Why Big Red Diary?

old buildings and good grub…

Old buildings eh? A leaky radiator in the apartment – typically it leakes in the middle. Who know that these old radiators are mad up of sections – you take them all apart, remove the broken bit and then re-assemble!

Still, it took 36 hours and the weather was damn cold!

It’s taken far too long, but I finally got to La Lune in Beaune this week – it’s been open for the best part of of a year too – but a mix of good and quite brilliant menu items that are all modestly priced. We washed it down with a bottle of David Moreau’s Côte de Beaune Villages – a wine that’s basically Santenay and totally tasty!

with a little help from drugs ;-)

Really hard to get out of the door this morning – some virus was giving me a headache – or maybe that was the lack of sleep – probably both! But a beautiful day and the paracetamol slowly kicked-in. I was amazed to see a number of lizards basking in the sunshine today – already in February!

Worth the effort…

Mainly Mercurey…

today’s Beauneblick…

Ouf – accounts. I finished January’s at any rate today…

Of-course it’s important to get out – even with a stupid chesty-cough – particularly when there’s a nice colour to the waning sunlight 😉 Playing here with an old manual focus lens – I chose the ones that weren’t too badly focused 😉

Tomorrow I’m off to Mercurey.

Views of Beaune today…

Mutually Assured (scoring) Destruction (shorthand – 99 points!)

Fullscreen capture 08022015 141717
Copyright Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Atkin, Pierre Vincent? I’ve no idea either 😉

As a numerical shorthand, scoring wines has some place when faced with a large list of potentials for your glass. I have never been an advocate of the seemingly self-important, faux-accurate scoring implied by the 100 points system but I accede to this utility.

I do sometimes score – but my 0-2 points system, plus the ‘3 for your favourite’ – a system I use in my blind reports when there are multiple tasters, but that’s something everybody can understand: 0=don’t like, 1=like, 2=would buy, plus your overall favourite =3. But 99 points?

Call me an inadequate taster, but without some initial calibration, the first wine could just as easily for me be 90 points or 91 – well actually not – the problem is that the goal-posts move almost annually. A great wine is always a great wine – those high-lighted by Tim (in Pierre’s ‘happy-post’) are indeed great wines – BUT – 2013 is a very good vintage, but it’s not an outstanding vintage. Those wines in an outstanding vintage should be more than 1 point better, but unfortunately he’s already run out of room…

Are these 99 point wines almost on a par with the greatest ever made? – by definition wines of 100 point perfection – of-course they are not, even if they are very fine indeed, hence, the scores are false! It’s hardly Tim’s fault; with obvious hard work he has slowly transformed from an ‘opinionated’ to ‘a knowledgable’ to (more importantly) an ‘insightful’ writer about burgundy’s wines, but he’s opted to be part of a system of appreciating scores – ‘score-creep’ that’s mandated by only the highest scores being useful for sales or the self-promotion of domaines, i.e. only those who gave the highest scores later seeing their names propagated. From what I’ve seen, this is now endemic for ‘southern-hemisphere’ critics but it is now very obvious in ‘old-world’ critique too. Just compare Burghound’s scores for the 1999 vintage with the same for 2004 (the latter being the least successful vintage since 1994) – his average score in 2004 was higher! Burghound started, to my reading of the situation, perfectly scoring versus the template of what good, very-good, excellent wines should be – let’s say 85, 88 and 90. The trouble for him was that other reviewers went higher. I believe that Burghound was quickly forced to go higher – just my 2 cents of opinion – but it’s symptomatic of the problem as I choose to see it.

I see it often but it’s worth underlining – there are no regional ‘bourgognes’ worth 95 points – actually (in theory!) it is an exceptional grand cru that reaches this zenith – perhaps a dozen young wines in a great vintage might merit 96+ but even the very best – let’s say only for the sake of argument, Romanée-Conti – reaches perfection, and then only in the rarest of vintages and with considerable bottle age. I’m prepared to believe that a few of the (real) 602 bottles of 1945 RC could have be so-described. But 99 points for a wine that’s not yet bottled? I think we all know the answer to that one…

For the record, I also highlighted Pierre’s Bonnes-Mares as a ‘do not miss’ wine in my report, but on that day, it was much more dynamic that the Musigny…

Just for the record, let us try to remember what the 100 point scoring was once supposed to reflect:
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a weekend quartet…


1990 Michel Juillot, Corton Perrières
There’s clearly a little age in the colouring, but nothing brown. The nose is modest but sweet, with a little deep fruit compôte. In the mouth there’s a little fatness to the texture – some weight too. Overall a wine that is balanced and drinks easily but is modest of flavour, energy and character. Tasty enough, but some way from the expectations set by the words ‘1990 grand cru.’
Rebuy- No

2010 Christophe Ferrari, Irancy Le Paradis
Of-course, there is not the weight or fatness of texture of the last wine, but here is all energy, character and flavour you could wish for – ebullient, fresh, pure pinot nose and up-and-down energy and a certain darkly fruited complexity. Clearly ‘thin’ after the 1990 but with way more flavour and character.
Rebuy- Yes

2009 Chézeaux/Ponsot, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Charmes
Here the nose starts a little out of sorts – I assume its a type of savoury reduction, but 30 minutes later it’s fine and fruity. The flavour, right from the start is round, succulent, and of beautiful ripe fruit. This is adorable/drinkable – indeed I felt it unfair to goto bed and leave any in the bottle – sometimes you have to do these things!
Rebuy- Yes

1976 Thomas-Bassot, Nuits St.Georges
Ouf! This started magnificently. The nose a wonderful, almost an textured, thick perfume of roses and deep, roast fruit pie – simply gorgeous. The palate also had fat and silk and roast but reasonably fresh fruit. This wine went downhill quite quickly though, taking on a some oxidation of both aroma and flavour – but those first 10-15 minutes were a bit of a wow!
Rebuy- No-chance – but I have a couple more!

monday in the côtes…

There was some snow at home when I left this morning, but the roads were clear. Plenty of snow about as I traversed eastern France though – particularly around Besançon – but afterwards it faded and everything became green.

