João Pedro Lau
An exclusive wine pairing dinner at The Neighborhood
Famous literary critic Bernard Pivot said it best: “Modest in surface span, immense in prestige, historical Burgundy offers the best area-to-fame ratio in the world!”
Pivot might not be entirely impartial in his comment, having said once that if he was to be re-incarnated, he would like to come back as a “rootstock of a Romanée-Conti vine”, but Burgundy is indeed a place of extreme sophistication and complexity that is home to the some of the most expensive wines in the world.
Since 2015, the Climats, terroirs of Burgundy - precisely delimited vineyard parcels on the slopes of the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune - have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
History indeed plays an important role, as wine production is 2,000-years-old in this part of France, and remnants of its medieval flamboyance induced by Benedictine and Cistercian abbeys are to be found everywhere in the toponyms (i.e. Corton-Charlemagne), monuments (the famous clos and hospices) and denominations.
While the Côte-d’Or stretches only over 50 short kilometres from Dijon to Santenay, this region produces a multitude of AOC wines divided into roughly four categories: the wider regional AOC Coteaux Bourguignons; the more restrictive AOC Bourgogne; the more stringent appelation communales (Pommard, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Meursault, Volnay, etc.), of which some benefit from a Premier Cru classification (460 altogether); and finally the Grands Crus (33 in Côte-d’Or, including Clos-de-Vougeot, Grands-Échezeaux, Romanée-Conti, Aloxe-Corton, Puligny-Montrachet, etc. and one in Yonne, the Chablis Grand Cru), whose climats have benefited from a worldwide fame for decades if not centuries.
The ironic thing with Burgundy is that it is both highly predictable - after all, we are dealing essentially with chardonnay grapes in white and pinot noir in red - and yet very diverse, as all Burgundy wines reflect the uniqueness of their climat and the individual winemaker tending to these delicate and subtle fragments of world history - the UNESCO recognition comprises 1,425 climats and the Clos-de-Vougeot, to take but one extreme example, spans over 50 hectares, but is the property of 80 different owners over three separate climats (papal, royal and monastic), themselves subdivided into 18 smaller parcels!
Whenever a Burgundy tasting pops up on the agenda, excitement always runs very high and thus CLOSER got into an overly-exhilarated mood when we were invited to a food-and-wine pairing organised by Romain Comte, a young and dynamic Bourguignon, at The Neighborhood, the almost two-year old “new” venture of David Lai, the chef who has contributed so much to giving bistronomy its glorious recognition in Hong Kong with the now defunct On Lot 10.
David Lai admits that his “overly creative phase - changing the menu every week - is now “out of his system”, and thus his 25-seat minimalist and yet cosy (superb wooden floor and jazzy-loungy ambiance) hidden refuge is a perfect hybrid of Londonian gastropub, Parisian neo-bistro and Tokyoite izakawa.
With his focus on quality and an obsession with sourcing his raw materials from local and international small producers, it was only natural for David to organise regular seasonal pairings with Romain Comte - the son of a winemaker himself, whose passionate enthusiasm stems from years of hard labour on the vines. Romain has been in Hong Kong since 2010 (admittedly out of sheer curiosity in the beginning), and only represents niche wines from his home-region made by “craftsmen” - “authors,” he says - who oversee properties of only a few hectares, among them Meursault’s rising star, Arnaud Ente. A boutique kitchen making room for boutique wines- fantastic!
Rully Premier cru, Marissou,
Light gold in colour, with a subtle nose of pudding, candied fruits and dried tangerine. Superb minerality, with a good balance between freshness and acidity, and a great length with a delicate flavour of elderflower. It married beautifully with the scallop crudo thanks to an extra kick of salinity in the wine’s aroma, the scallop shell (coquille Saint-Jacques) on the label acting as a reminder of both the domain name as well as the fact that the area is a stop on St. James’ Trail (Saint Jacques de Compostelle). Remarkably affordable for a wine that many consider on par with a Meursault.
Puligny-Montrachet Premier cru
“Clos de la Truffière”,
Bright gold colour with greenish highlights. A bouquet of hawthorn blossoms, ripe grapes, lemon-grass and green apple. A “Burgundy forever”, both slightly buttery and yet remarkably mineral. Delicate notes of grapefruit, endowed by elegance and served by a great length. Would be perfect with freshly shucked oysters and worked remarkably well with the spanner crab East-meets-West tagliolini. One of the best Premiers crus Puligny-Montrachet by Arnaud Ente’s younger brother, made according to organic and biodynamic inspired methods.
Domaine Bernard Bonin,
Meursault “Clos du Cromin”,
Resolutely more golden in colour with unusual silvery highlights. A perfect balance between Burgundy old-style (more opulent, buttery with toasted almonds notes) and a more recent trend, resolutely more mineral, with great freshness. Aromas of candied fruits were a perfect match for the roasted foie gras with Jerusalem artichokes in a delicate balsamic vinegar sauce. The winemaker, Véronique Bonin, has a reputation for running her property like a Japanese garden. Only 1,874 bottles were released in 2013.
Domaine Michel Gay,
Beaune Premier cru“Les Grèves”,
Luminous scarlet in colour, with aromas of blackberries and cherries as well as humus and leather. The great and firm structure together with the notes of underbrush, typical of pinot noir from Burgundy, combined magnificently with the chestnut flavour of the bone marrow risotto. A small production and yet an affordable great interpretation of pinot noir from Beaune.
Clos de la Roche Grand cru,
Plain ruby. Added aromas of strawberry and violet. A complex wine with bouquet of humus and truffle. Amazing length and thus slightly more robustness to handle the bone marrow. Produced by two brothers, with the Clos de la Roche amounting to only 300 bottles per vintage - a rare product indeed!
Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier cru
Strong ruby red colour. Aromas of fresh red fruits combined with delicate wild prunes and liquorice. A complex wine with notes of cocoa and a unique aroma of freshly-crushed bitter almond, which really brought me back to my pre-schooler years and a classroom filled with scented Cléopâtre glue! Lengthy and robust enough to handle the strong bitter cocoa taste of the chocolate palet. The Richemone Ultra derived from vines planted by Christophe Perrot-Minot’s great grandfather in 1902!
All wines are available in Macau and Hong Kong from Romain Comte (Burgundy Wine Company Ltd., [email protected]).