La Route du Cremant

Sleeping soundly in our huge bed we are awoken by the sound of raindrops on the Velux windows! No light shower either a substantial downpour that puts paid to any thoughts of a swim before breakfast. A recce of the complimentary bikes reveals why they are complimentary, there are no gears!

After a thirty second discussion the bike idea is canned and we head off to breakfast. The spread is amazing as usual. A range of cheeses and charcuterie, fresh fruit, pastries, quiches and tarts.

Refuelled and ready to go we head off to Châtillon-sur-Seine, the largest town on La Route du Cremant. This is a signed 120km route around the villages that surround Châtillon-sur-Seine which make both still and sparkling wines but are really renowned for their sparkling methode traditionelle wines.

Châtillon-sur-Seine is largely closed for business it’s the first day of the two weeks of French holidays that many independent shops close up for. We do find a shop promoting the still and sparkling wines of Bailly Lapierre. A massive result as their cellars are a good hour and half away and not on our schedule. There’s a range of Cremant on tasting so at 11am the first bubbly passes my lips and after making my selections leave with a spring in my step.

We find a little boulangerie and stop for coffee and share a deliciously sweet almond croissant. We then head to the nearby Auchan supermarche to recce for our picnic dinner later before realising that it’s already 12:30pm and all the Cremants producers are now out to lunch!

We drive back to the hotel passing through the vineyards View Vineyards at Massingy

Back in Courban we catch a few rays by the pool and cool off before heading back out to Belan-sur-Ource in search of Jean Girard a legendary Cremant producer.

After speaking to a few locals we approach his cellar door in anticipation and ring the bell. Monsieur Girard greets us and invites us in for a degustation.

Once inside his caveau Jean introduces us to his extensive range of Cremant.

100% Pinot Noir that is full of red fruit with a perfect balance of acidity and fruit flavours. It benefits from one year of lees ageing and retails at the cellar door for just 7 Euros!

100% Chardonnay is a lovely pale gold colour with a nose that indicates longer lees ageing. On the palate more brioche like notes and hints of tropical fruit like banana and pineapple. Drinking well now this wine can be aged further. Slightly high price point at 8 Euros per bottle.

Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend (assemblage) . 70% Pinot Noir and the rest Chardonnay. Very food friendly with more depth and complexity than either single grape Cuvée! Made in a classic champagne style with great balance of acidity and fruit flavours combined with a sophistication from the time on the lees, one of my favourites and a steel for any occasion at just 7.5 Euros per bottle.

The last 2 premier Cremant were not available for tasting but based on the experience of those that I did I thought was worth a punt!

Pinot and Chardonnay blend with 3 years of bottle ageing and just under 10 Euros a bottle!

A Sousbois oaked 100% Chardonnay Cremant with 3 years of bottle ageing and again a value price point of 13 Euros! Tasting notes to follow on these two when I crack them open on my return.

We try to visit another producer in the next village Domaine Brigand but they are just closing up for the evening. There’s just enough time to taste two Cremants

A 100% Chardonnay (Carte Blanche 2012) and a Pinot Noir. The Pinot is well made with medium (+) acidity and hints of red fruit on the palate which follow through from the nose but the Chardonnay is a triumph! Pale gold in appearance with a dry taste and medium (+) acidity, hints of white flowers, apple and lemon on the nose which follow through on the palate with great balance, intensity and length. The 3 years of bottle ageing yield secondary notes of biscuit and brioche. A really lovely Cremant.

After the tasting we stop to see the veraison taking place on some of the Pinot vines near the caveau. We return to the Auchan supermarket and pick up some delicious local produce for our simple picnic to accompany our Cremant. A local pate with a pastry crust, some traditional Burgundian ham in parsley aspic, saucisson sec and some salad with celeriac and carrot remoulade. We are now fully equipped to dine like the Dukes of Burgundy!

With the perfect backdrop of a setting sun we sit down to our picnic with our bottle of classic Jean Girard Cremant. We are entertained by swifts tumbling across the sky feeding on a plethora of insects. Our soundtrack is birdsong and the quarter chimes of the church bells. It’s perfect and idyllic! The picnic hits the spot too.

Panoramic Sunset Picnic

Sunset Church Bell Chimes

And now just to finish off ….. we fancy a little assiette du fromage and Jean-Noel the sommelier and restaurant manager of the Chateau du Courban obliges with a great cheese selection, he also has some sublime wine pairings.

