vaults onto Dromara; chunky horses at Clos Vougeot; awesome cassis and
the Patron Saint of Travellers on Horseback...
Condrieu we rumbled north to the first of our two bases in Burgundy
pausing only for water and carrots for the horses. As we left the
motorway at Beaune and made our way through Savigny les Beaune our
electric mint green horse box continued to draw much attention from the
French. It can certainly take all our attention getting through some of
the narrow streets!
Lily and Dromara hopped out at
Bouilland nearly at the top of the valley above Savigny les Beaune to
be greeted by not only Abigail and Jasper Morris but Hengist the horse
and all four cats. This is a magical spot and it took our girls no time
at all to settle into their lush new field. We have been trying to
separate them with mobile fencing but Lily decided to live up to her
breeding name of 'Pushy Woman' and jumped out in the middle of dinner
so we abandoned this and left them together in peace as the great
friends they have become.
The best way to really
understand terrain is on horseback - you can see the soil variations
close at hand, you feel the incline as the horse climbs up the vineyard
tracks and you can see the leaf foliage and flowering close at hand.
This is just how Abigail and I saw the great hill of Corton and went on
through the vineyards surrounding Pernand Vergelesse and then back
through the woods. Three hours' education you don't forget in a hurry.
I had been told that Dominique Lafon was a great
horseman and I was very keen to taste his wines. He apologised for
being too busy to ride with me, but when we arrived to visit his
domaine with Lily and Dromara on board the
temptation was obviously too great. Quick as a flash Dominique deftly
vaulted on to Dromara who proudly walked him around Clos de la Barre.
He too admitted that it was a perfect way of viewing a vineyard! I kept
a tight hold on Lily for fear of any additional pruning that she might
attempt while the spotlight was on Dromara...
were welcomed to Domaine de la Vougerie by Pascal Marchant who will be
supplying one of the wines for the special case offer being prepared as
I type by Lay and Wheeler (a large percentage of the profits of which
will go direct to my charities). As we stepped into the cool depths of
the cellar to taste we were greeted by a reporter from
Bourgogne d'Aujourd'hui come to trace the trail of
The Great French Ride for this very informative regional magazine.
Together we tasted over 20 wines from the impressive Beaune 1er Cru
Clos du Roi 2001 and Charmes Chambertin 2001 to the completely unique
Clos Blanc de Vougeot whose white vines were planted by monks in twelth
Pascal is using horses to plough some of
his best vineyards as they cause far less compaction than using
tractors. Fairfax and I tracked down Josef and Amérique his faithful
Comptoir horse in the vineyard at Clos de Vougeot slowly making their
way through the vines. Whilst they were doing a thorough job we
couldn't help but feel that the lean and wiry Josef was considerably
fitter than the chunky Amérique!
Pure cassis - it
had to be done. Before leaving for Chablis I wanted to find someone who
really knows how to express the true flavour of blackcurrants without
being cloying . Lily had lost a shoe on a grassy early morning gallop
and fortunately the blacksmith was already booked for the next morning
so we turned them out and set off for Arcenant with Abigail. Here we
tasted the the most wonderful cassis at Jean-Baptiste Joannet. A true
expression of liquid blackcurrants spun with the aroma of their own
crushed leaves. There will definitely be a bottle of that lurking in
the horsebox marked 'London - do not touch!'.
here we come! Didier Picq of Domaine Gilbert Picq is another keen
horseman and he had kindly offered us the loan of a field in Chichée
for the weekend. This time the fencing worked and Pushy Woman was kept
on her own side of a more solid fence! Didier not only makes excellent
Chablis but was a great guide (mist permitting) on Sunday morning when
Abigail drove up from Savigny to join us. We rode around all the Grand
Crus in Chichée including Vaucoupin and came back through the woods as
the sun tried to come out.
Another case offer tip
will definitely be a wine from Jean-Pierre Grossot whose La Part des
Anges we all enthused about. I am also a fan of his 1er Cru Vaucoupin
2001 with all its layers of citrus and minerality.
Since I was last in Chablis La Chablisienne has
built a very impressive new production site with huge glass windows
looking out on the Grand Crus including la Grenouille. It is a great
spot from which to see the terrain before a closer examination with
Lily and Dromara. I tasted Chablis from the 1998 vintage which are now
showing honeyed aromas before moving on to 1999s which have much more
natural acidity and typical minerality, especially the 1er Cru Mont de
Milieu and steely Grand Cru La Grenouille.
main mission in Chablis was to find the church door in the centre of
the town that I had been told was covered in horseshoes dating back to
the visiting pilgrims who nailed them on to ask the saints for strength
for their horses. Much to my amazement they were all upside down - in
England a sign of bad luck. But here in France they believe they should
be this way up in order to let the good luck flow. Just round the
corner we met Lorraine Corrigan at Domain Laroche who told us all about
St.Martin - the patron saint of Travellers on Horseback. We then tasted
the Chablis dedicated to him. She also showed us a magnificent
hand-painted chest dating from the eighth century that opens up to show
St Martin on his horse inside. We raised a glass of their Chablis
dedicated to St Martin and wished Lily and Dromara 'Bon Courage!' - and
went to gather our bags for Alsace.