By Martyn Zemavicius
This article is the first in a series of ‘Top 3s’, marking the occasion of our 3rd Birthday at Clos & Cru. Thanks to all of our clients, friends & suppliers for your support over these past three years.
Charles Heidsieck – Champagne
Twice I’ve been lucky enough to be invited on a tour of this estate — which is closed to the general public and is extremely difficult to get into. The property has something magical about it that you can’t anticipate as you approach from the street. On one side, there’s a not-particularly-nice block of flats, and on the other an old stone wall with tiny wooden doors. Only after you’ve walked through the doors do you know you’re in for something special, as you enter an oasis of beauty in the middle of Reims.
The crayeres at Charles Heidsieck – the chalk cellars that date back to Roman times – are more than beautiful spaces. They are a testament to human industry, dug out by hand centuries ago. My favourite was the chamber filled with old vintages, where you can’t contain the feeling that you’ve discovered a trove of treasures as you glance at the rows of old bottles.
The main building – with glass all around – gives picturesque views out to the garden. Combine that view with the experience of tasting such magnificent champagnes as the 1981 Champagne Charlie cuvee, and you know you have arrived in a paradise. My last visit to the estate – hosted by general director Stephen Leroux – was especially wonderful. Not only did I get to taste one of the best champagnes ever, but I am proud to say that our group managed to nail all of the champagnes we were served in a blind tasting.
Pichon Lalande – Pauillac, Bordeaux
I’ve been to this estate several times, and twice enjoyed luncheon inside the Chateau. This is my favorite property to visit in Bordeaux, as the Chateau itself is equally beautiful outside and inside. The view of the surrounding vineyards – including famous neighbours like Chateau Latour – is inspiring. And I loved discovering their museum-quality collection of glasses.
Because it’s owned by the Rouzaud family, who also own my beloved Roederer champagne house, lunch usually starts with a glass of Cristal. On my last visit it was general manager Nicolas Glumineau who looked after us. He gave us a most charming welcome, and the 1996 Pichon Lalande was delicious.
Remoissenet Pere & Fils – Burgundy
This domaine in the heart of Beaune is not open to the general public. It has a cellar dating back to the 14th century, with the largest collection of Burgundy wines from the 1960s and 1970s. The building above the cellars was originally built for the local police, complete with a jail cell for locking up offenders. So it’s completely different from any other negociant in Burgundy.
The main room – where I’ve been on the receiving end of several memorably delicious lunches – is full of old armor, shields and even a very old, but still operational, organ which we usually listen to when finishing a meal. And my dear friend Bernard Repolt who manages the domaine always welcomes us warmly, spoiling us with something very special and old from the cellar.
All of these three estates have a lot in common. The beautiful buildings, the cellars, the history, and the delicious wines. But what made my visits extra special were the exceedingly hospitable and experienced professionals who welcomed me. Thanks for the memories.