Competition – Geoffrey Dunn

Geoffrey Dunn, whose unedited entry in our seminal wine competition appears below, describes himself thus: ‘Semi-retired, 69 year old wine lover, former mountaineer and now off-piste skier and mountain biker…’ He sent this picture of the famous Aiguille Verte in Chamonix.

In the early 1970’s, the Common Market ( later EU) was but a distant “non” away. I was an impoverished post-graduate student and mad keen on alpine mountaineering, so a summer climbing in the Alps was obligatory.

Of course, we could not afford to stay in a hotel, so camping on the way to Chamonix, whilst there climbing and on the way back, was the norm.

The dreadful 1Fr per litre bottle of vin de table “wine” with a plastic cap had been discovered and tasted -the less said the better.

I had read about some classic French dish called Coq au Chambertin. I wanted to try it. So, on the way back, we stopped in Dijon. I cannot remember the restaurants’ name, but it didn’t taste like any chicken I had ever eaten before and the 1964 (?) Beaune Greves (?) was also a taste sensation never encountered before.

The damascene moment occurred about 2am the next morning. There was a violent storm and incredible winds. The tent was flapping like crazy. I awoke and grabbed the tent poles to stop it being blown away. Suddenly, I had this sensation – I could still taste that night’s burgundy in my mouth- it was extraordinary. I went back to sleep and was staggered to find that when I awoke a few hours later, the taste sensation was still there.

When I got back to Manchester, I found a wine wholesale warehouse that allowed you to buy single bottles of their “fine” vintage wines -as long as you bought a minimum of six. I learned that, in the UK as we were not yet members of the Common Market, you could buy reasonable Burgundy at sensible prices, as these came from the Domaine’s production that exceeded the French State’s determination of how much could be sold at each classification. It’s funny how I can recall the names of the first few odd bottles of Chambolle Musigny, Vosne Romanee les Malconsorts, Echezaux, and even (supposedly) Richebourg from the 1969 (and later 1971 ) vintages. These were enjoyed thanks to the “liquidation” of the British Rail cellar. But, they were always Burgundy. Bordeaux and elsewhere came much later and I retain my preference for the exquisite and subtle delicacy of fine Burgundy.

This summer, I visited a Burgundian grower that I have known and followed for over 30 years- (thanks Jasper for the introduction). How much of “your wine do you sell to people like me” I asked Patrice? Ah “ba oui”, he replied “peut-être 0.5%. C’est seulement des fidèles amateurs. Il n’y a pas beaucoup comme vous”!