Tag Archives: Burgundy


"Stuck in an appellation" Saint Emilion

A day in a wine writer’s life. I get up, dress, eat my porridge then phone the Guinness Storehouse to see if they have a wheelchair. Oh dear, apparently they don’t. I should maybe make it clear that my request stems not from the previous night’s over indulgence but from a knee operation. The Storehouse is The Land That God Forgot for us D4, southside wine scribes – can’t get there by public transport, there’s no parking and a cab costs a fortune. Ah, well, needs must…

I grab my crutches and limp up the road towards the taxi rank. Three traffic jams later I arrive at the Gleesons Incorporating Gilbey’s Portfoilio Tasting, bit of a mouthful? No, it’s a lot of mouthfuls, 41 tables, groaning with wines from all over the world as well as ports, sherries, brandies and beers. Here’s a flavour.

Before I kick off I’ll issue the usual caveat. This is a personal view of a tasting on a particular day. Other folk may love wines I hated or hate wines I loved. Make of it what you will.

Scanning the catalogue I find lots of old familiars, known quantities. This saves me time. For instance, while I know that, say, Les Charmes de Magnol Medoc 2008 is going to be of merchantable quality it won’t excite or surprise so I pass. The Cheval Noir Grand Vin de St.Emilion 2005 (€18.50, selected independents) on did surprise and pleasantly so, good budget claret.

Louis Latour, as usual, have quite a presence but, as ever, I find you have to get into the upper echelons of their list before thye start to charm. Louis Latour Montagny (Super Valu €19.99) is much more inviting than their Chablis. Simmonet-Febre’s Chablis (€18.99, O’Brien’s) was nicer, less steely.

On the Chateau de Sours stand I re-encounter owner Martin Krajewski, nice man. His Petit Cantenac St.Emilion 2008 (€22.50) has plenty of potential. The Bordeaux Rosé,  as always, was well up to the mark (€14.99, independents).

I’m a massive fan of the wines of JCP Malthus as people who read my Herald and the old Sunday Independent columns may have noticed! Bordeaux, Barossa, wherever there’s a roundness, a loveliness, a warmth about them and something that just shouts “Hey, this is bloody good winemaking”.  Area Manager Myriam Carrere tempts me to a vertical – 2006/7/8 – of Ch.Teyssier St.Emilion – I seem stuck in this appellation at the minute – the 2008 promises much but if you can find it, buy the ’06, it’s simply stunning. Entry level Pezat was good as ever. Seems to be some confusion as to whether this and Ch.Lacroix are the same thing. I came away none the wiser.

Can’t help thinking that Jaboulet Ainé have lost their way.Though Caroline Frey has expunged the bad winemaking of Jabs from ‘90s days the newer wines still seem to be struggling to find a house style. Maybe I just liked the big ruggery-buggery wines I remember from the 1980s? Anyhopw, I think they’ve lost something in power, shape and robustness while recovering the finesse that  went missing for so many years.

The delightful Anne Trimbach is in Dublin to present the wines of this brilliant house. Unlike some of their Alsace rivals I can’t think of one wine in their portfolio that doesn’t hack it. Everything is ‘sorted’. Trimbach Alsace Riesling 2009 (€15.99, SuperValu, O’Brien’s, independents) is a classic of the genre.  As for the Cuvée Frederick Emile 2004 (€34.99) every wine lover should have at least one bottle squirreled away for a joyous occasion.

Next table, Gruner Veltiner, Austria’s signature from ex-hippy Laurenz Moser. Named ‘Singing’, ‘Sunny’ and ‘Charming’ (€15.99-€24.99, Donnybrook Fair and independents) the wines are as beguiling as the titles. German wines, happily, are back up and bouncing, after a rocky couple of decades.

Lingenfelder’s German riesling and gewürztraminer (€13.99, independents) with their engaging bird and hare labels should be sought out and bought.

Black Tower roll on, now with added varietal choice. Stick with the Riesling, honest wine for the €9.35 ask. The sylvaner is a bit grim.

