Many years ago, I received a simple piece of advice from an elder statesman of the wine trade, “It’s Christmas, treat yourself to a fine bottle of Burgundy.”
Most Christmases since then, I’ve followed his Burgundian maxim to the letter by splashing out on a bottle or two of Pinot Noir from the region’s best winemaking villages, and the second I sampled the Beaune-Bastion Premier Cru 2010 from Domaine Chanson earlier this year, I knew I’d be doing exactly the same thing again this Christmas.
Well, nearly the same thing anyway. Truth be told, I actually bought rather more than a bottle or two but, as anyone similarly smitten will tell you, that’s just the way it is with silky, sensual Pinot Noir: it’s simply impossible to resist.
Thankfully, at least for the bank balance, great Pinot is far from commonplace and that’s because, of all the grape varieties used to make wine, it’s by far the most annoying. Its temperamental nature frustrates winegrowers and wine drinkers alike but the quest for Pinot perfection goes on. Why? Because when it all comes together there’s really nothing else like it.
Pinot Noir is the most feminine of all red wine grapes and it possesses, at its best, an unparalleled seductiveness. These wines are all about silky textures and subtle complexities and are guaranteed to warm a sensualist’s heart. Unfortunately, the path to perfect Pinot is strewn with disappointment and for every sublime example there are many more let–downs.
To understand why, you only need speak to any grower of the grape. They’ll tell you, often in expletive–laden terms, what a nightmare it is to grow. Its thin skin makes it highly prone to disease, it needs ‘just so’ weather conditions to ripen successfully and will only deign to grow in certain soils. Truly, the grape is a femme fatale – irresistibly attractive but difficult, dangerous and frequently disastrous. If you’re looking for a wine that’s truly ‘romantic’ look no further than Pinot Noir but be warned – good Pinot doesn’t come cheap and once you’re hooked, you’re hooked.
Certainly, the Beaune-Bastion Premier Cru, Domaine Chanson 2010 at £ 35.75 a bottle is far from cheap but, believe me, if you’re looking to drink something truly special on Christmas Day, it really doesn’t get much better than this. And if, as I was, you’re tempted to buy a case or two, you can rest assured that the wine will only become even more complex and intensely pleasurable as it ages and evolves.
The Domaine Chanson cellars, now owned by Champagne Bollinger, were established in Beaune in 1750 and the Beaune-Bastion is named after the round fortress in Beaune that forms part of Chanson’s cellars. The wine is a blend of grapes sourced from selected plots among the Premiers Crus of the Domaine – Beaune Clos du Roi, Beaune Clos des Marconnets, Beaune Bressandes, Beaune Teurons, Beaune Champimonts, Beaune Clos des Mouches and Beaune Clos des Fèves Monopole, all of which have a mix of clay and limestone soils.
On the palate, the Beaune-Bastion reveals its many splendours in three separate phases. Initially, the wine charms with notes of fresh summer berries and violets. In the second wave, darker, deeper flavours of blackberry and spice are to the fore and, finally, the wine ends with a savoury meatiness and subtle hints of oak.
Whilst I’m talking tasting notes, I’d like to finish this week’s column with a quick mention for an American wine that was a big hit at our recent Christmas wine tasting. The Liberty School Pinot Noir has alluring flavours of fresh strawberries, cherries, spice and crushed herbs.