Trip to France 2008 Part 2
DOMAINE MICHEL REBOURGEON, Pommard. Somehow we get off to a slow start this morning. This domaine is run by Steve Whitehead, who met Delphine, his wife, when she was working for him at his wine business in Lancashire. She is considerably younger than him. Steve sold his share in the wine business and moved to Pommard. The domaine has been in existence for centuries. Most of their vines are in Pommard, but they also have holdings in Beaune and Volnay.
We start by going down into the cellar to taste the 2006s and 2007s. The 2006s are very appealing, while the 2007s seem sound, but are diffiult to taste because they are going through their malolactic fermentation.
We then go down the road to the main square, where Steve and Delphine have a small cave, and taste seven wines, all from the 2005 vintage, except one, from 2004. They present themselves as stern and severe, though becoming less forbidding as you go up the quality scale. But they do have an attractive aromatic intensity. I decide to buy a couple of bottles of the straight village Pommard, which has an earthy Pommard smell, and displays firm Pommard character. I intend to retaste when I'm back in Wales.
I've arranged our next appointment for ten o'clock, but we arrive slightly over half an hour late -
DOMAINE JEAN-PIERRE DICONNE, Auxey-Duresses. This is a very conscientious domaine which has been producing lovely whites and rather slow-developing reds for decades. Now and again I have sold their wines in my shop, though I haven't been to visit the domaine for several years. We are attended to by Jean-Pierre's son, Christophe, who is gradually taking over the reins of this domaine. He is a big, rangy fellow, in his thirties, who moves about with his shoulders, shoulders first. He is charming, self-effacing, quite shy. We taste thirteen wines.
Broo has on a pair of shoes that squeak when she moves about. She's moving about quite a lot during this tasting. We have to move about because it's cramped in the cellar, and there's only one spittoon, and I'm trying to take notes, but there's no proper surface to lean on, and each time I try to move, somehow Broo seems to be blocking my path. Her mobile telephone goes off. She starts talking. Slightly distracting.
It's 11.20, we're only part way through the tasting, and the next tasting is forty minutes' drive away at 11.30. I ask if I can ring to put back that tasting. All arranged, back to tasting.
I decide to buy a couple of 2004s from them: a white - Meursault "Narvaux", which starts quietly, smelling of almost nothing, with the flavour building in the mouth to a fine, expressive, hazelnutty finish; and a red - the plain village Auxey-Duresses, which is pale, but has a lovely smell, and in the mouth is supple, tasting of wild strawberries - a fine drink, ready now (2004 is an early-developing vintage) and reasonably priced.
We hurry on to -
DOMAINE LOUIS CHENU ET FILLES, Savigny-lÃ¨s-Beaune. I discovered this domaine at a trade event in London shortly before setting off on this trip. It is run by Juliette and Caroline, the two daughters of Louis, who has retired, though he did drop in on our tasting to say hello, and he's still very fit.
The estate has holdings of vines only in Savigny-lÃ¨s-Beaune, and so Juliette has taken out a nÃ©gociant's licence, and buys in a few barrels of wines from other appellations so that the domaine can offer a wider range to its customers. Juliette is more business-minded than Caroline, and handles all the sales, marketing and office work, while Caroline looks after the vineyards and the winemaking. Before returning to her family domaine, Juliette spent some time in the RhÃ´ne working for, among others, ChÃ¢teau du Trignon, a producer of really delicious Gigondas (available from my shop!).
We taste five wines here - four Savignys (from the domaine) and a Pommard (nÃ©gociant). I was also here to collect an order of Chambolle-Musigny 2006, which I had tasted in London, and was sensational: it absolutely exhibits the perfume that I look for in a Chambolle, and, though still in its youth, and thus quite assertive, there is, curiously, an underlying delicacy that you would expect in a wine from this village. Although delicious to drink now, it appears to me to have all the components present to develop and age interestingly.
The domaine wines are all clearly the product of careful, thoughtful winemaking, showing elegant, velvety texture, but with the backbone to keep for a good few years. I will be shipping two wines - their straight Savigny 2005, and a Premier Cru, "Les Hauts Jarrons" 2006, which displays lots of redcurranty fruit, a touch of fennel and a very pleasing pepperiness - an outstanding wine.
The tasting goes on through lunchtime, and some gougÃ¨res (Burgundian cheesy choux pastries) are produced - they go well with the wine.
We load up the order of Chambolle-Musigny, settle up by credit card and hurry off to Meursault to collect wine from Pascal Prunier and Bernard van Berg.
