|The full fruit of red Burgundy is ideal with the flavours of late summer - wine club
As the summer ends, the question of the vegetable patch acquires a new urgency. What do you do with those crafty French courgettes that hid beneath the leaves long enough to become coarse English marrows? How do you use up the torrent of runner beans, the monstrous beetroots, the herbs that will soon be bitten by winter?
Corney & Barrow's red Burgundies arrived to inspire us. These are full, fruity wine that demand strong-flavoured food. We got to work right away on the beans and the basil, turning the first into hot pickle (using curry paste, oil, vinegar, salt, sugar, and cooking until the beans were defeated) and the second into pesto. We anointed our lamb and pasta with the new-made condiments, and accompanied the feast with the two generic Burgundies, enjoying a riot of autumn flavours that prepared us for the riots to come.
When young, Pinot Noir is fresh, lively, with bright raspberry, flavours and cager kisses of scent. Generic Burgundies are also often at their best during this early period, and these two are no exception. The Chanson is open and breezy, while that from Machard de Gramont is a firmer, more reticent wine, with depths that only gradually reveal themselves. The label does no relate whether this Machard de Gramont is related to the libertine courtiers of that name, whose character we know from literature. But the same grower's Nuits-St-Georges Aux Allots is as ripe, mysterious and saucy as the famous Comte de Gramont, with the kind of careful balance of attractions that the count tried to achieve each morning at his toilette. This wine illustrates the other side to Pinot Noir. Long, perfumed vistas lead away from its airy hallway towards doors that will open only later, on to rotting gardens, kinky corners and limestone chapels. In short: buy it, but keep it.
Olivier Leflaive's Cote de Beaune Villages 1999 has the finesse and balance implied by its name, and went so well with our pasta that I shall now reveal how pesto should be made. In Genoa, it is made with basil, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. Substitute cashew nuts and strong industrial cheddar, however, and you will have a comparable effect at a fraction of the price. After all, it is the basil that counts, and it should be picked now, with its gross, spicy autumn flavour and strong resilient leaves. Not too much garlic; masses of olive oil, ample salt and black pepper, and then grind, mash, grate and pound with whatever means are to hand. The result should be either frozen or stored in the fridge. When you come home from a difficult day, spread it on your toast--more nourishing than Marmite, more consoling than jam. And if things are really bad, open a bottle o Leflaive's Cote de Beaune Villages and feel the unpurged image of the day recede.