We received a call from the Cotignac Wine Club about two weeks ago. Their meeting place in the cellar of Didier’s wine shop was getting rather cramped, and they were hoping we could help them out by allowing January’s get-together to be hosted in at Mirabeau. The (recently renovated) building that Mirabeau calls home not only has a history dating back hundreds of years and is situated right on the main street of the village, but the character and ambience also lends itself really well to events.
The theme was Burgundy, and specifically one of the villages of the region with an excellent heritage. About twenty people were present, which is a good turnout for a village the size of Cotignac in the winter… Winter has its own special charm here. The summer is predictably busy with most ‘locals’ returning from their summer homes on faraway shores and thousands of tourists drawn by the quaint setting, the markets, awesome weather and the prospect of a lovely, dry rosé. Winter brings rest and tranquility to those willing to enjoy the chilly weather. Only the hardcore expats are still here as well as the couple hundred locals. It can be rather nippy when the mistral wind comes through and it can rain for weeks – not what you normally see in the brochue! But on the positive side there is always a parking space which doesn’t require a fifteen minute hike and – more importantly – a table available at the resaurant. Ah, the simple things in life… It does make life a little easier for those of us with busy schedules. Incidentally, Cotignac is one of the few villages that don’t shut down completely during the winter, with three of the fourteen restaurants remaining open – mostly..
Have you heard of Chambolle-Musigny? Didier arrived with eight bottles of hand selected wines from the village in Burgundy, so we were in for a treat. Being of an untrained palate (but I’m learning, I’m learning – as we all are) I was pleasantly surprised to find a few more novices in the room seated next to the well-seasoned individuals. But it doesn’t matter how far developed you are or indeed how much you enjoy your wine, it’s about learning and sharing the enthousiasm. And Didier has that in spades! He presents each bottle with respect and pours a little into our glasses as he tours the room explaining the origins and vintage and who the winemaker is. He gives an idea of what to look for with the flavour and then proceeds to share a story about the domaine in question with a glint in his eye. He repeats the story in French as well as English to cater for the range of nationalties in the room – great for your French!
I particularly enjoyed the story of a vigneron who heard about some of his wines going up for auction in New York and according to the catalogue they were a ’34 vintage. He rang them up and asked whether it might be a typo as they couldn’t possibly be ’34. He was told that it definitely was the case, to which he responded: ‘Impossible, I only planted the vineyard in 1949!’
He explained that the wines were to be removed from auction, but not totally convinced he arrived in New York a week later on the date of sale. To his horror he found the wines in the catalogue and only after the auctioneers got wind of his presence did they remove them, citing some excuse about a fault in the bottles. He confronted them with the fact that they were going to sell ‘his’ wines anyway if he hadn’t arrived and certainly wasn’t amused. Needless to say, somewhat irked, he later approached the FBI. Upon investigation they found a large scam in the wine auctions, specifically one man who had made millions by substituting rather expensive labels onto mediocre bottles. The problem (and reason he hadn’t been caught) was that the wines he was re-labelling were already quite good, just not … He got ten years in jail for his trouble.
And then there was the story about how to easy it can be to end a dynasty by losing a domaine that has been in the family for generations. Just marry and divorce someone who can take it all away through the courts, thereby ending hundreds of years of history.
He really makes the evening an event and his passion and knowledge as well as being on a first name basis with some of the best winemakers in the world led us from 2011 all the way to a couple of bottles of 2000 vintage. Sublime. Very smooth, elegant and soft is how I would attempt to describe them. And of a quality you would not normally experience being of limited means and . I also – because we bring our own glasses – found it noticeable how a larger glass does somehow give you a lot more ‘on-the-nose’. Afterward cheese and baguette was shared around, and it is always surprising how good a piece of comté on dry bread can taste along with a local rouge with which to end the evening.
As an introduction to Burgundy we were certainly spoiled for choice and quality! Like we’ve been doing since we started at Mirabeau – pretty much backwards, starting from the top and diving in at the deep end…
A perfect moment then to also watch the movie: A Year in Burgundy – which follows four winemakers in the region in their quest for the perfect wine. Definitely worth a look if you’re a winelover…
Next time we are all to bring a bottle of our own favourite red wine from the area. Red wine from Provence? Well, we might be in for a surprise…