On Wine

Principled abstention

Christopher Pincher embarks on Lent, but allows himself to indulge in French white wine

And so to Lent. The purpose of these 40 days is the preparation of all believers through prayer, penance, repentance, abstinence and, of course, self-denial for the celebration of Easter. It is the latter observance about which all good Christians who are also connoisseurs should take especial care. A sudden whim, wager or unexpected grip of devotional zeal can result in a very uncongenial six weeks. I have taken great care. This year I have quit bread, cheese, potatoes, red meat and all alcohol — except, that is, for white wine.

Which means whilst renouncing red, there remain many exciting pellucid possibilities: Chablis, Chenin and Chardonnay vie for attention. Chief amongst them is a magnificent Savigny-les-Beaune Hauts Marconnets Premier Cru 2016. A Chardonnay from Chateau Chanson, an ancient house high up in the Beaune, the 2016 is the product of wet spring and dry summer with the late passerillage concentrating the sugars in a yellow-gold liquid of unusual splendour. The touch to the tongue is luscious with citrus overtones competing with a hint of nuttiness in harmonious confusion. The finish is strong so there is no need to gulp it; sipping is so much more satisfying as the final strains of that summer slide slowly away.

Chanson has been producing vino since 1750 and little has changed in 270 years — the wines are still aged in oak in the old bastion itself. For almost half a century until 2017 the fortunes of the chateau were guided by the inspired double act of Gilles de Courcel and Jean-Pierre Confuron. They focused meticulously on their Chardonnay to produce a wonderful white wine which is peculiar to Savigny-les-Beaune, whites being more familiar in the chateaux further to the south. Courcel has now retired, handing the reins to the equally adept Vincent Avenel, latterly of Domaine Faiveley. We must watch and wait and sip.

Meanwhile, the end of fasting is fast approaching as the finale to Quadragesima hoves onto the April horizon. Easter lunch can and should now be considered. Will it be lamb shoulder escorted by Saint Joseph or pork loin chaperoned by a ripe Marsannay? And what of dinner? We shall see. But until 12 April, clear juices continue to accompany white meat.

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