Next we're off to see a new grower in Gevrey-Chambertin, about 50 minutes' drive away. Nobody there - or, if there is, they're not answering the door. We ring them on the mobile. No answer.
So, since that visit hasn't happened, we've caught up timewise! There is a bookshop in Nuits St. Georges where I like to go and buy the Guide Hachette each year. We have time to go there. I ask for the book. They've sold out. They say they can order it for me, it'll be there in three days. But in three days' time I'll be in Champagne.
Our next visit is at 4 p.m. -
DOMAINE THEVENOT-LE BRUN, Marey-lÃ¨s-Fussey. The village of Marey-lÃ¨s-Fussey is about fifteen minutes' drive from Nuits St. Georges, in the Hautes CÃ´tes de Nuits. It is quite a bit higher than the main run of vineyards on the CÃ´te d'Or, and consequently has a longer growing season, with the wines having an extra degree of freshness.
We are attended to by the nephew of Jean, who is away. The nephew, who is in his twenties, is charming, with a long face, and speaks in very attractive, long syllables, making him easy to understand. We are treated, as always here, to a comprehensive tasting: fourteen wines. They own plots of vineyards in various parts of both the Hautes CÃ´tes de Nuits and the Hautes CÃ´tes de Beaune, but their proudest possession is the Clos du Vignon, a 20-acre monopole on a south-facing hillside directly opposite their cellars. Both the red and the white from this site are a notch above their other offerings, and excellent value, both capable of ageing for at least a decade - their 1999s and 2000s are drinking beautifully now, with plenty of life in them yet. I will be shipping three wines from them as follows:
Bourgogne Hautes CÃ´tes de Nuits "Clos du Vignon" Rouge 2005
Lovely red fruit smell, very perfumed; plenty of vigour in the mouth, touch of summer pudding, good acidity; excellent length; will keep for at least a decade.
Bourgogne Hautes CÃ´tes de Nuits "Clos du Vignon" Blanc 2005
This is matured in 40% new oak, though the flavour is very well integrated; very aromatic both on the nose and in the mouth; faintly honeyed; lovely aromatic finish; great potential.
Bourgogne Hautes CÃ´tes de Nuits Pinot Beurot 2005
A curiosity, but a very delicious one; made from 100% Pinot Beurot (known as Pinot Gris in Alsace); only tiny quantities are made of this (about 1,000 bottles); it is matured in 100% new oak, but the Thevenots feel that this grape variety produces sufficiently rich wine to cope with it; at the moment this vintage is still in its youth, and so there is heavy oak influence - coconuts and vanilla - but with a touch of spiciness from the grape variety as well; it is nevertheless absolutely wonderful for drinking now, or can be kept (the 2001 is currently on top form).
After this tasting, we drove into Beaune to find the offices of Champy, because I suspected that we might be running late the next day for our appointment, and so I thought it would be sensible to be able to go straight there without getting lost. I wanted to arrive on time!
* * *
Wednesday morning, 9 a.m. -
DOMAINE ALAIN VOEGELI, Gevrey-Chambertin. Tastings here are always brief affairs because M. Voegeli only makes one wine - Gevrey-Chambertin. He has two parcels of vines in the village; he vinifies them separately and then blends them together to produce his single cuvÃ©e. The larger parcel, Le Clos, which is part of the Combe du Bas vineyard, is close to the centre of the village and is all of 1.7 hectares, and the smaller, Le Billard, which is just round the corner from M. Voegeli's back garden, is 0.65 hectare. This is a small domaine! I have now been buying wine here for over five years, and the wines are very consistent, with real Gevrey character - bitter cherries (griottes), earth and spice.
We go down into the cellar underneath his house. You enter it by some slippery stone steps from outside. M. Voegeli has to unfold a pair of metal leaves which cover the top of the steps. He always tells us to faire attention because of the slippery steps. We taste his 2007, trying wine from different casks - old and new oak, Le Clos and Le Billard; they display excellent colour, and are fine, clean, with very little tannin, but a nice long finish. There was a real problem with rot in the vineyards in 2007 because it was so damp, but M. Voegeli explained to us that he worked hard in the vines over the summer to cut out any unhealthy grapes. The wine seems fine, and looks as though it will develop quickly.
We leave the cellar and go into M. Voegeli's sitting-room. He opens a bottle of his 2006, which is firmer than the 2007, with typical Gevrey dark fruit flavours.
