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14th July 2014

Wines with a lovely lunch at Oustau de Baumanière

After our tasting at Domaine Trévallon we went to the fabulously sited Oustau de Baumanière , nestled in the rocks that surround Les Baux-de-Provence, a natural amphitheatre of light and space. And no mobile phone signal - perfect!

The restaurant has two Michelin stars with service and prices to match. It is owned and run by chef Jean-André Charial, who looks delightfully like Rick Wakeman. It was easy to imagine him standing in the kitchen (although perhaps not in a cape), directing the cooking in all directions with similarly synchronised waving of his arms.



I had been told in advance that the restaurant’s signature dish is leg of milk-fed Pyrenean lamb, and although lamb is not usually my preferred meat, I had been looking forward to trying this.

As we sat down they produced a slightly anachronistic Chariot de Champagnes. Sometimes, as these things trundle towards you with their clinking and sloshing noises you wonder how it will be possible to get out of it without appearing cheap (outside France, asking for a Sherry would usually do the trick, and win over the sommelier into the bargain, but then you don’t usually get Champagne Chariots outside France). However it was a hot day, and a glass of Champagne was just what was called for, so we tried:

Perrier-Joüet Belle Epoque 2006
This had the high Pinot Noir content qualities of deep red fruit aromas and flavours, with a serious structure and terrific length. I’m convinced that Champagne with a high black-grape content is much more rewarding in youth than Blanc de Blancs and other Chardonnay-dominant styles. Although this was youthful, it had power and a lovely honey comb and hazelnut complexity with good bready character from the yeast autolysis

I’m not a food reviewer, so I won’t. But my starter of lobster velouté with beetroot gnocchi was fabulous. And everyone else’s looked similarly appetising.

Meursault 1993 Coche Dury
There is always a risk with old white Burgundy of finding the phenomenon of premature oxidation. One way around it of course, is to drink something so mature that you might expect to have some oxidation due to its age anyway, and also to pick a top producer like Coche Dury, who seems to have been immune to the problem in the first place. And so it proved. This had hazelnut and caramel-brittle overtones with spices, baked fruit and smoky oak characters. The texture was rounded and mouth-coating and the wine had a deliciously rich but dry finish that went on for ages.



The lamb had now arrived. It was juicy and succulent with faultless texture and flavour and a simple presentation. Perhaps it was a little more cooked than the proffered ‘rosé’ – (we were all English, maybe that was it). We tried a trio of reds:

Bourgogne Rouge 1993 Coche Dury
This was a bargain on the list at €50, which suggested that the owners didn’t have much faith that the wine had lasted this long. In fact the first bottle was corked, so they were right, although of course it would have been corked from the moment it was bottled. A literal waste of space in the interim. It was replaced with no question at all. The second bottle was perfectly clean and well made, but clearly over-old – the fruit could be charitably described as earthy and coffee-ish, and harshly described as dried out or even a bit absent.

Côte-Rôtie les Jamelles 1988 Paul Jaboulet Aîné
Rich and spicy with the rosewater and beeswax qualities of an aged wine. Plenty of coffee-ish oak and silky-sweet fruit. It perhaps lacked the depth you might expect of a Rhône Syrah, but this was in some ways to its credit with the lamb.

Domaine Trévallon 2001 Bouches de Rhône
So, having tasted the young wine just a few hours earlier, how had twelve years aging suited this Cabernet Syrah blend? Fantastically well as it transpired. Rich and rounded with plenty of still-youthful fruit, spice without oak and a long soft rich finish, the tannins of the youthful Cabernet from earlier having subsided into a wonderful velvety texture.

It went especially well with the cheeses, served from another chariot, which wafted back and forward making enticing aromas reach the nose from all directions.

The meal finished with the most artistic presentation from the pastry chef, and a small bottle of something sweet was ordered.



Macon-Clessé 1995 Domaine de la Bongran Jean Thevenet
This was a new one on me, Botrytis Chardonnay from Macon. I’ve had botrytis Chardonnay from Chile before, but the grape does not naturally lend itself to the noble rot process, nor does it usually retain enough acidity when this ripe to allow balance in the final wine. There is always, of course, an exception to prove the rule, and this was it. Plenty of fruitcake and bruised apricot aromas and flavours from the botrytis, abut with citrus marmalade freshness to balance everything and a long rich but not cloying finish. A rare wine well worth seeking out!

A truly wonderful meal in excellent wine-loving company.

Comments

The way you are going you are clearly soon to be needing an enthusiastic assistant. Ne c'est pas? Good try? [Richard Gardner, 15th July 2014]

Quite a meal indeed. And with Coche Dury, Jaboulet (from the great period of the estate), Trevallon and Bongran it must have been something! Thanks for this gourmet report. [Jeremy Cukierman, 15th July 2014]

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