Moving up the price scale, if you can still find Lo Zoccolaio’s Barolo 2001 for the stated €37.49 (McHugh’s had some) grab the merchant’s hand off, this is classic kit.

The Dalmau Reserva Rioja 1985 at €85 is daft money, considering you could have, as alternative, 4 bottles of the very quaffable Marques de Murieta Reserva 2005 (O’Briens, Dunnes, Molloys) and a taxi home. This wine, for me, wiped the floor with the popular Faustino equivalent.

The Bodegas Portia Prima Ribero del Duero 2007 (€25, selected independents) is currently dead sexy. Baby brother Ebeia Roble 2009, almost half the price, is good too.

Simonassi Malbec 2006 was decent for the money (€9.99).

Vergelegen Cabernet 2004 was good kit but at €29.45 I can think of a couple of dozen reds I’d rather drink or lay down. The better South African wines still impress, rather than charm.As a ‘how to’ they should look at the complexity St.Hallet are cramming into St.Hallet Old Block Shiraz 2005 (€34.95) , the 2004 of which I remember from a big Aussie seminar last year where it kicked sand in the eyes of a good few more expensive shirazes. The ’05 has all the poke of  a traditional Barossa red with lots of other nice things revolving round the glass.

Chileans Terra Andina gave us a well-priced Reserva Pinot Noir from Leyda (€10.99, Donnybrook Fair, Centra) and an electrifying, invigorating Sauvignon Blanc (€9.99) that carried more than a hint of old-style Marlborough before the Kiwis started shining it up.

More? Luscious the Lane ‘The Gathering’ Semillon-Sauvignon from Adelaide Hills (€22, independents); Hunter Estates Chardonnay from NZ, always class; and St.Hallett Old Block Shiraz 2005 (€35, O’Briens, Tesco) up there with the Barossa’s biggies.

Best of the budgets? No question. I give you False Bay Chardonnay, from South Africa’s Western Cape – classy stuff at ridiculous (€9.80, Londis, independents) money from Paul Boutinot, the Manchester maverick behind, among others, Chat en Oeuf (€9.10, Superquinn, Centra), one I’m always plugging for value. The 2010 False Bay Chardonnay is clean, non-cloying, more European than New World and altogther a worthy example of the sort of Chardy that should put noisy chavs like Pinot Grigio back in their box.

Can’t quit without mentioning the wonderful Julia Kennedy, whose organisation, as usual, was pluperfect. Great ideas of hers to get Fingal Ferguson there with mum Giana’s cheeses and his own salami, a huge quantum leap from when he started a few years back. The new mortadella, in particular, was a wondrous product.

Julia is off now to pastures new, Gleeson’s loss is Dillon’s gain.

Boeuf a la Bourguignonne

bb-ingredsIn response to an inquiry on the forum, I’ve dragged up an article I wrote some years ago and a recipe, in fact, MY recipe, for this classic dish.  Enjoy!

The Culinary History

Burgundy, thanks to its inhabitants having an all-consuming devotion to colouring matters (plus a skilled publicity campaign conducted by the mediaeval dukes who ruled the province), has come to be regarded as the epicentre of French and astronomy. Strange then, that the dish that has become such a worldwide flag waver for the region should be a rustic peasant a thing.

The food writer Elizabeth David described Boeuf a la Bourguignonne as “a favourite among those carefully composed slowly cooked dishes which are the domain of French housewives and owner cooks of modest restaurants rather than of professional chefs.”

although Burgundian origin, it is now regarded as a quintessentially French dish, found on the bill of fare in restaurants as far apart as Paris and Marseilles, not to mention bistros from Manchester to Sydney.

In France itself you often find it written down on menus simply as ‘Bourguignonne’ and, what’s more, in French butchers shops you’ll often see a slab of meat marked out for its culinary purpose, i.e. ‘bourguignonne’ rather than “topside” or “shoulder”.