Blue Fourme d’ Ambert a rich creamy and intense cheese with salty undertone paired with a 12 year old Banyuls: deep ruby in colour with burnt rubber and dried cherry notes on the nose, off dry with medium plus acidity and notes of raisin and dried fruit on the palate.

Livarot and Epoisse with a Brumaire Juancon. Medium strength creamy cheeses with an umami tang that works brilliantly with the sweetness of the Jurancon which still has a background acidity.

The best pairing was the last and most classic. An aged Comte cheese with a 2005 Vin Jaune d’Arbois. It has an intense resinous oxidised nose, a beautiful deep gold appearance, this wine maturing well, dry, high acidity, full bodied, high alcohol, with very long finish and a lovely mouthfeel of hazelnuts. Outstanding!


The Tour du Vin de France begins

The mood is set for a relaxing two weeks of enjoying the best of French food and wine. We are spending our first 2 days in the charming and delightful Chateau de Courban located in the Côte de Chatillon. However, before we slipped into the rural tranquility of Courban we decided on a quick detour to Reims, the capital of Champagne!

As we glide along the French motorway leaving behind a cool and slightly overcast Blighty our thoughts turn to the delights of the French service station. Stopping there is always a pleasure! There’s usually freshly baked, mouth wateringly good pastries and great coffee! Such a contrast to the limited offerings on British motorways. We stopped for an apricot pastry and a cafe au lait that was a triumph of French patisserie!

Pushing onto Reims with a scheduled arrival of just after 14:00 we phoned ahead and booked onto a tour at Champagne Pommery . We’ve stayed in Épernay many times but never made it to Reims so we thought a stop there was well overdue. It’s a complete contrast! A relatively modern city that had to be re built after being bombed with incendiaries by the German forces in World War One. Despite the bombardment the cathedral stands proud amongst the contemporary buildings which surround it, dominating the skyline.

The first thing that strikes you as you navigate your way across the invisible roundabout at the entrance to the Pommery estate is the sheer magnitude of it. We heard an amazing anecdote of how Madame Pommery keen to gain competitive advantage over her next door neighbour Ruinart, built one of the towers to obscure their building, hiding it from view to potential visitors!

Serendipitously we were early and offered the chance to have a private tour with Romain. In the main reception area is this
beautiful carved foundre which was used for a major expo in Missouri in the 19th Century. It depicts France giving the gift of wine to the Americans!

The tour began with Romain leading us down the illuminated staircase to the cavernous tunnels beneath the Domaine. We passed small 200cl bottles specially created by the innovative marketing department to meet the needs of discerning champagne drinkers hit by the 1929 Wall Street Crash and Great Depression that followed. Champagne was shipped directly to major cities until the Second World War. Each city had its own designated holding area in the cellars so as to demarcate their allocation. London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol are all names you can see. A selection of really old bottles on view.

After the tour Romain took us through the tasting. During which time we learned the following interesting champagne facts:

A standard champagne bottle is called a champenois.

A cellar master who uses riddling by hand can handle 40,000 bottles a day. Riddling by hand is time consuming and can take 6 weeks to move the lees to the neck of the bottle for disgorgement. A gyropalette can achieve this in 5 days but can’t handle any bottle bigger than a champenois.

There are 18 kilometres of tunnels under the Pommery estate.

Many champagne houses started out making really sweet champagnes. This was because the vendage took place in July (to avoid spoiled harvest) often before veraison had happened and the grapes were still green. Typically 150g/L sugar was added for the dosage! 150 times more than today’s dry Brut style champagne.

Pommery was the first house to produce a Brut style of champagne.

Champagne flutes were designed primarily to allow the sediment to settle at the bottom of the long glass. Cloudy champagnes with the lees still floating were commonplace in bygone days. As champagne making evolved to produce the clear style we know today the glasses remained popular as it was found they also helped to preserve the bubbles!

We tasted three champagnes. The classic Pommery which is a mix of the classic trio of Champagne grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Menier. This style is light and easy drinking with a floral nose, on the palate the aromas of lemon come through with a style that is dry with high acidity. I was first introduced to this at Le Majestic Barriere in Cannes where they serve this as the breakfast champagne complimentary!

Pommery Grand Cru Champagne

Made from only Chardonnay Pinot Noir from Grand Cru parcels and aged for a minimum of 6 years.

