In June I visited in Berlin, before heading off to Burgundy. Berlin was much like a bottle of Coche Dury – electric, full of energy, and always surprising. The vibe in the city was fantastic, and there were many fascinating neighbourhoods to discover – the soul of the city was certainly not just in the mitte, the centre. Kottbuser and Prenzlauer were unique and worth a visit. Whisky fans should not miss what was undoubtedly the finest whisky store I’ve ever been to. Whisky and Cigars, in the mitte, not only had an endless selection of different whiskies, rums and other spirits but also had hundreds of these to drink by the glass.
I drank a Karuizawa Noh Whisky 21 year single cask, for around 7 Euros, and the bottle retails for just over 210 Euros. I have always had a soft spot for Japanese whisky, and this did not disappoint. Strong, complex with an endless finish. All the Noh range have different labels taken from the old Japanese theatre (Kabuki). For old school rum lovers there is also great selection of agricole rum.
Whisky & Cigars
After Berlin I headed to Burgundy, where I stayed for over a week. The food at Le Gourmandin was good, but I expected more of a basic boeuf bourginon. The wines did not disappoint – the Roulot Bourgogne Blanc 2009 had all the signs of a Meursault producer and the Pavelot Savigney Les Beaune 1er Cru Aux Guettes 2008 was an excellent effort, if a bit young. It matched perfectly with the epoisses at the end.
We upped the level at Cave Madelaine, where the Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Monte de Tonnere 2009 was tight and taut, but the Mugnier Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Fuees 2009 was a stunner, complete with seamless layers that did not want to end. It was not a typical Burgundy, and had quite low acidity, but it was a very beautiful wine thatwill age well. The steaks at Cave Madelaine were only bettered by the angelic perfection of the Kobe beef in Kobe last year.
The best restaurant in Beaune has to be La Regellade de Maria. The food is cooked with so much passion and is full of joie de vivre. Maria is a genius chef, and do not miss this restaurant if you visit Burgundy. Vadim, the manager has picked a fascinating range of biodynamic wines, and not just the usual famous names of Burgundy. The best one was undoubtably the brilliant blanc de noirs Champagne “Concordance” of Marie-Courtin 2009. This was a natural Champagne, and the fruit texture, precision and power without weight was brilliant.
“La Ruchotte” – a restaurant in Bligny Sur Ouche (20 minutes drive from Beaune above the Haute-Cote) was a first for me. All the food is organic and the poultry farm-grown, and you are served the three courses Frederic Menager has decided he will cook on that day, for around 35 Euros, making it fantastic value. The dishes were creative and cooked with heart, maintaining their feeling of a French country cooking. The wine list had some natural wines and a small selection of Dujac and DRC.
A visit to Thierry Violot-Guillemard is always a treat. Thierry was up beat about the quality of the 2011’s, and the evidence was in the barrels. It is perhaps too early to talk of styles but Thierry said they seem closest to the 2001 and 2008’s, so good for fans of classical Burgundy. The whole range was singing, but in particular the Rugiens 2011 was on another level. I tasted the Domaine’s new white – Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Mouches. This was a huge surprise, as Clos des Mouches is more know for its excellent reds. Only two barrels were made, and it was amazingly fresh, floral and delicious. Will definitely have to secure as much as possible! The visit ended with a retasting of a few 2010’s, and the Rugiens 2005, which was a fantastic wine, absolutely for the long haul. Thierry said he thinks the 2005 reminds him of the Rugiens made from the big years of the 30’s and 40’s – a real 60 year+ wine. It was at that stage where it was not completely open, nor closed, but the massive potential was all but visible.
Before I left Beaune a few friends and I gathered for dinner with a few simple but decent bottles all served blind. There is nothing like drinking the wine naked as the night, with no label to hide under. The wines were Domaine Dujac Chambolle Musigny 2007, Prieure Roch Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Vielles Vignes 2008, Vina Tondonia Reserva 2001 and a Bourgogne Rouge “Clos des Vignes du Maynes” 2010 from Julien Guillot. Guess which was the favourite wine? The Bourgogne Rouge stunned us all. It was made in the style of the 80’s and 90’s (think Jayer), and the Domaine was (apparently) the first in Burgundy to practice biodynamic viticulture and winemaking. This was more like a top village, and some even thought could have been a premier cru. I am sure if we had tasted it with the label we would have subconsciously dismissed the wine…
Next up was Hong Kong and Shanghai, but before that, a short stop in Paris where I smoked a Cohiba Robusto and indulged in a couple of macaroons and cafe at my favourite place in Paris – La Carette at Place des Vosges.