Next tasting is at -
DOMAINE PHILIPPE GAVIGNET, Nuits St. Georges. We start by tasting the 2007s in the cellar. M. Gavignet takes you through quite briskly. We try two whites and eight reds from the cask. They are in various stages of their malolactic fermentation, and consequently not that easy to taste, but they have good colour and look promising.
Then we go up to the ground floor to the bottling area. The domaine is in the middle of bottling up its 2006s. A couple of workmen are fiddling about with some machinery. M. Gavignet's mobile telephone goes off - its ringtone is the Pink Panther tune. He chats on the telephone for a bit. We notice that the clock on the wall has corkscrews for hands. We start tasting the 2006s. This vintage is a brilliant success at this domaine - the wines have wonderful, surprisingly deep colour, really beautiful, dense, exciting flavour, with very low tannin. They will develop quite quickly, but will also keep well. We taste eight wines; some have just been bottled, others are waiting to be bottled in the next day or two. The Bourgogne Hautes CÃ´tes de Nuits "Clos des Dames Huguettes", from bottle, is delicious, with noticeable oak flavours, and real depth and substance. Both the straight Nuits Saint Georges, and the "Vieilles Vignes" are lovely, with the straight cuvÃ©e unsurprisingly being softer and more forward than the "Vieilles Vignes". And his Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru "Les Bousselots" is nothing short of spectacular: fantastic nose, delicious flavour, great persistence, sweet blackcurrant fruit, soft.
I ask M. Gavignet if I could take some sample bottles with me for my London tasting. So he sets about siphoning off some of the Nuits Saint Georges and the "Bousselots" for me. He overfills a bottle of the Nuits Saint Georges slightly, takes a swig out of it to lower the level and puts the cork in.
We say our good-byes and head off to -
DOMAINE GACHOT-MONOT, Corgoloin. Lise and Damien Gachot are in cheerful form. We debate whether we will taste in the cellar or in the warmth of their house. Damien says the 2007s are in the middle of their malolactic fermentation and are not tasting good, and he has drawn off cask samples of the 2006s into bottles so that we can taste here in the house. We decide to taste in the house. Damien tells us that he's thrilled to bits with his 2007s, because he's bought a table de trie (sorting table) so that he's ensured that only healthy grapes have gone into the wines.
We taste six wines -
Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2006 - Good colour, very low tannin, blackcurrant flavour.
CÃ´te de Nuits Villages 2006 - Good colour again, supple, delicious mouthfeel, with excellent length, and, again, blackcurrant flavour.
CÃ´te de Nuits Villages "Les Chaillots" 2006 - Delicious smell - dense, perfumed; in the mouth, more concentrated, more tannin; mouthfilling, great length.
Nuits Saint Georges 2006 - Not much on the nose, but in the mouth significantly richer than the CÃ´te de Nuits Villages and the "Chaillots" - more tannin and greater length; ripe, flavour of plums (less blackcurrant), touch of earth.
CÃ´te de Nuits Villages 2005 - This tastes terrific. Nose has to be worked at (still quite shy and retiring), but eventually reveals nice dense smells of damson and blackcurrant. Moderated tannin; delicious and mouthfilling.
CÃ´te de Nuits Villages "Les Monts de Boncourt" (Blanc) 2006 - Flavours of oak and peach - perfumed, good acidity.
We have a very jolly lunch with a main course of wild boar and chat about wine and the state of the world.
Then we're off to our appointment with Maison Champy. We arrive punctually. We are kept waiting for a while, and then the woman who I had spoken to on the telephone and arranged the appointment with the previous week appears. She has on a face that is unwelcoming. She is in her mid-thirties with her hair tied back in a pony-tail, wearing slacks and a sweater. We introduce ourselves. She says she knows nothing about us. I remind her that I had spoken to her over the telephone and made an appointment. And I remind her that my friend, whose barrel of wine we are there to taste, had e-mailed her colleague weeks before to say that I might be visiting. She says that colleague has now left, and he was only covering for her while she had a baby. She says we can't taste. We can look at the cellars, if we like (she makes a slightly grimmer, more unwelcoming face). Could we come back tomorrow? No, I say, we couldn't because we have appointments in Chablis tomorrow. She shrugs her shoulders and says, "DÃ©solÃ©e."
Since we're in Beaune and have some extra time on our hands, Broo goes off to do some shopping, and I go and buy a copy of the latest Guide Hachette, a useful volume that tastes thousands of wines each year, and is an excellent source of information on the state of winemaking in France.