Pale gold in appearance with medium intense biscuity toasted brioche and caramel aromas on the nose. This champagne is developing nicely. On the palate, it’s dry with high acidity, medium alcohol, medium plus body, and a medium plus finish. It is well balanced and has integrated aromas with red fruit cherry, apple and lemon with more brioche and toasty aromas. A very good Champagne that is drinking well now with further ageing potential.

We also tried the new sweeter style of Pommery champagne which was a little too sweet for my liking at 37g/L. More like a sweet Asti Spumante in style but served on ice it reminded my more of Babycham than champagne!

After a fascinating afternoon at Pommery we headed South into Burgundy for our 2 night return stay at the CHÂTEAU de Courban .

After a quick swim we took pre dinner drinks and Amuse Bouche on the terrace: with Gillian taking the local Blancs de Blancs Cremant and I the local Rose Champagne from a few miles down the road in Gye- sur- Seine.

The second Amuse Bouche of Turnip cream with crab and sesame arrived as we sat down to dinner. Jean-Noel our excellent sommelier recommend:

2012 Beaune Clos Saint-Landry by Bouchard et Fils
This was medium gold in appearance with lightly smoky and toasty nuttiness on nose and stone fruits, with hints of pineapple and lemon. This wine is developing very well. On the palate its dry with high acidity, medium plus body, high alcohol. Aromas of peach, apricot, lemon and lime fuse together with a background of minerality and subtle cedar that is integrated in a complex and seamless way. Rounded off with a very long finish. This wine has great balance of all components, structural complexity and intensity of integrated primary and secondary flavours. It really is outstanding now and will continue for a few more years yet.

And so to the Discovery menu.

Gambas, with quinoa, pea, caviar, flowers, lovely fusion of clean and fresh flavours to highlight the subtle taste of the prawns.

Cod steamed on a blini of polenta,courgette from the garden, red basil, popcorn, small mushrooms, foam, sauce vierge concentrated puree. Sensory overload of both visual intensity with taste explosions with bombs of coriander seed and Shimeji mushrooms creating mini aftershocks in a good way!

Desserts of ginger chocolate with rich cream basil and sorbet which was tangy and rich but not heavy with a lovely lingering warmth of ginger in the mouth.

A stunning use of herbs and fruit with Peaches, cream with rosemary, apricot and jelly – amazing!

We rounded off the evening in true Burgundian style with a degustion of Vieux Marc from a local Cremant producer who has his own distillery. Smooth and heady this sent us off into a peaceful and blissful nights sleep.

Cape Town Finale!

The sun crept up behind the sky scrapping luxury apartments as the dawn broke on what would be our final day in Cape Town.


Sunrise over Cape Town Marina

Keen not to waste any time we managed to get in a swim in the outdoor pool before taking up pole position at breakfast by the Marina. Our lovely waitress prepared our favourite spot and suggested that we try the legendary Eggs Royale.


The breakfast table with stunning marina views!

Eggs Royale is a variation on the classic Eggs Benedict substituting smoked salmon for ham. The executed this with aplomb, with the eggs perfectly poached and the sauce at the optimum temperature but with the addition of a small amount of wilted spinach under the salmon!


Eggs Royale at The One and Only!

After a brief assault on the pastries section and fortified with the now obligatory double espresso we headed off to the V&A Waterfront to check out some of the atmosphere of this lively and vibrant area.

In one of the large mall type buildings we stumbled across “Dr JUICE” and keen to create our own Cape Townian super juice created the “Pink Whale”.

The Pink Whale:

Juice 1 Orange, 2 carrots,  1 Beetroot , 1 Apple , 1 slice of Pineapple, an inch of ginger and a quarter of a lemon! Tastes delicious and an incredible colour too!


Tim and the remnants of The Pink Elephant at the V and A Waterfront!

As Dr Juice proclaim at their juice shack ” Fresh Raw Juice Can Seriously Improve Your Health!”

Heading back to the hotel we asked the concierge to organise a car to take us to Klein Constantia and then onto Camp’s Bay for our group lunch. To our amazement they arranged for us a brand new air conditioned S- Class Merc! Feeling a little like rock stars we headed off to one of the oldest estates in Cape Town, Klein Constantia .

Klein Constantia is located within a private estate and its not really possible to walk around the estate like at Vergelegen but this didn’t detract from the tasting experience.


