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La Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin 2017

November 19, 2017

This week marks the start of my week-long annual pilgrimmage to France with the usual suspects, this time to partake in festivities surrounding the annual Hospice de Beaune wine auction that takes place on the third Sunday of every November. Having arrived from Singapore, we drove straight to Beaune, making good time. This year, the weather has turned really cold much earlier than usual and everywhere, the vines stand in forlorn nakedness, awaiting the imminent harsh winter to turn over the 2017 season.

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Beaune, from the higher grounds of the Cote de Beaune

The game plan for the Saturday of 18th November 2017 was to participate in the famous dinner of the La Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin at the Chateau du Clos du Vougeot, made possible for us through FICOFI which had arranged for us to be hosted by the affable M. Luc Bouchard of Bouchard Pere et Fils, always a major participant in the proceedings of the auction. Founded in 1934, this organisation, now boasting some 12,000 persons worldwide, serves to promote Burgundy to the world though I feel this is far less imperative now that Burgundy is so highly coveted by wine lovers around the world.

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Arriving in black tie in the evening in near-freezing temperatures, the grand Chateau du Clos du Vougeot still appeared youthful and eager to continue its long tradition. About 600 guests had arrived, a significant number having specially flown in from around the world. The Americans were prominent and I’m proud that Singapore was well represented, not just by ourselves, but by the presence of the venerable Dr N K Yong, still looking well in his advanced years. As we gathered in the anteroom before dinner, it was good to bump into M. Pierre-Henry Gagey, owner of Louis Jadot, who still remembered well our dinner with him a couple of years ago at Lameloise.

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As the room swelled with guests, canapes and wine were served freely. The 2014 Ch du Clos de Vougeot Macon-Lugny was light-medium with gentle clear citrus and good acidity, somewhat backward in tone, making it an easy drinking wine to pace oneself for the long evening ahead. Short but agreeable. The Cremant de Bourgogne Rosé was more substantial, proffering light tones of rose petals, strawberries and grapefruit, well proportioned with a bit of lift and understated sweetness, not too dry.

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When the doors to the dining room were finally thrown open, we were greeted by the sight of long rows of tables packed within, each immaculately laid out for a long night of feasting and wining. In fact, it was similar to a La Pauleé, save for the overall formality. We took our places at a corner that provided us with a vantage view of the entire hall and stage. Our kind host M. Luc Bouchard looked every bit his relaxed and genial self. The dinner opened with great fanfare from the Chevaliers, and I am truly amazed by the great quality of the traditional Burgundian fare that came from the Chateau’s old kitchen, served by an entire company of highly proficient wait staff who fussed around us within the tight confines with great efficiency. Most importantly, the wines were free flow without one even having to ask for it. Unless stated, the wines are largely labelled under the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. Hence, it is unclear who vinified these wines.

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20171118_203535.jpg2012 Meursault Santenots 1er. Clear notes of crème de la crème and crisp citrus. Very clean and precise with light floral tones, turning more minerally towards the finish with good linearity of fruit, evoking icing and mint at its finish. Very successful effort.

2014 Marsannay. Clear ruby. Ripe strawberries, cherries and raspberries are evident with traces of ember. Fleshy with good concentration and true pinot character but straightforward.

20171118_230719.jpg2005 Hospice de Beaune Beaune 1er Dames Hospitalieres. Served from magnum, this wine is deep in colour and bouquet, showing excellent concentration of dark plums, dark cherries and currants. with overtones of Asian spices, a touch astringent as it finished with dry intensity. Needs more time to settle but should evolve well.

2010 Clos Vougeot Grand Cru. Good colour. Very well integrated and balanced, proffering a generous tone of red fruits, ember and incense framed by smooth tannins and spice at the finish, showing good refinement but lacks true distinction.

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And so the feasting went on and on, interrupted on occasion by the necessary speeches (M. Laurent Ponsot taking the trouble to promote the 2017 vintage in English), the famous ban bourguignon that would recur several times, the pat-a-backs amongst existing chevaliers and the induction of new members, the merry-making and the songs, including sing-a-longs, which naturally grew louder and louder through the evening. By the time we left past midnight, the party was still going strong but we’d been properly hammered by the long flight and lack of sleep. Luc Bouchard took pity on us and bade us bon nuit, but not before reminding us that we were to be at his domaine next morning before 1000h to go through the pre-auction tasting before the actual event. This has, indeed, been a most memorable evening that will not be forgotten. Many thanks, FICOFI, and to M. Luc Bouchard for the generous hospitality.

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