In the evening we have arranged to drop in for a drink with a couple who live in VÃ©zelay, an hour and a half's drive from Beaune. We have never met them, though I have communicated with them by letter for several years now. Mme. Villiers, whose delicious Bourgogne VÃ©zelay I buy, introduced us.
We arrive slightly early, and so we look round the basilica, a wonderful, plain, spare, but magnificent building of very pale white limestone.
The couple live barely a hundred yards from the basilica, in a street - well, more an alleyway - that has only one address in it, the couple's house. We had stopped off at the tourist office to ask for directions, naming the street. The woman behind the counter did not know the street, but what was the name of the people? The Shaws. Oh yes, they're just by the basilica, and she gave us directions. He, the husband, is English, and she is French, and larger than life, with a terrific growly gravelly voice which expresses everything with astonishment and wonder, accompanied by flamboyant hand and arm gestures. He is quieter, in fact, quite quiet, thoughtful. They are both charming.
We stay for a drink. There is an array of appetising goodies to nibble on such as foie gras on toast, olives, etc. A woman friend is staying with them, and during our visit, their doctor drops by. She is a great wine enthusiast, and brings a bottle of Bouchard's red Saint Romain, which is broached, and is very excellent. Mme. Shaw keeps us amused with a variety of tales and anecdotes. They also own the next door house, which they have been renting out, but now wish to sell - would we like to go and have a look at it? Yes please. It's a wonderful building, beautifully restored by them, with a fine big sitting-room with a gallery along two sides.
Their house faces south, perched on the edge of the hill of VÃ©zelay above the vineyards, with magnificent views over the surrounding countryside. It must be glorious in summer.
We are invited to stay for supper and the night. But we have already booked a hotel, and after twenty years I'm scarred by customers who put in orders and then don't take them up, and so I can't bear to let the hotel down. We politely decline and hope out loud that perhaps there will be a next time .....
It is snowing as we leave to drive to our hotel, about half an hour's drive away.
* * *
Thursday morning, 9.30 a.m. -
DOMAINE Ã‰LISE VILLIERS, PrÃ©cy-le-Moult. The hamlet of PrÃ©cy-le-Moult is three or four miles outside VÃ©zelay. It's pretty quiet - in fact, I don't think I've ever seen a human being there except for Mme. Villiers herself, her mother and her husband. It is in open rolling farmland where Charolais cattle graze.
We are shown into the large, dark room with a huge fireplace where Mme. Villiers always entertains me. She sits one side of a magnificent long oak table, and we sit the other side. We taste her 2006s. She makes two wines: "La ChevaliÃ¨re", which is made from younger vines grown in the village of Tharoiseau a few kilometres from VÃ©zelay, and "Le Clos", which comes from old vines grown on the hill of VÃ©zelay just below the Shaws' house.
The "ChevaliÃ¨re" is quite open, with wonderful young Chardonnay smell, floral in the mouth, with a satisfying long finish. The "Clos" is more serious, with virtually no smell at all initially, but opening up a bit with aeration. In the mouth, it has considerably more weight than the "ChevaliÃ¨re" - denser, mineral, not fruity, but ultimately more interesting than the "Clos", though you may have to wait for it.
We chat while we taste. Mme. Villiers tells us about the 2007 vintage: damp summer, but a north wind kept the rot away, and then thankfully good weather arrived in September; so she is happy with her 2007s.
We head off to Chablis, about an hour and a half's drive away, to see the Naulin family. Our appointment is at 2 p.m. -
DOMAINE JEAN-MARIE NAULIN, Beines. Eighteen months ago M. Naulin had a heart attack, which naturally caused worry and consternation, and put him completely out of action for several months. This is a small family domaine, and so, for the 2006 vintage, the Naulins had to hire a young man to make the wine for them. Happily, he did a good job. 2006 was a successful vintage throughout Chablis, and the straight Naulin version is still undeveloped on the nose, but quite soft in the mouth (a ripe year), and has nice length. The Premier Cru is a big step up: much richer, with a really assertive flavour - delicious.
We are also taken to taste the 2007 vintage, still maturing in tank (no oak is used at this domaine). We taste through various cuves, and they all taste lively and fine, though quite varied in style, some with pronounced mineral flavours, and others richer and fruitier.