The Klein Constantia Estate

MCC – Blanc de Blanc, 100% Chardonnay

Estate Sauvignon Blanc – made in a Sancerre style, minerality style from stones and soil type


Vin de Constance

After our amazing visit to Klein Constantia it was time to squeeze in a beach walk at arguably one of the most beautiful and unspoilt beaches in the Cape, Llandudno Beach.  Although the sea look a alluring with its breakers crashing onto the beach its icy chill is the reason that the local surfers are all wet suited up, even in summer!

As the height of the summer season approached it’s quite remarkable that this beach was so empty but then I caught sight of several signs warning of the dangers of swimming here due to a proliferation of Great White Sharks!

After a brief paddle in the icy cold water it was off to Zenero in Camp’s Bay for our final lunch.  This restaurant has an incredible location right next to the main boulevard running parallel to the beach.




















Veni, Vidi, Vici, VINO Part 3

We strolled back to the car with the knowledge that we had to be back in Cape Town by 5:30pm to be sure of being scrubbed up and ready for our Black Tie evening at the Clifton penthouse.

What we hadn’t expected was that with the traffic in our favour we would make it to Somerset West on the outskirts of Cape Town just before 4pm! This gave us the magic half hour window to make an unscheduled stop at the world famous Vergelegen estate owned by the  mining conglomerate Anglo American PLC.


The Vergelegen Estate

My wife had been here several times before and waxed lyrical about both the wines and the gardens! What’s even more remarkable is that in 1962 the last vines from this 300 year old estate were removed and the estate left fallow until its purchase and substantial investment by Anglo in 1987!I can’t think of another estate in the world where so much has been achieved in such a short time, albeit with a substantial investment!

Sadly with just a 30 minute window we decided to go our separate ways with Gillian enjoying the gardens and I the wines. I was lucky enough to meet the manager of the tasting room , Frieda Stanbridge, who knew my wife from previous visits.


Tim and Wine Tasting Manager, the legendary Frieda Stanbridge at the bar in the tasting room at Vergelegen


Frieda has been at Vergelegen for thirteen years and my god is her knowledge encyclopaedic or what??Despite being really busy she took me through a personal tasting of her favourite Vergelegen wines.

As I sat on the terrace at the rear of the tasting room, it was a real joy to look out over the magnificently manicured gardens whilst feeling the burning warmth of the afternoon sun on my neck.  First of all Frieda took the time to explain to me some of the basic code of Vergelegen wines.

Premium: Equals the high volume wines and includes 2 Whites (a Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc) and 2 Reds (a Cabernet Merlot and and a Shiraz). Don’t be fooled into thinking that these are their prestige cuvées like I was, these are their entry level wines with the grapes coming from 14 different blocks of terroir.

As I was under time pressure Frieda suggested that we bypass these and cut straight to the next level!

Frieda had lined up an eclectic selection of wines rom their next two tiers, four from the Reserve range and two from their stellar Flagship range wines. These two are bottled under the acronym G.V.B. (Grown/Bottled/Vinified).

So to the wine…first up

Vergelegen Reserve Sauvignon Blanc. I’ve never tried this before and my only yardstick was the Premium range Sauvginon. This was a completely different wine ! Unlike the Premium which is composed of grapes from 14 different plots this is produced from a specific block single vineyard.

The result is a wine that is less upfront than your typical New Zealand Sauvignon, and without the grassy and green pepper nose, by contrast the Reserve has an almost honeycomb nose with what the locals refer to as a nose of indigenous vegetation. This gives the wine a multi-dimensional and complex flavour with the tastes evolving with every mouthful.

Vergelegen Reserve Chardonnay. This is 100% barrel fermented with a natural yeast. The result is a not overly buttery style of Chardonnay with lots of varietal character.A very sophisticated wine.

Before we moved onto the Flagship G.V.B. White, Frieda also explained that the Vergelegen philosophy is that wine and food should exist in synergy. With this theme in mind we debated why do so many restaurants ask you for your wine choice before you’ve even chosen your food! We couldn’t really come up with a solution to that one!

I have to admit that I’m a bit of a White Bordeaux virgin so was completely bowled over by….

G.V.B. White: A Bordeaux style blend of 62% Semillon and 38% Sauvignon Blanc. This was one of my favourite wines that I tasted in South Africa. The Semillon dominates as you’d expect from the blend ratio. The honeysuckle nose gives way to a really complex and long finish.

At its heart this is a food wine.

It also possesses a chameleon like personality in that it pairs perfectly well with seafood/shellfish yielding bamboo like flavours equally it’s acidity cuts through the concentrated fat of a slow roasted pork belly joint or a Free Range fatty pork chop.