Simon Hopkinson and Lindsay Bareham have an excellent recipe in their entertaining review of retro cuisine, ‘The Prawn Cocktail Years’. I think it’s out of print but if you do come across a second-hand copy, it’s a joy. Paul Bocuse has a recipe in his maius opus, something you would hardly expect from the arch moderniser.

The first English-language edition of the ‘Larousse Gastronomique’ segregates ‘Boeuf Bourguignon’ and ‘Boeuf a la Bourguignonne’. The recipe for the former the mushrooms are omitted. This seems to be the sole difference. The “female version” must be the simplest recipe ever presented, if not exactly the cheapest containing the instructions just “lard the meat and marinate in brandy. Then braise in red wine.” Committing a bottle of cognac plus a bottle of Burgundy to a humble stew would give both  my wife and my bank manager palpitations so I feel I’ll never make this version!

Most culinary experts agree that it is de rigueur to incorporate a pig’s trotter or a calf’s foot to yield a nourishing, rib-sticking gravy. At the same time opinions are divided as to whether to marinate the meat or not.

What you include – according to the experts

The ingredients in this list are, by consensus, the common ones.

1. Well hung, sinewy beef- chuck, topside, shoulder and shin have all been mentioned by various chefs and writers. The beef should be sliced into large pieces, weighing-some recommend-up to 150 grams per piece. From this it will be evident that the miserable cubes adopted by the pub lunch trade clearly have no place in this dish.

2. Red wine – the general consensus is that the wine used should be Burgundy. Obviously, you don’t go rooting down the cellar for a bottle of your finest Domaine de la Romanee-Conti!

3. Pig’s trotter, split lengthways, or a calf”s foot. I can’t recommend this addition  highly enough. It makes the sauce rich, silky, and even more flavoursome.

4. Streaky bacon, cut into thick match length strips.

5. Onions. Around two dozen small round onions, peeled and left whole, seems to be the consensus. I tend to use shallots when I can get them.

6. Mushrooms. Again, around two dozen.

7. Bouquet garni. Parsley, thyme and a bay leaf are the favoured constituents.

8. Brandy. For the sake of authenticity, you would have to use marc de Bourgogne but, considering the small quantity involved, cognac, armagnac,  Greek or Spanish brandy would be fine. Almost every recipe I’ve ever read involves chucking in a glass of brandy and setting it on fire. The addition really does make a difference to the dish and the flames are welcome, alleviating the boredom that comes from slicing 2.5 kg of beef and peeling a mountain of shallots.

9. Garlic. When it comes to garlic, the pundits diverge on the subject of its quantity and even desirability, ranging from nought (Paul Bocuse) to 8 cloves (Simon Hopkinson). I’m somewhere in between.

The Recipe


One bottle of Burgundy, or other red wine

1 large onion, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

4 cloves of garlic

bouquet garni – 2 dtdp parsley, 3 sprigs thyme, 2 bay leaves

2 – 2.5kg sinewy beef, chuck, shoulder or shin, approximately 15-20 mm thick

sea salt and freshly milled black pepper

2 to 3 tbsp plain flour

one calf’s foot or a pig’s trotter, sliced lengthways

120 g thick cut streaky bacon, cut into match length strips

1 glass of marc de Bourgogne, cognac or other brandy

500 ml stock

two tablespoons olive oil

200 g unsalted butter

24 shallots, peeled

24 button or small chestnut mushrooms

2 dessert spoons chopped parsley for garnish


1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.

Put the wine, chopped onion, celery, garlic and bouquet garni into a non-reactive (stainless steel) saucepan and bring to the boil. Ignite the wine and allow the flavours to subside. Turn down the heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until the wine is reduced by half. Season the beef and roll it in the flour.

Melt the oil and butter in a large frying pan or saucepan on top of the stove.

2. Put in the bacon and fry until  brown, stopping shorty of crisp. Remove and reserve. Brown the beef, cooking only a few pieces at a time. Colour well on both sides, remove and reserve.

