I was at Dijon’s market at 08.20 this morning, and I was up for it. I had invited a couple of erstwhile Beaunites for lunch; I’d made a kilo of pasta at 22.30 the night before and I was ready for more. Some delicious looking lamb chops, a small bag of ceps worthy of the nomenclature porcini, eight marrow bones and some shallots, I was back in the car park by nine and sitting in front of St Julien’s boulangerie at 9.30 (see passim).
It’s 19.30, so eleven hours later and time to assess. First thought, with a glass of 2011 Côtes de Jura (Chardonnay) from Jean Macle à la main, you really should listen to winemakers. They know what they are talking about.
By ten I was back home, and having invited Nico and Brice for mid-day,was well aware I was in arrears and that I was swimming out of my depth. I dutifully made a a spinach ricotta mix, sprinkled with nutmeg, adorning the whole with Parma ham and rehydrated porcini mushrooms. Rosie Grey would have been proud. She was a gracious lady.
A slightly panicked email put off the ETA from midday to 13.00 and gave me some time. I sautéed the garlic, the shallots and the rice (a liberal dose of Noilly Prat) and ladled the fish stock, one by one, but more liberally than in the past. As my guests arrived, in went the three packets of cuttlefish ink and, Ecco fa, Risotto Nero!..(in passing I note that Marco Pierre White’s Chelsea Canteen version includes parmesan cheese; now that is really weird. When in Rome…putting cheese on fish pasta or risotto is, like drinking a capuccino after ten in the morning, totally pazzo (insane), something only foreigners would do.
Mercifully, Brice and Nico arrived fashionably late, an d the Burgundy sunshine broke through with unseasonable warmth. Ambonnay’s Thierry Houry (no, not Thierry Henry) provided us with a vivacious apéritif, fine bubbles and good weight for the Côte des Blancs, before breaking on through to the other side with Quintarelli’s 2014 Bianco Secco, easily mistaken, by some, for an Alsace Tokay or Mittel Mosel. Achtung!
We were gassing, mostly gossiping actually about the im/a/moral proclivities of one, and the miserable meanness of the other, of two erstwhile associates (Brice and I had both worked at that which must not be named), and the Quintarelli emptied itself. From the back of the wine cabinet I pulled a bottle of Jean Macle’s Chardonnay version of Côtes du Jura (as opposed to Savagnin), produced sous voile, à la andalusienne, as it were.
Now for those that don’t, great Côte de Jura produced sous voile has a striking and immediate similiarity to fino or Manzanilla, for obvious reasons. But as time goes on, and for reasons I will come to, they do diverge.
Before tucking into the risotto, I sliced up my mini ceps, sautéed them with a little garlic and shallots then put them aside. As we ate the risotto, the rehydrated porcini juice and a glass of Martini Rosso reduced by half and then came together with the fresh porcini. This was an adornment for the lamb, quickly grilled over rosemary.
Miraculously it all came together just as we were ready to give 2004 Domaine des Chezeaux Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Charmes (mise Ponsot) a second chance. Not a great year, and certainly in the shadow of 2005, but like most years here, not so bad either. I have half a case, and I had found the first bottle like so many UKIP members, all acid and no charm. This was better. It was fuller and richer, indeed, quite the opposite of the elegant charm of Chambolle generally. It had length and reconciled me to a reasonable furture. Worthwhile.
Like Hannibal, inevitably, we crossed the Alps but stayed in 2004. Sergio Mannetti’s Le Pergole Torte was the first ever Super Tuscan, ille est, a Tuscan wine made outside the strict and claustrophobic constraints of traditionanal Italian wine laws. It was a mono-cépage Sangivese made in Radda in Chianti. And still is. The last I remember tasting was, I think, a 1997 at the Trattoria Cammillo in Florence’s Borgo San Jacopo. My memory was one of overriding Sangiovese acidity, bot not this 2004. 2004 was one of those great Italian years of moderation; no heat waves, no deluges, just an endless summer of warm moderation and balance.
I have often said that Martino Mannetti, Sergio’s son, produces Tuscany’s most Burgundian wines. Although Le Pergole Torte does spend some of its élévage in 325 litre French barrels, the oak is not excessively new, and an equally tender passage in large Slovenian foudres renders the brute force of oak more simpatico. Behind a manifest bulk or rather weight, there is an undeniable skein of elegance that can only become more pronounced with time. Controlling the inherent acidity and tannin in sangiovese, and moderating it with a well judged use of oak is one of Montevertine’s most compelling characteristics. It’s a lovely bottle of wine. Five left and a case each of 2006 and 2007 to come. Bravissimo!
For cheese, accompanied by a salad of the every véritable Cresson de Flacey, I went England, as ever keen to spread the gospel that the French are not the only ones able to create wonders with fermented whey. Farmhouse cheddar, Shropshire Blue and a great chunk of Lancashire (ave! pater noster) surprised and delighted at once. I gave them each a (reasonably small) chunk of Lancashire to go home with, not least because Nico’s wife, Caro (is their daughter called daughtero?) is herself a cheesemonger…
And so, that Burgundian sun slipped down towards the proverbial yard-arm; Brice had to catch a train to Lyon and Nico no doubt an evening of unparalled debauchery in Dijon. Ah, the lives of youth.
But back to that glass of Macle. Now, as I was drinking the last glass, a good five hors after it was opened, I remembered what Mme Macle had advised when I visited: open a good six hours, even a day before, and serve at around 18°. I can now see and taste why. Not only had the colour visibly, and slightly miraculously transformed to a deeper orange, but the wine itself had taken a depth of marmalade tone and flavours that were rich, complex and beguiling. This was no longer fino-esque, but really something something else.