In the UK this wine is available from Jeroboams – Elizabeth Street


2012 Vergelegen G.V.B. White

Vergelegen Reserve Shiraz

This wine is a little like a tall mysterious stranger! Unlike most South African Shiraz and those from the New World this wine does not exhibit those big, bold and in your face characteristics that personify wines from those areas. Instead think a style more reflective of a Rhone style Syrah and even more specifically those from the Southern Rhone, all soft dark berry fruit, spice and white pepper. Indicative of the winemakers wish to maintain quality, with only a mere 18 hectares of Shiraz available this wine is only released in years where he feels the wine meets his exactingly high standards for quality.

Vergelegen Reserve “DNA”

This is made in the style of a classic St. Emilion, a blend heavily weighted towards Cabernet Franc and Merlot.The wine is named after Don Tooth, MD of Vergelegen and André van Rensburg the winemaker. At its heart this is a food wine through and through! The herbaceous characteristics of the Cabernet Franc grape are really brought out with dishes that are cooked with fresh herbs like slow roasted lamb shanks with rosemary. There is also a nice finish to this wine that is reminiscent of stewed plums so its no surprise to learn that this wine is equally suited to spicy foods and rich meats like duck. This wine is available in the UK from New Forest Wines .

G.V.B. Red: This is their red Bordeaux style blend. A full bodied heady mix of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. This is a such a complex wine it is probably best enjoyed without food. Its the kind of wine that you can curl up by the fire with a favourite book and reflect and indulge in its sheer opulence! If you really want to eat with it, let the wine do the talking so pair with nothing more than a simple fillet mignon with crushed new potatoes! Its a perfect balance between tannin, balance and black cherries and blackcurrants with a long finish and no grippy tannins which just dissipate.

As the clock struck 4:30pm we thanked Frieda for her hospitality and headed off to meet our driver Tim for the short drive back to Cape Town. We just had time to get in a pair of Planters Rum Punch’s to sup whilst we were getting our glad rags on!


Pre Dinner Cocktails at The One and Only!

Before we were swept away in our classic car, a 1950s Ford Zephyr to the Clifton Penthouse where the black tie dinner was taking place.


Our 1950 Ford Zephyr!

The penthouse where our gala dinner was taking place was reputedly owned by the millionaire Sol Kerzner and rented out for private functions. What was never in doubt was the truly stunning and memorable sunset view that we had from the terrace overlooking the infinity pool in the foreground and the Atlantic Ocean in the back ground!


Clifton Sunset!

We were also treated to a fabulous three course meal of smoked salmon, fillet steak and fruit cheesecake with of course a wonderful selection of South African wines and cabaret style entertainment.

As we wearily made our way back to the One and Only we reflected on another amazing 24 hours in Cape Town wondering what other treasure this fantastic city would yield to us tomorrow!






A Boutique Country Hotel and a Stellar Restaurant – Franschhoek at it’s Best!

Our driver had suggested trying to avoid the Cape Town rush hour by delaying our transfer back to Franschhoek till 6pm. This welcome delay enabled us to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the infinity pool before packing our overnight bag to head off on the next leg of our South African adventure.

We were really enjoying staying at The One and Only but we also wanted to experience a stay in a traditional colonial style property in the heart of the Winelands. A little internet based research prior to our visit had thrown up Franschhoek country House and Villas . The website looked amazing but when we arrived we were in for an even greater treat!

On route out of Cape Town our driver Tim Harris from Tourrific, took us via the buzzing varsity town of Stellenbosch and out to Franschhoek via the Stellenbosch pass where mother nature treated us to some stunning sunset views.


Sunset at the Stellenbosch Pass


As the sun slipped behind the mountains we checked into the hotel and were greeted warmly by the reception team. They confirmed our reservation in the hotel’s Monneaux Restaurant and showed us to our room in the manorial main house which dates back to 1890!


The Master Bedroom!

After a quick freshen up we headed down to the restaurant in anticipation of both the gastronomic cuisine and the wines to match! I had committed a schoolboy error and failed to check that the legendary tasting menu was available on a Tuesday night!

