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Tim Atkin

The Wine-List Inspector

Pour boire: drinking at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Burgundy, 8cl at a time

Tim Atkin | May/June 2012

Named after Bernard Loiseau, the celebrated French chef who committed suicide in 2003, and opened by his widow, Dominique, Loiseau des Vignes is the best place to eat in Beaune—or even Burgundy. The food is a creative, if pricey, post-nouvelle-cuisine take on traditional local dishes—émulsion à l’ail doux meets escargots de Bourgogne—but for a wine lover, what makes this place special are the Enomatic machines that occupy one and a half walls of the restaurant.

Or rather not the machines, as such, but the bottles they contain, all sold fresh by the glass. Loiseau des Vignes claims to have been the first restaurant in Europe to offer most of its wine list as 8cl and 12cl pours as well as by the bottle.

This may or may not be true, but it’s a welcome innovation. Even in Burgundy, the best local wines are expensive, so having the chance to sample, say, a 2008 Raveneau Chablis Premier Cru (€8 for a small pour) or a 2007 Roumier Morey-St-Denis Clos de la Bussière (€24, ditto) makes them a lot more affordable.

In total there are 134 wines by the glass, although not all are available at any one time. These are divided into 51 whites, 51 reds and 32 “from elsewhere”—which basically means the rest of France. The prices are reasonable and the selection includes some of Burgundy’s great domains, from Sauzet to Coche-Dury, Rousseau to Méo-Camuzet.

There’s a separate list of 75cl bottles, including a few “myths” such as Leflaive Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche. For a Michelin-starred restaurant, even these look comparatively cheap. A bottle of 2005 La Tâche (yours for €2,500) would cost 25% more at auction.

With the excellent dégustation menu, we drank a selection of wines suggested by the sommelier. These were mostly spot-on, complementing the dishes with grace and style, and didn’t force us to trade up to the stratosphere. The minerally Hubert Lamy St Aubin, La Princée (€10 for 12cl), the citrus-tinged Christophe Buisson St Romain (€9), the fleshy Humbert Frères Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru (€23) and the more restrained Tollot-Beaut Aloxe-Corton (€15) were all good—the latter particularly successful with some of the ripest, smelliest cheeses I’ve had in Burgundy. It was like the region coming alive in my glass.

loiseau-des-vignes.com; €300 for two

THE COMPETITION

If you want to rub shoulders with winemakers, importers and Pinot Noir lovers, Caves Madeleine is a convivial shop-cum-bistro that serves some of the tastiest food in Beaune. There’s no wine list (or website) here, but sit at the long middle table and you are—literally—surrounded by 900 choices, all selected by the owner, Lolo Brelin. More than a third come from outside Burgundy, but stick with the local wines. You can bring your own (corkage is €6), though Brelin’s prices are attractive. Call +33 3 80 22 93 30 for a reservation and be prepared to speak French.

Situated on the pretty main square in Puligny-Montrachet, no more than a stagger from the gates of the legendary Domaine Leflaive, Le Montrachet is an excellent place for lunch for anyone visiting the Côte de Beaune. The food is stylish, modern French fare and the wine list is one of the best in the region, specialising in the wines of Puligny- and Chassagne-Montrachet. The top end is well represented (including a palate-watering line up of 41 Montrachets), but you can drink inexpensively, too. Try the €57 set menu with a bottle of St Aubin.

le-montrachet.com

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