|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
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.
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
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