We crossed the Alps from Italy to Switzerland yesterday via the Simplon Pass. The crossing is dotted with ancient stone houses that call to mind the Europe of thousands of years ago. It was yet another reminder from this trip of just how old these regions are.
We bid farewell to the sparkling Lake Como this morning, after a last minute coffee and some sugar cookies for the road. Our route took us south toward Milan, then northwest toward the mountains. We decided to cross the Alps via the Simplon Pass, a crossing in use since the Stone Age, but made famous during the reign of Napoleon
Began the morning driving through winding streets to the Sacri Monti of Ossuccio, a series of 17th century churches perched along an ancient cobblestone road. We climbed past all fourteen tiny chapels. each depicting a different scene in life-size wooden figures.
German Riesling reveals the power of terroir like few other wines. It can be as dry as a Muscadet or sweet as a Muscato, depending on where, when, and how it’s made. This astounding range of profiles makes it a darling of sommeliers and wine critics.
Started the morning in the tiny town grocery — speck, bread, sugar cookies, croissants, and a wedge of fresh, creamy, decadent talleggio, almost unrecognizable next to the States’ Whole Foods variety. A quick stop at a café in Tremezzo, then off on the winding road to Lugano. A roadside goat greets us as we pass into Switzerland.
Espresso doppio outside at our now regular bar-café under clear blue skies. Sunday appears to be a day for bicycle enthusiasts, who travel in colorful swarms along the roads, rivaling their motored companions for daring and speed.
Only two white wine terroirs in Burgundy hold the status of Grand Cru. Montrachet and its satellites, the more famous, are in the south of Burgundy, wedged between the towns of Chassagne and Puligny. The other is Corton-Charlemagne, perched on a large hill marking the midpoint of the Côte d’Or, named such as a gift from the Holy Roman Emperor.
Morning espressos in the bar up the street. A quick stop in the market for bread, cheese, and prosciutto, and we’re off in our car up the coast. After a tricky u-turn (for more cheese) and several near misses on the tiny streets, we pass through Tremezzo and begin our climb. Endless switchbacks and ever-narrowing roads lead us high into the hills above the lake, as each turn provides improved views and more dramatic vertigo.
Landed this morning in Milan; picked up our rented Renault, and headed north. Enormous, jagged white alpine peaks rise without warning, like the Rockies from the western planes. After some chocolate, espresso, and a hard-won lesson in the phrase di andare (“to go”), we pass from outskirts of Milan into lush green mountains.
Buying Burgundy is a tricky game. Many wines take years to mature, and early on it can be difficult to know what they’ll become. But tiny quantities often mean only one chance to buy each vintage. We swallow hard, make our best guesses, and then wait.
Five years ago, while working in the family flower business, Denis Basset was nearly killed by touching a high-voltage wire. Upon leaving the hospital, Basset decided to pursue his lifelong dream of making wine. Lucky for us.
Dijon may be the largest city in Burgundy, but Beaune is its heart. This ancient city dates to prehistoric times, and for centuries its culture has been steeped in winemaking. Today it’s a vibrant town full of bustling markets and busy sidewalk cafes.
Beside Chablis, the best secret in a white Burgundy lover’s cellar is his stash of St. Aubin. The village is easy to miss, wedged in a valley between Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet. And though it rightly plays second fiddle to these two giants, it’s still a source for what Rajat Parr calls “some of the best-value Chardonnays in the world.”
It is said that grapes find their highest expression at the northern-most end of their range – Burgundy Pinot Noir and Mosel Valley Riesling are two examples of this. A third example, and perhaps the best example in comparison to its other homes, is Syrah from the Northern Rhône.
The classic style of German Riesling, though a bit of an endangered breed these days, is a touch off-dry and full of racy acidity and minerality. Sommeliers universally praise Riesling’s ability to communicate terroir, and we found a striking range of wines in our visit last year.