I’ve always loved the flinty taste of Chablis wines which, though made from chardonnay grape, you can not replicate anywhere else in the world because of the special chalky terroir which only occurs in this part of Burgundy. Although, as our guide at Domaine Laroche told us, these deposits do surface for a very small area in England. How boring it would be if they were everywhere.

Chablis is a very pretty town, with leaning walls which you’d never get away with building here –Burgundy 023

and lovely colours –Burgundy 024

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We were taken to Domaine Laroche for a tasting and tour of the cellar. They also have an amazing old wooden pressoir, made totally of three oak trees, transported there by hand centuries ago by monks (as this was started by monks and used to be a monastery). It was difficult to get photos of this incredible wine press which is still used once a year by Domaine Laroche, as a kind of party piece, but I took several snaps to give a general idea of how it works. Even the screw part is wooden. Burgundy 034Burgundy 033

The show-winery is beautifully laid out with antique picking baskets, barrels, and such.Burgundy 035

On our drive back to the barge, James took Colin and me to one of Domaine Laroche’s grand cru vineyards as we were interested in their viticulture. No birds! No birds! How lucky they are.Burgundy 036

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See how old the vines are, from the thickness of these trunks. I guess they were about six weeks off vintage when we were there, and it was already very hot, some days it was 47.8C! Burgundy 040

We loved this visit. It’s great to see other styles of viticulture, and I wish we didn’t have a bird problem in New Zealand. It was so amusing also to learn that the French government dictates the start date for picking grapes, and before that date no one must begin picking! I can’t imagine New Zealand growers taking any notice of that, but that’s the condition of having appellations in France.

And for dinner that night? We began with baked goats cheese en croute with red onion jam, wrapped in jambon, followed by fillet of beef with glazed shallots and spicey couscous. The cheeses were:

St Maure de Touraine, a soft, nutty and slightly salty goats’ cheese from the Loire, rolled in black wood ash, with a straw in the centre which if cut brings bad luck.

Morbier, from the Franche-Conte, a mild and buttery cows’ milk cheese with a pungent, yeasty aroma, containing a thin layer of ash in the middle separating the morning milking from the evening milking.

Reblochon, known as the tax evasion cheese as it is made using the second milking which used to take place after the tax inspector had measured the milk quota for the day, a soft cheese from the Savoie with a mild fruity taste.

And then, of course, in the French way, the desert, which was lemon and blueberry tart.

The wines were Chablis 1er Cru ‘Les Beauroys’, from the 1er Cru vineyard of Les Beauroys, where the grapes are harvested first so that the wine doesn’t get too heavy, it’s naturally the least acidic of the 1er crus. And Crozes Hermitage, a large appellation which covers almost 2500 acres, across 11 villages. It has a smoky flavour and is predominately made using the Syrah grape, but can be blended with Grenache and Cinsault. It is a powerful, tannic red, peppery with raspberries and blackberries on the finish.

The next day, it was up on deck again, hard at work relaxing.

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