I need not have worried, working with our wonderful waitress, Janille, we composed a decadent 5 course tasting menu with wines as follows:


Golden Beetroot, candied pecans, roasted sun dried tomatoes subtly fused with a goat’s cheese cream

The acidity of the goat’s cheese was perfectly balanced with the sweetness of the pears, tomatoes and pecans. Sublime! This was paired with a generously large glass of La Motte 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. This had a good balance of minerality and zest which reminded me more of a cooler climate style Sauvignon. A perfect partner to the goat’s cheese!

Next up was…


Rack of lamb with a herb and spicy harissa crust with a cool raita and al dente ratatouille.

The lamb was perfectly cooked to an even pink colour throughout but with a brown caramelised crunch to its exterior. This was partnered by a truly stunning wine, a Meerlust 2010 Rubicon, Bordeaux style, Cabernet rich blend. The dark fruits embellished with a hint of peppery spice and every delicious mouthful of this wine was an absolute pleasure!

We wisely followed the hot spice of the main course with a cooling sorbet.


Paw Paw sorbet with wild strawberry couli, garnished with berries.

This palette cleanser diminished the burning lingering warmth of the chilli in the Harissa and set us up nicely for the next two courses.

A sweet local brie in couscous, deep fried and crisp with caramelised figs and served with a not too chilled glass of 2014 Monte Andre Chardonnay.

Critics often talk of the importance of ending a great meal with a stunning combo and this was no exception.


Lemon Posset with Cape Gooseberies, Strawberries and Blackberries garnished with a strawberry coulis and chocolate sauce

The posset absolutely zinged with lemon but its acidity balanced nicely against the sweetness of the fruits and was indulgently matched with a 2014 Noble Late Harvest Rickety Bridge natural sweet Chenin Blanc, which was both sweet and unctuous with honeyed tones.

With our heads in a bit of a spin we asked for the bill and were delighted to meet the young assistant chef, Catherine who had been running the pass that evening. We congratulated her on her culinary skills and had the best surprise of all when the bill came, just over £70 a head for 5 courses and wines to match.

If you’re planning to visit Franschhoek and are looking for a base or even just a restaurant for dinner this is definitely worth a stopover.


View towards the mountains and garden villa suites

The following morning we took our now obligatory pre breakfast swim in the outdoor pools, with the waters warmed to around 24C and a stunning mountain backdrop behind.


The outdoor pools at Franschhoek Country Hotel and Villas

After breakfast we bid farewell to the team at the hotel and met our driver Tim for the next exciting leg of our wine tour.



Absolute Abode

Absolute Abode is a home furnishings store and cafe on Coombe Lane in the bustling commuter area of Raynes Park in SW London, near the train station. On a sunny day you can enjoy an Al fresco breakfast or lunch on the pavement in continental style.

Al Fresco at Abode

Al Fresco at Abode

I opted for a homemade cheese and ham “toastie” made with emmnental and a really well cured ham. This was served with a side order of fatoush; one of a choice of three salads. Their fatoush is an aromatic mix of cucumber, red onion, red, yellow and green peppers, celery, tomato with chopped mint and parsley is delicious and an amazing colour too!

These guys are also serious about their coffee! They offer a choice of 2 blends, from Alchemy Coffee in South Wimbledon, Opus and Elixir.  Opus is 100%  Guatamalan with Elixir 75% Ethiopian and 25% Guatamalan. I went for my usual Flat Whiteb with the Elixir blend, which has notes of chocolate, hazelnut and redcurrant.

And if you’re feeling really decadent they do a huge range of homemade cakes and tray bakes!

The cake selection

The cake selection

Wine! Wine! Wine! Burgundian Adventure Part 2!

After unloading our precious cargo from Vinoboam and putting our 1.5L Bagnum of Le Grappin Gamay Rosé in the mini bar fridge, we picked up our cycle helmets and went off to the nearby Gite that did bike hire to start our next adventure on the Beaune to Santenay Veloroute. 

Having paid our 15 Euros rental for the 2 fairly decent mountain bikes, without even having to leave a deposit, we set off on our expedition.

We only got as far as le boulangerie before the enticing aroma of freshly baked bread wafted out on the pavement triggering pangs of hunger. Realising that it was in fact nearly  2pm we walked inside and picked up a few tasty snacks including a classic Quiche Lorraine and one of these

Myrtle Crumble from the boulangerie on the square, Meursault

Myrtle Crumble from the boulangerie on the square, Meursault

We sat outside le boulangerie and ate lunch taking in this amazing view across, Meursault Village Square . Travel Factoid: One of the features of many grand buildings in Burgundy are the beautiful glazed tile roofs which are thought to have originated from Central Europe and arrived in Burgundy via the merchants in Flanders.