I made a stop about 15 minutes from Beaune for a pain-au-raisin and a coffee and the snow suddenly started, but I didn’t think much about it, then I walked out of the services and all was white and I was surrounded by the 20km/h driving-brigade. Ouf! The motorway was already white too – I’d only spent 15 minutes, maybe less, in the service area! Fortunately I was the only one interested in driving in the overtaking lane, so soon lost the 20km-ers. 5 minutes later the road was clear again…

Arriving at Beaune there was no snow – curses! I’d been looking forward to taking a few nice pics with snow and blue sky – oh and some vines too – but then I saw the hills above Pernand were white and thought ‘why not!’

I also had a drive through Echevronne, less than 5 minutes from Pernand which is quite a nice small village – plenty of interesting old houses, in various levels of decay, for sale too. I particularly like ‘the Château’ but I’m assuming that it’s not for sale – or not for a couple of hundred ‘k’ anyway 😉

Then slowly onto Nuits for an appointment, stopping by the Clos de la Marechale to watch the man with the never-ending job – perfecting the wall of the Clos – but he says that’s just for the winter, in the summer he works in the Marechale’s vines instead!

what price a real winter?

Chablis, like the Côte d’Or, is wet and not particularly cold for the time of year. The temperature has ranged between 4 and 6°C today and the rain has hardly stopped. Actually it rained so hard between 9 and 10pm yesterday, that I decided not to jog – so all the Chablis-based chains were safe – it’s looking like the same for today too!

The ground here is saturated, and the river is high, fast and brown-coloured. Most places look fine after two dry days, but it only needs 15 minutes of rain and all the standing water in the fields returns. The growers really want to see a week or preferably more with significantly minus temperatures – and even if a little snow might arrive tomorrow, it won’t be fulfilling many producers’ wishes. And it’s exactly the same in the Côte d’Or.

I have to say I felt very sorry for people pruning today with the rain driving sideways…

heading to beaune to avoid the cold!

Monday morning I arrive home, planning to head to Chablis for my first appointments on Wednesday – but oups!

7°C in the house. Following a heating-oil delivery, the machine refuses to function, and 7°C is cold, it’s much warmer in the cellar @ 12.5°C! The engineer only gets there at 6pm so I’m dressed like the Michelin-man as I don’t know what time he’ll arrive – and it’s far too cold for typing!

Okay – eventually (seemingly) all is fixed – but I’m not staying as the house will need days to warm-up. Despite the heavy snow, I’m heading to a warmer bed, in Beaune!

Tuesday is snowless and actually quite okay weather in Beaune. It gives me chance to catch up on my typing – a little 😉

sunday lunch…

Sunday is our last day in the mountains – and its snowing again.

Up (somewhere!) on the hill above Klosters is a nice restaurant and you can sledge back to the town if you like. I don’t know about the sledge, but I’m up for lunch 😉

moving on…

On the third day I ditched the ‘langlauf’ skis!

I’d pretty much stopped falling over – except when I couldn’t snow-plow those tiny skis on icy snow – but was frustrated by all the ‘skaters’ zooming past me. I was too slow, and a little bored!

But the next day was gorgeously pretty in the next valley in the Engadin – compared to cloudy and snow in our valley – so a really uplifting day walking between the small Engadin villages, with a view towards the Swiss National Park. We really must go back in the summer to do some walking – simply gorgeous scenery and small villages.

to be classic, or not to be classic…

Well, I have to stave of boredom, despite being in the spectacularly pretty mountains. Okay not that pretty today due to cloud and snow!

So if I can’t do downhill, what about cross-country? And then the vexed question of skating or ‘classic.’ I decide that I’m the classic type and take a lesson – I’ve never done it before!

The next hour-plus I fall on my derrière at least a dozen times as my weight goes too much backwards – this hardly ever happens in downhill as you’re balanced by the pitch of the hill. But anyway, I think I’m getting the hang of it – even if my derrière disagrees!


Regular readers will be aware that each year in January I disappear for what I like to call ski-training before doing a downhill race in Mürren.

WP_20150107_009Well, about 10 days ago, jogging at night in Chablis, I failed to observe a chain between two massive ‘plant-pots’ – I hit the ground hard and fast, and made a mess of one of my shins. Still, it was just flesh!

That’s what I thought anyway; putting my skiboot on was not totally comfortable – but skiing got harder and harder until it simply wasn’t possible. I’m aparently fit – I can walk or run – but it seems I can’t lean forwards into my boot. Race? I can’t even get down a blue run properly – I must have actually bruised the shin-bone. Curses…

I think I need a great Chablis!

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