3. Put the pig’s trotter or calf’s foot into the pan and fry on both sides until well coloured. If there is a good deal of fat in the pot, remove most of it by skimming with a kitchen spoon. Turn up the heat, toss  in the brandy and ignite. Strain the reduced wine and pour into the pan. Add the stock. Return the rest of the meat to the pan.  Cover the pot and braise the meat for two hours. Remove and skim off any scum from the surface.

4. Add the shallots and mushrooms and braise for another half-hour or until the meat is tender. Added at this late stage they won’t shrink to nothing. Remove the trotter or calf’s foot. Check the seasoning.

Serve with plain boiled or mashed potatoes and a plain green salad to refresh the palate.

To drink… Burgundy?????

Red Sancerre upwardly mobile

 Forkncorker mreyeore went hot foot to Berry Bros to check out the Andre Dezat red Sancerre I tipped in So it Goes… Alas, seems the price has escalated to £21.95, a jump of €3.

Still lovely wine but at the new price the competition intensifies. You might also like these…burgbottles

At a recent tasting given by Le Caveau of Kilkenny, one of Ireland’s truly great provincial wine merchants, I came across a lovely St.Romains by star biodynamic winemaker Olivier Leflaive (around €19).

Burgundy specialist Conor Richardson (Burgundy Direct (01 289 6615) has, among many other gems, the scintillating Dom. Marc Joblot Givry ‘Pied de Chaume’ at €23.25.

O’Briens have wines from Chanson, a venerable Burgundy house that’s ground its way back after a long, long spell in the doldrums. The Givry 2006 is very presentable (€18.49).

Burgundy – Hospice de Beaune & Chablis

I promised the full story of my trip to Burgundy for the Auction at The Hospice de Beaune. Here it is…