After lunch we saddled up and headed off out of the village picking up the veloroute just behind the Hotel de Ville. As the road drops away from the village you are afforded some stunning views of the Cote D’Or and its vineyards.

View of vineyards to the South of Meursault

The veloroute has been specifically designated to follow a mixture of minor roads, vineyard tracks and cycleways to take you on a beautiful and relatively quiet route through some of the greatest villages in Burgundian wine. The route is predominantly flat but you can deviate off of it and push yourself with the odd hill climb if you are up for it and want to get some really stunning views.

About a mile out of Meursault we stopped to take in this view.

Les Genevrieres Home to the best Meursault vines!

Les Genevrieres
Home to the best Meursault vines!

Gillian spotted a board in the middle of this vineyard announcing that this terroir was none other then Les Genevrieres. One of the top 2 plots for producing Meursault. The Maison Roche Bellene that I had tasted at Vinoboam came from this terroir and I was delighted to have been able to secure a bottle of this fine wine but also walk amongst the vines from where it had come.

One of the great things about being released, albeit temporarily, from the shackles of the day job, is the liberated feeling of being free from being bound to a specific time. As we pedalled at a moderate pace leaving the spire of Meursault church behind us, like an up turned ice cream cone on the horizon we saw a sign off the main route ” Hammeau de Blagny”. This translated as hamlet of Blagny, and location of one of the Premier Cru that I had tasted at Vinoboam earlier in the day. (See below)

Meursault Blagny Premier Cru on the left

Meursault Blagny Premier Cru on the far right

It was just too tempting not to divert off the track and investigate this terroir a little further. Changing down to the lowest gear possible, we dug in for the push up to the hamlet. I did feel a little guilty as my bike had the full 21 gears but as Gillian had opted for a “girls” bike I’d omitted to check that it had the same spec as mine, and she only had 7 gears to power her up to the top of the hamlet.

At this point the map ceased to be of use to us. However, we were enjoying pedalling along the plateau at the top so much and looking out across the whole of the Cote D’Or valley. There is huge biodiversity here with an abundance of brightly coloured butterflies dancing along the hedgerows that intersperse with the vineyards. We even spotted wild myrtle berries growing, I’m tempted to bring some back on my next trip to include in my re-creation of that wonderful crumble we ate at lunchtime.

The track disappeared at the end of the village but in the distance we could see the village of Chassagne-Montrachet so decided to push on along the off road track used by the vigneron to access his vines. As we reached the edge of the plateau we reached one of my favourite views that we saw on the “Tour du Vin” . The view was looking towards Chassagne-Montrachet and St.Aubin and is nicely captured in this short panoramic film clip.

Blagny vineyards and view towarsds St. Aubin

As we descended towards Chassagne-Montrachet you pass the busy road to St.Aubin.

Downhill from Blagny with St.Aubin in the background.

Downhill from Blagny with St.Aubin in the background.

We toyed with the idea of making a further diversion out to St. Aubin and Auxey-Duresse but decided against it as a train of French lorries hurtled past us!

Away from the busy main road we picked up the veloroute again as it passes through the village of Chassgne-Montrachet. You have to really hand it to these guys as modesty is never a strong point as this sign at the entrance to the village proclaims.


One of the reasons we wanted to do the veloroute was for both of us to enjoy a degustation of our beloved Burgundian whites but an hour into the ride not a drop had passed our lips! We were sure that Chassagne-Montrachet would deliver but sadly August is not a great time to visit any Domaines as the majority take their holidays before the harvest.

Disappointed we pushed on through the village which then drops down onto the veloroute into Santenay village, passing a lone windmill on an outcrop along the edge of the ridge forming the Cote D’Or,  we arrived in the village of Santenay after about 20 minutes.

As we were heading into the village my phone rang, but I didn’t pick up in time. The phone went to voicemail and was from a French number!

I pressed the spooled symbol on the phone eagerly awaiting the message. It was entirely in French, of course and from a lady at Domaine Sébastien Magnien who had picked up my earlier message. OMG! I was being invited to attend a personal degustation at the Domaine the next morning at 10am!! RESULT.

I rang her back, thanking her profusely for her kindness and also confirming that 10am would be perfect. This really was cause for celebration. We pedalled on to the main square and spotted a little cafe/restaurant with tables and chairs outside by the village fountains. Where we took our degustation break!

