for the quality that can be found in Chablis. We tasted through the cellar with Les Preuses 2012 showing great life with a very very dense minerality and length. This 97 ‘Les Clos’ however was sublime.
Later in the BIVB school we had the opportunity to try the various Premier Crus blind, looking for differences for the school to use in their future descriptors. If you like older vintages of Grand Cru Chablis please look away now… we were treated to a selection of 30 or so older vintages from different producers, dating back as far as 1981!! My favourites are pictured below. A fascinating talk from the members of the Union des Grands Crus de Chablis, led by their President Louis Moreau highlighted the fact that Grand Cru wines are in fact very specific and house styles vary widely. Practises in the cellar include: cooler temperatures (14-17C) to slow the fermentations and retain aromatics and generally stainless steel tanks to enable greater control over these temperatures. 2011 was so warm at harvest that they had to chill the juice at Domaine Pascal Bouchard to reduce the risk of acetic bacteria creating excessive amounts of volatile acidity in the wine. At Jean-Marc Brocard they practice biodynamics and interestingly the ‘dull’ expression on the Les Preuses 2010 evolved in the glass becoming quite distinct and exciting after 10 minutes or so. They are advocates of the concrete egg, the life and exuberance of the wine after a short time certainly highlighted the fact they’re doing something right!
Later we were treated to a fantastic supper at Restaurant L’hostellerie des Clos and bused back to Beaune.
Friday – Morey St Denis for the morning and Domaine Ponsot. I’m not sure that I appreciated just how good the wines were going to be, how slick the operation was or how forward thinking they are as a company, especially when it comes to preserving the quality and ageing potential of their wines against excessive temperatures throughout their life. This visit and the following one to Aubert Lefas at Domaine LeJeune deserve more detail, hence there will be a Part 2 and perhaps a Part 3 starring a particularly good bottle of ’78 Corton from Domaine Rapet Pere et Fils in Pernand Vergelesses. Which will in fact be the region at the centre of our online tasting event on 21st May with Jean-Pierre Renard of the BIVB, talking us through a selection of wines from the region, LIVE from a vineyard there!Google+