Why all the fuss? A question I asked myself as the TGV sped southward.
Size wise it’s insignificant, comprising as it does a mere 02% of the earth’s surface that’s covered by vines. What’s more, the fêted Grand Crus make up a mere 1% of the region’s total output and the Premier little more than a tenth. The bulk of the production, entitled only to the name of Burgundy tout court, is honest but unremarkable wine. Yet the region carries an undeniable charisma, an attraction exceeding even that of the Medoc.
Partly, of course, it’s that aristocrat of wine words, terroir. Nowhere else in the world do you find, in the midst of an otherwise unremarkable array of vineyards, hallowed patches where the grapes yield up wine of exquisite quality. Where even the vinously literate search in vain for clues, getting down on their knees to turn over handfuls of soil or gazing down from the crest of the slope in utter bewilderment.
Much is made of the terrain. The buzz word is ‘Kimmeridge’ or ‘kimmerigien’. But beware, there’s more bollocks talked about Kimmeridge than even politics or football.
I’ve been told, by those who should know better, that it’s a corruption of an old French word for ‘high ridge’; that it’s the name of an American professor of geology. Truth is Kimmeridge is actually the name of a village in Dorset, England where the substrata and soil is remarkably similar to that of Burgundy – limestone blended with fossilised rock and sprinkled with marl overlaid in parts by other clay pocked with bituminous shale; a topography that took shape during the Jurassic era.
History is another aspect to Burgundy’s appeal. Its wines were patronised in turn by Louis XIV, Napoleon and General de Gaulle, not a bad trio of endorsees. Some claim viticulture in the region stemmed from a colony of Greeks settled in Marseilles, some of whom ventured north. Others date the process to Caesar’s conquest of Gaul in 52BC. What is certain is that medieval religious orders, Benedictines and Cistercians, advanced matters, the latter by being the first to cultivate the back-breaking inclines of the Côte d’Or. Much of the credit, though, must go to that Duke of Burgundy who, in the late 14th century, supervised the wholesale ripping out of the common weed-vine Gamay and its replacement by the aristocratic Pinot Noir.
Temperamental Pinot Noir and ever-complaisant Chardonnay are the real glory of Burgundy, the former making red wines that, while wholly enjoyable when young, develop a patchwork quilt of nuances given some bottle age; the latter achieving its world-wide apogée on the sacred slopes of Montrachet just south of our destination, the town of Beaune.
All this flashed through my mind on the journey. We changed trains at Dijon, capital of the region and took the stopper. I was pleased to halt at Nuits-St.Georges, home of the first wine I ever drank. If Dijon is the Duchy’s capital, Beaune is undoubtedly the wine capital, especially in November when it plays host to the world. Norwegians and Koreans, Americans and Japanese and other poles apart pairings crowd the streets, either as invitees of the merchant houses or as independent travellers with a common aim – to attend the great annual wine auction at the Hospices de Beaune and enjoy the remarkable gastronomic accompaniment. Some arrive, chequebooks at the ready, to bid for a barrel or three. Others, merely to spectate and join in the festivities. These blow-ins are catered for by a hundred restaurants, from bistro to temple of gastronomy, remarkable in a town of only about 27,000 people. It’s said that Paris is the head of France, Champagne the heart and Burgundy the stomach and after four days there I can confirm that it’s a very full stomach indeed. Burgundians, like me, are food-obsessed and it’s not uncommon to receive a lecture on how to buy or how to cook the andouillettes or poulet de Bresse when you’re standing in front of an open market stall contemplating purchase. Such advice could come from the vendor, a fellow-shopper or a mere passer-by. Meet the locals and five minutes later they’ll be telling you who’s the best butcher in town. The food shops are crowded too; twice a day there are queues outside the bakers.
Importers, merchants, journalists from a veritable league of nations took lunch chez Bouchard Père et Fils in the delightfully elegant orangery across the road from the château that serves as the company HQ. Bouchard are big in Burgundy, owning 12 hectare of Grands Crus and 74 of Premiers, the names of which sparkle like diamonds: Chambertin, Clos Vougeot, Echezeaux, Le Corton, Corton Charlemagne and an array of Montrachets shine from their portfolio.
After lunch we went off to Meursault to taste, pausing on the way at Le Montrachet to genuflect. I look back at my notes as I write and find my terse cyphering that’s gaining notoriety in wine writing circles is speckled with exclamation marks. The Meursault Genevrières 2002 “affords genuine excitement”, it seems. The Corton-Charlemagne of the same year was “tense and weighty, sea salt and Cox’s apples framed by delicate but insistent peachy flavours”. The Chevalier Montrachet “still a kit of parts but the class is undeniable”. I want to come back and taste the same wines in 5 and 10 years.
In the evening we returned to the Bouchard château for dinner in the cellars. The cooking was rich, classically Burgundian from the etherial gougères, “like eating cheese-flavoured clouds” as someone said, to the marbré de canard, to the cepes-stuffed suprême de volaille fermière, to the marc-soaked roast figs. The wines, Chevalier Montrachet 1997, Nuits St.Georges Les Cailles 1998 and the Beaune Teurons 1964, still standing up to be counted, were magnificent. Only problem was to prevent falling shards of limestone falling from the cellar roof from tainting the precious liquid.
The auction itself is, I have to say, totally underwhelming for those not in possession of the wherewithal to buy. You queue to get in, this year in teeming rain; once inside you stand or sit, mute and motionless, afraid of nodding your head or scratching your ear for fear you might be called upon to stump up for a pièce, a lot, consisting of around 300 bottles. The numbers roll on the electronic ‘scoreboard’ in euros, yen, pounds, dollars etc, the vendors grunt and groan and then it’s on to the next lot. They have a curious, time-honoured way of ending the bidding but when you’ve seen one guttering candle you’ve seen ‘em all. Ten minutes of this and you’re ready to roam the streets, buying Epoisses and the gorgeously named Ami du Chambertin cheeses, bargaining for truffles and watching the side shows – the cork-pulling contest and the demonstration of the cooper’s craft were the pick of them.

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