“I was in the village of Chambolle-Musigny with my girlfriend, Louisa. It was the summer of 2009, and we were having a road trip around France, exploring the wine regions.
We drove from the northern tip down through Gevrey-Chambertin, then into Morey-Saint-Denis and then past Chambolle, just to get an idea of how the vineyards sat on the slope.
We stopped for lunch in Chambolle-Musigny, which is a small village, and found a little restaurant called Le Chambolle. It looked as though it was shut, but we went in. It was really quiet and we thought, ‘This isn’t a very good sign,’ but we had a look at the menu. All the wines on the list were Chambolle-Musignys by different producers. There was one I recognised, Hudelot-Baillet. It was a 2007.
We were having rabbit confit leg and I knew this wine would go quite well, so we ordered it. We weren’t holding up high hopes because 2007 wasn’t a great vintage, and it was a half bottle and they tend to age not quite as well. But it was absolutely wonderful.
Earlier, driving on a road that snakes up from the main road, I had spotted a little sign in the vineyard that said, ‘Chambolle-Musigny: Élégance et Finesse,’ and had thought to myself, ‘How can they be so sure that all of the wines in this whole village are always going to be elegant and fine?’ But when we tasted this relatively simple wine, it was. It was exactly that.
I haven’t had the 2007 again, but I’ve had the 2008, and we’ve got a case of the 2009 arriving next week. Since that time, we buy a case every year and I think we probably will continue to buy it. At the time, we were hugely excited by it, and couldn’t stop talking about it, discussing every little detail. Louisa and I were on the road for two weeks. Then we had to get the train back and we managed to stuff 32 bottles of wine into our luggage.
Interestingly, the most disappointing bottle I’ve ever had was also from Chambolle-Musigny, a premier cru from 1999 – which is a great vintage – and from a great, famous producer. There was just nothing there. It barely tasted of anything.
Sometimes, particularly with pinot noir, the wine just goes into a bit of a sulk. Nobody knows why. If you open it when it’s in a mood, there’s nothing you can do. It won’t play. You just have to give up. That’s what we had to do with that bottle, and it’s the most expensive bottle of wine I ever bought. I was cooking Christmas dinner and I managed to bugger up the meal as well.”
As told to Rose Hoare
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* "Drink Me! How to Choose, Taste and Enjoy Wine," is published by Quadrille at 12 pounds ($20.50).