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Click to enlargeLetter from Burgundy

Story by Laura Bradbury / Photos by Franck Germain
As published in Winetidings  - July/August 1999

Laura and Franck enjoying wine tasting in Burgundy.Laura Bradbury and her husband Franck Germain have realized every wine lover’s dream — living in burgundy.

Last summer, my husband and I bought a little eighteenth century stone house in the village of Magny-les-Villers, on the border between the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune wine slopes in the Côte d’Or. It looked very charming last July, with the hollyhocks in full bloom and the months of renovations seemingly eons away. We had a great idea: buy it to use during our frequent forays to Burgundy, and rent it out to friends and family during times when we must be elsewhere. When we returned in December, the wine- makers were hunched over in the cold winter rain pruning their vines. Shortly after dropping our suitcases on the floor of our new home, it dawned on us that we had four months of hard work ahead.

Cold and discouraged about the task which lay ahead, my husband and I decided to buy a couple of cases of good wine to bolster our spirits. We also nurtured the hope that a well-supplied wine cellar might encourage friends and sundry to provide a couple of hours of free labour at our new abode.

My husband grew up in a neighbouring village and his school chum has now taken over the family Domaine of Naudin-Ferrand just up the road. In her early thirties, Claire is already known as one of the most promising winemakers of the Hautes-Côtes.

As we walked into the gravelled courtyard at Claire’s, her wizened old grandmother materialized on the porch. Before Franck could open his mouth to say a polite “Bonjour” Claire’s grandmother cried out, “You two now live in Marthe’s old house.” She nodded, studying us with piercing interest. In these villages, nothing escapes the attention of  les grand-mères.

Just then Claire came whipping into the courtyard in her dusty little car, allowing us to escape her grandmother’s scrutiny. We gladly followed her into the dank cave. We began by tasting two of Claire’s Bourgogne Aligotés, a wine for which her Domaine Naudin-Ferrand has gained a solid reputation. The first was a lively and aromatic 1996, whereas the 1997 was more honeyed and mellow. We then moved on to the reds, tasting a tannic and structured 1996 Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits and a promising 1994 Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune which revealed strong notes of blackcurrant.

The view from Laura and Franck's bedroom window in burgundy.We bought our provisions, and as we were walking towards the stairs out of the cave, Claire placed a complimentary magnum of Crémant on our case of bottles, wishing us a happy house-warming. Our arms full, we stumbled up the stairs, blinking like moles in the daylight.

Claire’s wine not only provided us with the fortitude to begin ripping off wallpaper, but it also helped us forge a good relationship with the tradesmen we hired to help us with the house.

One enigmatic electrician, nicknamed Tin-Tin, had the unfortunate habit of installing our new radiators either too high, too low, or too far to one side for our picky tastes. When we asked him to move a third radiator, we saw from his pursed lips and drawn shoulders that he was beginning to lose his patience. Franck took me aside and whispered “Laura, go to Claire’s and buy him three bottles.”

I came home shortly with a slightly perlant Aligoté, a 1995 Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, and a 1996 Hautes-Côtes de Beaune — Cuvée Printemps. At the end of the day we saw that Tin-Tin was about to pack up his tools in a huff. Franck produced the carton of wine with a flourish and told Tin-Tin that this was to help compensate for his troubles — one bottle for each radiator that we had made him move. We saw from his big smile that all was forgiven. In the last four months a steady supply of good wine has allowed us to put lip with the trials and tribulations of renovating an extremely old house. We took our last day off from our renovations before returning to Canada, and tied up our stay in remarkable style.

With paint all over our hands and faces, we went to Franck’s aunt and uncle’s for a Sunday lunch with my parents who had come over from Canada to help us. The first course, a mousse de foie gras, was exquisitely accompanied by a 1947 Quarts de Chaume, a remarkably leggy honey ed white wine from Anjou which I think would have only continued to improve with age.

Next came a glass of Cognac served in its original terra cotta bottle, dated 1876. Franck’s aunt and uncle found it under the stairs in their family château, where it had been hidden during the war when Nazis occupied the house as a command post. The coq au via which came next was served with a robust 1976 Charmes-Chambertin. The cheese platter deserved nothing less than a velvety 1976 Corton. We returned to Magny-les-Villers and put the finishing touches on our new abode. Now that the renovations are finally finished and we are returning to Canada, our energies have turned to figuring out a way to come back to our home in Burgundy toute de suite!

© 1999, Laura Bradbury & Franck Germain - All Rights Reserved


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