Les Grands Jours de Bourgogne is a 5 day wine tasting extravaganza that takes place every other year in March. It begins on a Monday morning in Chablis and descends southwards to Macon passing through swathes of France’s most illustrious viticultural real estate. Amazingly it is free for wine trade professionals to participate in and unsurprisingly it attracts a diverse international clientele keen to sample a broad cross-section of Burgundy.
This was an opportunity not to be missed and over a frenzied 4 day tasting tour (we had to give day 1 in Chablis a miss) we sampled something in the region of 300 wines. Never mind the logistics of trying to source even a fraction of that number independently, the cost would be ruinous.
Wine tasting is always most pleasurable when the wine maker is on hand to explain their ethos and methodology and that is what makes Les Grands Jours de Bourgogne so enjoyable. Happily the Côte d’Or was blessed with a week of Spring sunshine so as we passed through Marsannay, Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-Saint-Georges Beaune, Mersault and Puligny and Chassagne-Montrachet we had some great photo opportunities and literally saw Burgundy in a very good light.
It is hard to generalise about France’s (ergo the world’s) most complex region in terms of wine classification (there is much debate as to whether named vineyard sites constitute true appellations or some sub-sect of official Appellation Contrôlée nomenclature but no-one denies that it is arcane) but our impressions were largely positive. Recent vintages have yielded rich rewards. 2009 is a great year for rich, ripe, reds of voluptuous charm that should age well on the weight of their fruit alone for at least a decade. 2010 was arguably a more typical vintage and we sampled lots of nervy, dry whites underscored by a terrific acidity that will see them age well too. The 2010 reds, although very young, were also impressive with lots of body and grip – we look forward to re-visiting them with a few years bottle-age. Our sampling of 2011 was limited to a handful of barrel tastings of Gevrey-Chambertin, Beaune and Corton-Charlemagne – it was clearly a more varied vintage but good producers will make some great wines.
Finally it would be remiss not to mention the marvellous Burgundian cuisine for which the region is justifiably acclaimed – jambon persillé (potted ham with parsley), escargots (snails stewed in Chablis and stuffed with garlic and butter), oeufs en meurette (eggs poached in red wine), bœuf bourguignon and too many cheeses to list individually all accompanied wines to perfection but won’t help Tom’s cycling regime! Our best meal of the week was in Le Gourmandin [8 Place Carnot, Beaune] – unpretentious, honest Gallic cuisine at its best. We can’t wait to go back but are not sure we can wait until the next Les Grands Jours de Bourgogne in 2014!