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Visit to Burgundy, day III

Our last day in Burgundy was also the longest day, with four domain visits. But what a reward: dinner at Caves Madeleine, my favourite restaurant in Beaune.

1. Domaine Philippe Garrey, Saint Martin sous Montaigu (Mercury)

Philippe Garrey's vanPHILLIPE GARREY'S BLUE VAN

Saturday morning we drove up to the appellation Mercurey, part of the Côte Chalonnaise, just South of the Côte d'Or. Côte Chalonnaise: the first region that falls off most Burgundy maps. The good news: the region has just been taken up in Clive Coates' brand new The Wines of Burgundy: Revised Edition (this was not the case for its famous predecessor Côte d'Or).

Phillipe Garrey's cavePHILLIPE GARREY'S CAVE CONSTRUCTED IN THE LATE 17TH, EARLY 18TH CENTURY

Phillipe took over in 2002 from his father Pierre. Mr Garrey senior is currently observing his son converting the family domain to biodynamic principles − he is a little sceptical now and then, but then again, he realises it's his son's turn now, and Phillipe seems determined to produce great Mercureys. He filters nor fines his wines, he doesn't chaptalise (i.e. add sugar) and only works with the natural yeasts that live in the vineyards. For his reds he ferments the uncrushed berries, allowing the wines to be light, fruity and gentle.

We tasted the 2006s from bottle and the 2007s from vat, the ambiance his old cave (see the picture above). It is a pleasure to taste these well-balanced, ripe, and even somewhat polished Burgundy's. Very well made, and very pleasant wines − made for drinking, not for sipping.

A BIG CLOUD RISING ABOVE GARREY'S MERCUREY VINEYARD (VIEW DIRECTION SOUTH-SOUTH-WEST). OUR NEXT VISIT: SYLVAIN LOICHET IN CHOREY-LES-BEAUNE, WHERE WE DROVE INTO A SPECTACULAR SHOW OF THUNDER AND LIGHTNING AND EXTREME RAIN (THUS BENEATH THIS BEAUTIFUL CLOUD...)

2. Sylvain Loichet, Chorey-lès-Beaune

We had to wait ten minutes in the car before we could get out: the rain was spectacular (to put it mildly). The young and casual looking Sylvain Loichet invited us in his newly renovated cellars in Chorey-lès-Beaune. A cellar under an enormous (and long abandoned) ruin. But once this project is finished Mr Loichet will have an incredible mansion.

Sylvain Loichet in his just renovated cave in Chorey-les-BeauneSYLVAIN LOICHET IN HIS JUST RENOVATED CAVE IN CHOREY-LES-BEAUNE

Loichet owns a few vineyards (these belonged to his family) but he also works with fruit from other growers. The standards however are equally high, and this young guy is doing an incredible job. Personally I was especially impressed by his whites, and then more so by the 2007s (from vat) than the 2006s. Here also: the wines are natural (and not just regarding the vineyard-work, but also with respect to what happens in the cellar). Again no filtration, no fining, and only the whites undergo a modest chaptalisation. For my taste the reds were quite round and somewhat sweetish (but definitely attractive). The Pernand-Vergelesses "Les Belles Filles", the Meursault and the Puligny-Montrachet (all 2007) I thought were great. All three quite different, but all more or less intense, mineral, supple and refreshing.

3. Maison Oroncio, Vosne-Romanée

Oronce de Beler in his cellar under his house in Vosne-RomanéeORONCE DE BELER IN HIS LITTLE (SECRET) CELLAR UNDER HIS HOUSE IN VOSNE-ROMANEE (TASTING 2007)

Oronce de Beler is a Parisian guy who exchanged Paris for Burgundy. His dream: to make great wines. And there are various ways to begin. You can either buy a patch of (affordable) land, start growing vines and make wine. An honourable but slow way. Or you can become a négociant, buy grapes (from various appellations) and make wine. But then you need to find out who to buy from (and if you succeed, the question remains whether these great grapes owners will sell to you...!).

Oronce de Beler tasting 2006 in his office slash living roomORONCE DE BELER TASTING 2006 IN HIS OFFICE SLASH LIVING ROOM

Oronce did something cunning, and fun: he bought a horse and a plough and offered himself for rent. And this is why: only ambitious land owners searching for quality will use a service like this. And this is how Oronce soon got to know the right people (and of course everyone likes his horse-initiative), and he could start making wines. Interesting wines. His style: tender, female, attractive, elegant, stylish wines. For details check out Jan's website (Jan visited Oronce both in June and July this year).

Aurelien Verdet, ArcenantAURELIEN VERDET, ARCENANT

4. Aurélien Verdet, Arcenant (Hautes-Côtes de Nuits)

Our last visit (around 18h30) was in the little village of Arcenant, high up in the Hautes-Côtes. Here the family Verdet have been making organic wine for years − they were one of the first to start working this way. Well actually, the only wines that are organic are the wines that come from their own vineyards in the Hautes-Côtes (white and red).

Next to that Verdet acts as a négociant and buys grapes from various Côtes de Nuits appellations: Nuits-St-Georges, Morey-St-Denis, Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny and Vosne-Romanée. And despite the late hour of our visit we tasted more than ten wines − and I'm glad we did. What a winemaker this young guy is! I loved his (organic) white Burgundy, a wine that has 'just the right balance of everything'. Another highlight: the Nuits-St-Georges 1er cru "Aux Boudots" 2006 (almost Vosne-Romanée): depth and darkness, attraction, refinement, strength, yet a velvetly texture... super!

We ended the evening, as said, in Caves Madeleine. Starting with: the obligatory Salade de gésiers à la crême d'ail (gizzards) followed by the Andouillette 5A de chez Thierry (chitlings). Exciting, and delicious. The wine was interesting (and expensive): a Chambolle-Musigny 1er cru "Les Charmes" 2004 elevated by Lucien le Moine. Supposedly a magician, who is allowed to buy must from all the big guys (possibly DRC included) to make his wine; his interpretation of a certain terroir should be interesting for the selling winemaker, to compare it with what he himself is achieving. A good wine, but I'm afraid not so much for me.

So we ended the evening at Caves Madeleine. Quietly. Taking our time...

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