L’Etape de Santenay
10 Place du Jet d’eau

L’Etape de Santenay Hotel and Bar

With the anticipation of the first mouthful of Chardonnay on our lips, I asked for the Carte du Vin.

They were serving a 2013 Jacques Giradin Santenay “Les Terraces de Bievaux” by the glass at a very modest price. A moment later the waiter was bringing out two large glasses of these perfectly served at the correct temperature of approximately 12C, the classic cellar temperature.

Serving really good Chardonnay too chilled ( below 12C) is a sure fire way to mask the complexities and flavours that these wines possess. Conversely,  if you are ever faced with a dinner party guest bringing you a bottle of wine made from an insipid version of this wonderful grape serve it as cold as you like to make it more palatable unless of course you prefer to keep, to give away to the bottle stall at the village fair, as I usually do!,

I really became aware of this several years ago when staying at a lovely Chambres d’hôtes outside Beaune which had a Chardonnay fridge set at 12C for guests to chill their own wine in, if they were taking a picnic in their gardens! We sat enjoying the late afternoon sun in Santenay square and the Santenay went down a treat.

Over drinks we reflected on some of the more amusing anecdotes from our adventures so far. The impromptu diversion from the local policeman in La Cadiere D’Azur to avoid a funeral cortège which saw me driving down a narrow cobbled Provençal street making a 90 right turn and getting stuck as the road width diminished to about 6 inches wider then the car! We only got out f that one courtesy of a local who took pity on us and helped us by giving intricate “left a bit right a bit directions” in French. Then there was the dinner in Meursault the previous night when the  cheese course came BEFORE the main course! Half way through the cheese and with Gillian and Inlooked in a dispute about the peculiarities of Burgundinan service , the bar man confirmed that in fact in Burgundy they didn’t actually serve the cheese before the main course,they had just forgotten to serve it!!

Next we pushed on along our return leg of the journey north towards one of the most famous villages in Burgundy. Puligny-Montrachet is a very different place to its similarly named neighbour. On a more level aspect and with slightly more impressive architecture we headed straight for the centre of the village where we found the charming Hotel Le Montrachet .

They serve an extensive range of wines by the glass kept in tip top condition by the Enomatic machine behind the bar. We took a table outside and perused the Carte du Vin opting for a 2011 Puligny-Montrachet by Domaine Alain Chavy ” Premier Cru Les Folatieres”. This was rich and buttery and had all the flavours that One expects from a great white from this most famous of Burgundinan terroirs and of coursed served at exactly the right temperature!

Now feeling slightly tipsy and just remembering that the main shops in Meursault closed at 7pm we jumped back onto our bikes and pedalled furiously the 2 to 3 miles back to Meursault. Arriving at Le Traiteur ( no I know what you’re thinking and it’s the caterer come deli!) we just had time to order a few local delicacies (ham in parley and aspic/ pate en croute/ shredded carrot salad)  and then it was off to the boulangerie. 

But….. Oh la la… It was closed. So with our heads hung low we walked to the supermarché to pick up some tomatoes and crispbreads.

We had one final stop to make and we knew they shut later than the other stores after an earlier recce!

La Petite Vadrouille is more than just a deli. Whether you’re up for a picnic, a sandwich or you want a glass of wine and nibbles outside in the evening sun, this is the place! Hey, and when it comes to regional Burgundian cheese, these guys are the daddies!!

Left: Delice de Bourgogne Middle: Le Nuit St. George

Left: Delice de Bourgogne
Middle: Le Nuit St. George

Went for total Burgundian cheese fest with the above 2 beauties leading the way, followed by a Clos Burgong, a Burgundian take on Gruyère and of course Epoisse.

Armed with our produce for our picnic on the balcony we returned the bikes to the Gite rental place and set up setting up our picnic on the balcony. As we looked to the left of our balcony the sun was setting over Meursault and we saw this serene sight.


The fact that we had no bread was still vexing me , so I gingerly walked into the prestigious restaurant at our hotel. Paul, the hotel manager was so sweet and took pity on us and gifted us a baguette from the kitchen so we could really appreciate the cheese! It’s no surprise to know that he had the pleasure of running the restaurant at Claridges many years ago where he was used to dealing with all sorts of unusual requests from guests!

Back on our balcony and with harmony restored to the picnic we opened up the Bagnum of Le Grappin Rosé and said “Salut” to Paul, the restaurant manager.