Our next appointment is at 4.30 p.m. -
DOMAINE LEGER, Ã‰pineuil. Father and son run this domaine. The father has a fine handlebar moustache, and is short and round. He is quiet, and chuckles as he talks, but is not particularly talkative. The son is explosively, irrepressibly bonhomous, and is a tall, well-built fellow who is full of talk about all sorts of subjects - truffles, food, holidays, wine, politics. When we arrive, M. Leger senior is waiting to greet us. The son is in the vineyard about fifty yards away doing some pruning; he hails us loudly, leaves his wheelbarrow, and comes over to join us.
I have in the past very generously been given magnums by the Legers, which have always been exceptionally good - the bigger bottle size really seems to bring out something extra in their wines. So I have arranged to collect some magnums from them today.
We sit at a long table in the warehouse-like room where the Legers entertain people with tastings. There is a large fridge and an upright freezer, a large gas ring with a bottle of gas attached, and a king-size frying-pan on top. GougÃ¨res, bread, saucisson and Corsican cheese are produced. We start the tasting with a bottle of the 2006: it is light, low in tannin; fresh, fruity smell and flavour - what the French call "flatteur". As we raise our glasses to try the wine, M. Leger junior roars "CHEESE", with a great big jolly laugh. "CHEESE", he roars again. We realise he's trying to say "cheers".
He tells us about Corsica, where he went on holiday last summer, and what a jolly place it is, and how cheap it is to get there.
We taste a bottle of the 2005: deep colour, still more backward than the 2006, but lots of fruit behind the slightly forbidding exterior.
Mme. Leger turns up, accompanied by an unidentified teenaged girl. She is taller and larger than her husband, and noisier. She's been shopping, and has brought the papers for the Customs for my order of magnums. It is the first time I have met Mme. Leger, though I've talked to her on the telephone many times. She is full of friendliness.
Then a magnum of 2002 is opened: pale, rim beginning to go brown, fantastic gamey smell, and delicious fruit in the mouth; delicate, but full of life. Next, a magnum of 2003: extraordinary colour - almost black, the light does not pass through it; vigorous, punchy flavour of prunes and blackcurrants - this is still in the prime of its youth, and will last for years yet - an amazing wine, quite different from the same wine in 75cl bottles, where it is now fairly well-developed, both in colour and flavour. I arrange to buy some of the 2003.
M. Leger junior gets our order ready, and also packs up a present of some bottles of the 2006, and we set off for Champagne.
We are booked in to a hotel the other side of Troyes, a converted mill, where we have a nice supper in a dining-room which overlooks the mill race and ancient wheel. We wash it down with an expensive and disappointing bottle of Chambolle-Musigny from Thierry Mortet.
* * *
Friday, 2 p.m. -
CHAMPAGNE JACKIE SIMONET, Villers-Marmery. The village of Villers-Marmery is on the Montagne de Reims, stronghold of the Pinot Noir grape, but this village grows Chardonnay. Top specialists in Chardonnay, such as Taittinger, grow vines here. Jackie Simonet's straight non-vintage Brut Tradition is made from 100% Chardonnay (making it a Blanc de Blancs, though it doesn't say so on the label). I really enjoy Jackie Simonet's champagne: elegant, biscuity, very clean.
M. and Mme. Simonet seem pleased to see us, and show us into their sitting-room, past an annoyingly yappy Pomeranian dog, which won't quieten down. We are given a glass of their Brut Tradition, and we chat for a bit. I've arranged to pick up some magnums here as well. We load them up and head back south to the Aube for our tasting the next day, which is in Les Riceys.
We stay the night in GyÃ©-sur Seine, a small village a few minutes' drive from Les Riceys. It starts snowing in the evening, and freezes overnight. We go for a walk in the snow and look at the Seine, barely a river here, only a few yards in width.
* * *
Saturday morning. I settle up with the hotel, and we take our bags out to the van. The windscreen is completely frozen over. I go back into the hotel to ask for a jug of hot water to throw over the windscreen. The hotelier won't let me have one. He's got a better idea, he tells me. He produces a plastic bottle of a liquid that smells like grappa. It's actually marc de champagne. I pour it over the windscreen; and turn the windscreen wipers on to clear it. They twitch and stop working. I can't get them to work again. Madeningly, if I'd poured hot water over the windscreen, it would have defrosted the mechanism for the wipers as well as clearing the windscreen. The marc de champagne only cleared the windscreen, leaving the wiper mechanism frozen solid. After our tasting this morning, we have a drive of several hundred miles up to the Channel and then on to London. Because of the freezing weather, the roads are heavily salted, and so the windscreen goes completely opaque in practically no time at all. And it's Saturday - not a great day to find a garage to help.
