Bourgogne

Last weekend we decided to take an impromptu trip to Bourgogne. Joe is determined to make it to most of the major wine regions before we have to move back to London. So far we have visited the Loire, Champagne, Bordeaux, Côtes du Rhône, and Provence – and now have a lovely selection of wines from those regions. This trip we explored Bourgogne (Burgundy) and Beaujolais, and it was incredible. Ok, well Bourgogne mostly, Beaujolais was less exciting as the wines are very light and far less interesting than those of Bourgogne. The landscape was absolutely stunning. As much as I love autumn in Paris, autumn in Bourgogne offered some serious competition. The rolling hills covered in vines, painting the landscape in warm oranges, yellows, and reds, with a wonderful contrast agains the blue sky and still green grass. Image

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The villages were charming, brimming with vignerons. We drove through some of the most unassuming, seemingly sleepy villages, which happen to produce some of the most prestigious wines in the region (starting around $100 a bottle), and yet you would never know it.  While those vineyards weren’t on our list of ones to visit, may others with incredible wine were. While we’ve certainly had some Bourgogne’s before, I didn’t realize until recently just how much I loved them. Recently, a very generous friend brought a bottle of 2007 Hospices de Beaune Pommard Premier Cru over for dinner (I was making boeuf bourguignon, after all). It was delightful, as was dinner. Typical of a good Bourgogne, it was delicate and elegant, but fruity and flavorful and wonderfully interesting. What we didn’t know however, was that unlike other wines, we couldn’t just identify it by where it was made and the year. Founded in 1443 by Nicolas Roulin, Hospices de Beaune was a hospital, largely funded by its annual wine auction. The grapes came from vineyards that were donated over the years to support the hospital. Today it is the most famous wine auction in the region and sets the price for each vintage. Wines are auctioned by the barrel to winemakers, who then take the barrels and make the wine how they would like – making each wine different. So without knowing who made our 2007 Pommard Premier Cru, it becomes nearly impossible to track down.Image

We made Beaune our base and stayed in a cute little hotel that was more than happy to accommodate Lily. Nothing fancy, but centrally located and close to a wonderful local wine bar. While this region didn’t boast some of the best food we’ve eaten on our trips through France, it does of course offer very delicious escargot and boeuf bourguignon, and some of the finest wine France has to offer. You also can’t forget Creme de Cassis for a lovely Kir with Bourgogne Aligoté as well as Dijon Mustard.

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There are so many lovely areas to walk and explore the countryside. We were lucky at had lovely warm weather, with a very slight crisp autumn breeze. Tastings work similar to other regions in that some of the Domaines have hours in which you can pop by and others you need a rendez-vous. The winemakers are more than happy to have you taste their wine and visit their cellars (most of which is at no charge, I might add), offering sometimes even around 10 wines for you to taste. Some of the larger places, like Château de Pommard, will charge for a visit, including a 45-minute tour of the estate and cellars, followed by tasting.

We visited 10 winemakers this trip, and tasted some truly incredible wines. Some of our favorites came from Cave Saint Nicolas, Château de Pommard, Micel Sarrazin et Fils, and Domaine Michel Juillet, all of which had wines in the Guide Hachette des Vins 2013 or 2014 (details below). Maybe one day I will get to writing about each of them. Bon degustation!

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Cave Saint Nicolas, 19, rue de Mazeray, 21190 MERSAULT (Bourgogne blanc Cuvée des Forgets, Meursault Les Tillets (minerally blanc), Meursault les Clousots (fruity blanc), Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Les, Serpentieres).

Michel Sarrazin et Fils, 26 rue de Charnailles, JAMBLES 71640 GIVRY (Bourgogne Aligoté , Givry La Cadole, Givry Blanc “Les Grognots”, Givry 1er Cru Blanc, Givry 1er Cru Rouge “Champs Lalot”, and Mercurey le Perriére)

Domaine Michel Juillot, 59 Grand Rue 71640 MERCUREY (Mercurey rouge 2011, Mercurey 1er Cru “Clos des Barraults” blanc 2009, Mercurey 1er Cru “En Sazenay” blanc 2008, Mercurey “Vignes de Maillonge” rouge 2011)

Chateau de Pommard, 15, rue Marey-Monge 21630 POMMARD (Nuits-Saint-George 2011, Givry 2010, and Pernand-Vergelesses 2008)

 

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Première entreprise à Champagne

Champagne is only about a 2 hour drive from Paris. Lucky us! So, with my parents in tow, off we went to explore what this wonderful region had to offer in the unusually chilly March weather. And oh was it worth it. We started off in Reims which is the main city where all the major Champagne houses are located. We arrived ready to taste some world famous bubbly, only to find a rather deserted city. Although we’d done our research, and yes you could visit on Sundays, it turns out, we arrived around lunchtime when they had all closed for lunch. We didn’t exactly get the early morning start we had planned on. 

In Champagne without champagne. What do to? We decided to follow the ‘Champagne route’. Although there are some sides we found ourselves driving through the country side, trying to figure out where to go. It was a lovely drive, a nice change from Reims and a nice break from Paris. Long, winding roads alongside fields with tidy rows of vines, leading to tiny passages, so narrow at points you could touch a building if you put your hand out of the window.  Absolutely charming. Amazingly, tucked behind the walls are champagne producers. 

We kept seeing one particular sign, but weren’t really sure what it was for. Mom chiming in from the backseat – ‘there it is again, read it, follow it!’ Problem being, the sign didn’t actually say much. Was it a producer, a location, an event? No arrows, no indication of what it was, where exactly it was or how to get there. So we kept driving. Another sign, and then another. Finally, a sign with the date one it….it’s today! Now to find it. As luck would have it, the signs eventually had an arrow and we found ourselves down a small road that eventually turned to dirt. We parked. Little did we know we had just stumbled on a true gem. 

We approached what seemed like someones home, with a bunch of people standing around chatting – they all seemingly knew each other. Truly feeling like outsiders, we ventured a bit further, only to realize we had stumbled on a tasting event. Lucky us! Oh the excitement. It was hosted by the champagne maker, who promptly came over to greet us, and asked if we would like to taste his champagne. Bien sûr! We tasted about 6 of his divine champagnes and Monsieur explained his family’s champagne, how he made it, and the differences in each. All in French, mind you. Somehow, I understood and began translating for my parents. Who knew I actually did know some French now!? We all came to the conclusion that this was some of the best champagne we had ever tasted…yes, including Moet, Veuve, Nicolas Feuillatte (my previous personal favorite), or even Dom. 

Every month or so, Monsieur and other producers in the area get together and host tasting events, inviting producers from other areas. There were wines from Bordeaux and Provence, oysters, escargot, and fresh smoked salmon, fresh bread, foie gras and even jams. Monsieur invited us to visit the other distributors and have a picnic if we’d like…and so we did. They had set up tables on the grass and in the kitchen, providing utensils and anything else you might need – including a corkscrew! So there in the middle of what seemed like nowhere, we had ourselves a little French feast. Perfect. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen my dad in such good spirits! He was like a little kid in a candy store. 

Rather reluctantly, after we’d had our fill, we carried on to explore a bit more, trying to find a few more producers who might still be open. It really is best to make appointments, but we decided to try our luck. We were invited into a woman’s kitchen, where she went to the fridge and opened a fresh bottle for us to try. We bought a bottle and were on our way again.We found a couple more places, but none of the champagne was nearly as good as the first. Contently, with bottles clinking in the trunk, we made our way back to Paris. 

What is there not to love about France?