French Wine Tour 2014 - June 13

June 13 – Black Friday

It proved anything but a ‘Black Friday' for us! We left our hotel at 9.45am for a 45-minute drive north to the Burgundy commune of ‘Morey-Saint-Denis' for a visit to outstanding producer ‘Taupenot Merme. FWD Co. has been importing Taupenot Merme wines for 3-years and they have proved very popular with Burgundy followers. In the recent 2012 vintage release they were listed in Jancis Robinson MW's ‘Top 8' producers and are also in Jeannie Lee Cho MW's (leading Burgundy expert for Asia) ‘Top 4' favourite Domaines.

We were greeted by Romain Taupenot at the winery door and he spent the next hour showing us through his small winery and barrel room. Taupenot Merme owns a sizable holding of 13-hectares across several Burgundy villages including three Grand Cru vineyards. They are a 2nd generation producer and Romain spent many years in Banking & Finance before entering the family business full time in the late nineties to bring a greater focus to the vineyard management, winemaking and oak maturation. He spent quite some time explaining his philosophy around the use of oak and his preference for specific grains and levels of toast to ensure their wines speak of the vineyard and not winemaking influences.

We then boarded our coach with Romain and headed down the road to visit their Premier Cru ‘Mazoyeres' vineyard. The vines were in great heart, plush with many bunches per vine and after three lean years of cropping in Burgundy they look set for a bumper crop both in terms of quality and quantity. However Romain already has a plan laid out for a green harvest (sweeping through the vineyards and dropping approximately 1/3rd of the crop off the vines to ensure maximum ripeness and concentration of the remaining fruit) though will wait for 2-3 weeks until the storm season has passed as a significant storm could radically reduce production in itself.

We hopped back on the coach and a few minutes later arrived at the door of ‘Castel-Tres-Girard' restaurant for lunch. We had dined here during our 2012 French Wine Tour and enjoyed a superb lunch. Romain was armed with a selection of Taupenot Merme wines from their cellar but before we began lunch a glass of perfectly chilled Champagne Billecart-Salmon Champagne was a welcome relief to the 30 degree temperatures we had experienced in the vineyards.

A superb lunch followed…

Chilled Gazpacho … fresh Turbot fish… medium rare veal… a selection of cheeses and just when we thought it was all over a gorgeous dessert including twists of coffee flavoured sponge with a small cube of vanilla ice-cream plus a quenelleof chocolate ice-cream proved irresistible.

The Taupenot Merme wines were outstanding and clearly showcased the rewards of ageing quality Burgundy; the line-up included…

2007 Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru La Riotte – a beautifully refined Burgundy with luscious red fruits, spicy underlying oak notes, fine grainy tannins and fresh mineral elements. Drinking superbly it was quite seductive and would age for another 10-15 years in good storage.

2009 Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru – as anticipated it was a ripe and generous Burgundy typical of the vintage but contrary to many others of the year I had tasted (over ripe and bullish) it displayed elegant floral notes and a finesse on the palate that beautifully reined in its underlying power. This was just a babe with 20-years of life ahead but a wine of excellent harmony.

2002 Mazoyeres Chambertin Grand Cru – a quite powerful Burgundy that was beginning to drink near perfection as 12-years ageing had mellowed the tannin/acids and tempered its exuberant fruit. It had plenty of intriguing complexities and a very seductive grainy/silky mouth feel… a real treat and still with at least a decade of life in it.

Today it befell me to say thanks to Romain on behalf of the group; a responsibility I had pre-allocated at the beginning of the tour as I had tremendous regard for Romain and his family wine business. Although there are thousands of producers in Burgundy Taupenot Merme is in the top percentile and our group needed little persuading of that after savouring the outstanding trio of wines with lunch. Romain was very appreciative and spoke warmly of our relationship and of our group who had clearly impressed him with their genuine interest and astute questions. I have planted the seed with Romain to bring his family to New Zealand and visit FWD Co, hopefully during 2015 – in the interim he has pledged to send me a special list of aged wines and large format bottles to offer exclusively to select FWD Co, Burgundy followers so watch this space when we return to NZ in July.

Romain said his goodbyes to everyone in the group as he needed to get back to the winery to meet with a group of wine buyers from the ‘London Wine Society' and a journalist from ‘Decanter Magazine'… Taupenot Merme is on the radar of informed Burgundy followers from around the world.

We settled the account and boarded our coach for the leisurely 45-minute drive back to Beaune passing through many beautiful Burgundy Domaines en-route; once back at our hotel the group had the remainder of the day and evening free to enjoy one final exploration of the beautiful town of Beaune. I on the other hand had some writing to catch up on while my memories were fresh and Virginia repacked our bags and prepared our clothes in readiness for an early start to our trip south to the Rhone tomorrow.

At 6pm I had completed my blog update and we both walked into Beaune for one last hurrah where we came across Graham & Cathy MacKinlay and Rex & Kath Howe enjoying a beer/wine at a sidewalk café and we joined them for a drink. Later we adjourned to a restaurant called Me-Cuisine (recommended by Christophe Thomas) and without having booked were quite fortunate to secure a table for six with only 30-minutes wait, which quickly disappeared over a glass of Auxey-Duresses Blanc in a nearby bar.

The food at Me-Cuisine was outstanding; beautifully fresh ingredients perfectly cooked and served in a timely manner and with excellent interaction. A bottle each of the 2008 Olivier LeFlaive Le Folatières Puligny Montrachet - 6-years-old in was beginning to reveal subtle almond butterand honeycomb notes whilst retaining salivating citrus fruits and nutty/nougat complexities2009 Alain Gras Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru – full-bodied and exhibiting the dense, dark ripe fruits of the 2009 vintage; but clearly this Domaine was able to rein in the vintage power and craft a Burgundy with a smattering of refinement and beguile that proved delicious.

A delightful stroll through the streets of Beaune and we arrived back at our hotel where Craig & Jill King, John & Maureen MacDonald and Royce and Jenni Everett were enjoying a wine in the garden setting and we could not resist the temptation for one last glass of Rosé Champagne before retiring to bed to rest for our early start to the Rhone leg of our tour in the morning.