However, in the meantime, the delay means we're running slightly late for our tasting at 9 a.m. -
CHAMPAGNE GUY DE FOREZ, Les Riceys. This small grower's champagne house is run by M. Wenner and his wife. They grow only Pinot Noir - his straight non-vintage, Brut Tradition, is thus a Blanc de Noirs, though it doesn't say so on the label. Les Riceys is a stronghold of the Pinot Noir, and famous for its still rosÃ©, RosÃ© des Riceys, made from Pinot Noir.
M. Wenner is a meticulous fellow, who keeps everything immaculately ordered. He offers us the choice of a glass of champagne or a cup of coffee. We have a cup of coffee, and chat for a bit.
He then shows us round the cellars under his house, and we go across the road to his brand new, rather empty warehouse - empty because champagne is selling well at the moment, and so on the one hand the stock has sold, but on the other, M. Wenner is in the process of enlarging his holding of vineyards from nine to twelve hectares, and so he is preparing for the need for extra space.
We return to the tasting-room. He produces three bottles. He is trying to work out the dosage for the next batch of his Brut Tradition. Virtually all dry sparkling wines, including champagne, need a little bit of sugar to soften their aggressive acidity - this addition of sugar is known in French as the dosage. Each of the three bottles has a different dosage, and, curiously, the middle bottle tastes drier than the first bottle, which actually has less sugar. Fascinating. The Brut Tradition here is a noticeably deep colour, being slightly stained by the Pinot Noir grape skins - very appealing - not at all rosÃ©, just deep, faintly pinkish golden. The wine is crisp (M. Wenner stops the malolactic fermentation), with a wonderful smell of baked apples and brioches, some weight, and very persistent tiny bubbles.
More magnums. We load them into the van, forgetting to ask M. Wenner for the address of a garage that might be able to fix the windscreen wipers. We motor the couple of miles into Bar-sur-Aube, the biggest town in the locality and look for a garage. It's about 11 o'clock. We find a Peugeot garage and park across the road from it. My van is a Citroen, which is the same thing as Peugeot. We find a young mechanic, clearly a very inexperienced apprentice. He asks us to wait - he'll come across and have a look. He has a word with a supervisor, and comes across. He can't fix it. He says we need a new part, which will have to be ordered, they could have it here next week. We decline the offer, say thank you, and drive off to look for another garage. It's now quarter to twelve. On the way out of town we find a Citroen garage, still open. A mechanic pulls up the bonnet to have a look, goes off to get some tools, returns and fixes it. The windscreen wipers are working! Relief. We ask him how much it is, and he says "nothing". We give him a packet of English chocolates. He's thrilled to bits. As we drive away, they close the garage. We were only just in time!
We've booked to go out to supper in London in the evening, and we're running a bit late. So we decide to go via Calais rather than my favoured route via Dunkirk, because it will be quicker. At Calais, I motor into the freight section of the port. The attendant at the entrance tells me I'm not a lorry and to go to the car section. I say but I'm freight, I'm carrying commercial goods. He shrugs his shoulders as if to say have it your own way, and waves me through. I get to the booths which look at your tickets and passports. They're constructed to accommodate lorries, and their windows are placed eight feet up in the air. I stop the van and get out to shout up to the woman in the booth. She more or less says get out of here you're not a lorry. I say but I'm freight and please may I buy a ticket. No you can't, and any way you should go through the car section. I try to insist, but she says the only way I can buy a ticket is by going to the car section. I give up.
I buy a car ticket, which costs me Â£116. So in this crazy world of modern business I travel out to France with an empty van, and go as freight, cost nearly Â£300. I come back fully loaded and pay around a third of the price of the outward journey.
A final little incident: we have travelled over two and a half thousand miles all over France without mishap. On the very last lap, within a few hundred yards of Broo's house, I'm going past a bus stationary at a bus stop, and a BMW speeding along in the other direction drives straight at me and clips my wing mirror smashing a large chip of plastic housing off it.
* * *
And lastly, a few words about the 2006 and 2007 vintages for reds in Burgundy:
2006 - Similar in style to 2000 - clean, healthy, light. early-maturing - but better than 2000. This is confirmed by all the growers who expressed a view on the subject. The wines are very soft, and the growers all think that they will continue to stay supple and drinkable, unlike some 2005s, which have gone into their shells for a while.
2007 - A difficult vintage, with a lot of rot about, due to the damp condidtions in July and August. Once again, a soft, supple vintage for early drinking, earlier drinking than 2006. However, the wines I have tasted seem perfectly sound.