Where It All Began is a multi-part series written by Ian Hanna – a story of the early days of John Hanna & Sons and our history as wine importers in Canada dating back to the 1970s. You can click here if you’d like to start from the beginning of this series.
It was about 25 years ago (mid 1990’s) that Marit and I were invited to attend the marriage of Guy Bizot, the son of Christian and Marie-Hélène Bizot of Champagne J. Bollinger.
The wedding was in the south of France at the Costieres de Nimes home of the bride, Chateau du Campuget.
Our flight arrived early in the morning at Aeroport Charles de Gaulle in Paris (the usual arrival time coming from Toronto). We rented a car and headed south towards Burgundy where we made our first stop along the way. We normally tried to take advantage of our trips to Europe by organizing visits with several of our wine suppliers and this trip was no exception.
We had planned to go from Burgundy to the south of France for the wedding and then on to Tuscany, Bordeaux/Cognac and then back to Paris for the flight home.
We arrived at Prosper Maufoux’s Grande Maison in the village of Santenay (in the south of Burgundy) by early afternoon and were shown to our room on the second floor. This grand house dominates the centre square of town and served as the offices, winery, and cellars for this wonderful, small family firm of Burgundy negociants founded in 1860 by Prosper Maufoux, a Burgundian notary.
The mansion house, built in 1835 by the owner of the Domaine de la Romanee Conti was acquired by Pierre Maufoux, grandson of the founder of his family firm in 1970, to serve as their headquarters.
Pierre and my Father, both born in 1930, had become great friends, over the years and we visited with the Maufoux family at this grand property, many times. Tasting in the cellars with Pierre was always an adventure. There were wines from most of the great vineyards of Burgundy aging in barrel. Whether it was the great whites of Meursault, Montrachet & Corton or the reds from top vineyards in Volnay, Pommard and Beaune or the Cotes de Nuits vineyards of Echezeau, Vosne Romanee and Chambertin – this generous and gentle man always encouraged us to taste!
Pierre’s only fast rule, when tasting in the cellar, was 8 wines and then it was up to the courtyard for a Camel (his tobacco brand of choice)! We could taste all day and any wine, but we always honored his regular Camel breaks – outside the cellar, of course!
We settled into our newly renovated room in the Grande Maison and prepared for dinner at the Maufoux home, located a few blocks away. We were able to walk and arrived at 8:00 PM, in good time for aperitifs. We were warmly welcomed by Pierre’s wife Daniele and daughter Marion and invited to sit in the front parlour while Pierre prepared the Vin Blanc Cassis (Kir).
Always made with chilled, young Aligote and a dollop of rich Crème de Cassis de Bourgogne, the Kir in the Maufoux house was usually topped up with a little extra Cassis!! We had time to catch-up on all the family news before moving to the dining room for dinner.
Starting with white asparagus from the garden (with the standard French apology that it was “only from the garden”!!) and drawn butter. I recall Marit trying to delicately select single spears from the platter that had been passed, only to be quickly schooled by Marion saying “No, this way” as she took a large handful and deposited it squarely onto my wife’s plate!
These glorious, fat spears of delicacy were accompanied by an amazing bottle of Santenay Blanc 1er Cru “les Gravieres” one of Maufoux’s rather rare specialties. It was similar to Chassagne Montrachet in style and really a perfect match.
The asparagus was followed by the most traditional of Burgundian dishes, a gorgeous Pot-au-Feu. But first, the teenage Marion was asked to decant a bottle of wine which had been sitting on the fireplace mantle. Instead of the traditional candle (to light the neck of the decanter) she retrieved a mini flashlight (which was designed to stand and shine upwards) and proceeded to decant an evidently old, dusty bottle (sans label) and present it to her Father.
After a quick taste, Pierre pronounced the wine fit, and it was poured around the table….1961 Richebourg!! The wine was sublime with the depth and complexity of great, aged Pinot Noir. And, it was the perfect accompaniment to the steaming hot Pot au Feu we so enjoyed that evening.
Dinner at the Maufoux dining table always included a cheese course featuring amongst other things, a variety of Goat’s Cheeses (everything from very young and fresh to aged and stinky!) with a bottle of chilled (not cooled but chilled) Beaujolais Villages. Fresh and full of Gamay fruitiness, it was the perfect bridge to dessert and coffee.
It had been a long and tiring day – finishing with some of the most delicious food, wine and warm hospitality one could imagine! Tomorrow…. well that would be another memorable adventure!
Ian Hanna – John Hanna & Sons Ltd.