Beaune—A Jewel of Bourgogne

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After much writing about Provence, it’s time to get back to Burgundy. After all, that’s where it all got started. Yes, Provence is intoxicating, and it has its hold for sure. But Burgundy, and really all of northern and central France, has the type of charm portrayed in fairy tales. Filled with sleepy villages, châteaux, rolling hills, vineyards, and canals, Bourgogne is the essence of charm.

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The town of Beaune, a jewel amid the most dreamy of winemaking villages, is often considered the wine capital of Burgundy.  Though I usually prefer small, sleepy villages, the larger town of Beaune is one classy place, filled with fine restaurants, cafés, museums, wine cellars, and gourmet shops.

It’s an absolute must to sit at a café on the Place Carnot looking out at the charming carousel, medieval rooftops, and enchanting cobblestone streets.

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Wine tasting opportunities are endless. Though a bit touristy, the Marché aux Vins, right by the famous Hospices de Beaune, is a very fun, casual experience. The cellar offers a self-guided tasting tour, where you help yourself to the wine as you walk from barrel to barrel through a candlelit cellar. I can handle that!

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Not to be forgotten is the outdoor market, held on Wednesday and Saturday morning. Filled with gastronomic specialties, this market is one of the most beautiful markets in France. The medieval village comes alive on market day. The regional delights abound. There is also a small section of brocante stands set up, where many treasures await—perhaps an old Dijon mustard jar or a vintage coffee grinder.

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One can get lost for days with much to do in this town. Beaune is truly a Burgundian jewel of culture and elegance. A visit must also include a drive—or better yet a bike ride—on the Route des Grands Crus through the famous winemaking villages of Volnay, Pommard, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, and Santenay, all surrounded by gorgeous vineyards.

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À bientôt!

Wine Tasting Anyone?

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It’s safe to say, I’m no expert on wine by any means. In fact, I hesitate to open my mouth and say even one word on the subject. But years ago, knowing nothing about wine, we chose Burgundy for our first trip to France based on a pastoral scene in a guidebook that just called to us. Little did we know of the complex world of wine that we were about to stumble upon.

Our first trip to Burgundy revolved around everything but wine. We thought the four-euro bottle of wine we purchased from the village épicerie was something. We thought the glass of wine we ordered at the café was something. We had no idea what was all around us right at our fingertips. Yet, we wondered, ‘What are all these signs for caveau, dégustation, and vente de vins located every two feet throughout the region?’ So innocent. But not for long.

I began to do a little research about Burgundy wine before our second trip to the region. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I discovered, unbeknownst to me, that there were Grands Crus, Premiers Crus, village wines, and wines of Bourgogne. I learned how to understand a French wine label. With newfound excitement, I was armed and ready to return.

No longer did I simply order un verre de vin rouge, but I asked to see the wine list. I was excited to try a Grand Cru, a Premier Cru, a village wine. I enjoyed comparing a Pommard to a Volnay to a Savigny-lès-Beaune and a Saint Romain to a Saint Aubin to a Meursault. I was discovering this fascinating, intricate world of Burgundian wine!

Being that we don’t speak much French, especially back then, we pondered should we now take it a step further and go into a cave for dégustation? Nervous and intimidated, we go for it and have our first tasting at Domaine Maurice Gavignet in Nuits-Saint-Georges. Another day, we rang the bell at the caveau of Michel Rebourgeon in Pommard and had a tasting.

Now that monsters have been created, do we dare take it even a step further and ring the bell of a private stone house in Pernand-Vergelesses and ask to taste the family wine? Scared and reluctant, we press the bell. An older French woman, perhaps about 80 years old, answers the door and grants our request. She escorts us down some stone steps into the family cellar where we try her wine. We purchase a few bottles and return on bicycle the next day with one of the bottles for a picnic. An older French gentleman comes up to us and gives us a thumbs up when he looks at what we are drinking on the side of a stone wall. Who knows, maybe he was the winemaker!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

314To top it all off, would you believe that we were actually invited by an English expat neighbor who had a friend who worked at the Rebourgeon winemaking facility in Pommard to go on a tour to see the process of making wine? Do you think I was smart enough to document that? No! But I remember we tried the wine for that year’s vintage, which was still undrinkable at the time. The wine was passed around from the workers to us in a communal wine glass. I figured the alcohol would kill any germs and decided just to live like the French for a moment and be free.

I still haven’t learned too much about wine but that it is a fascinating, complex art. Wine is alive. It is a piece of the land, the terroir. It truly is a gift.

À bientôt!

Meursault—The Most Charming Burgundian Winemaking Village

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It doesn’t get much more charming on the Route des Grands Crus than the winemaking village of Meursault. This storybook charming village, filled with character, is a dream. From the moment you arrive in the centre and view the château with the fountain bubbling forth until you sit down in the village square and have un café or your first taste of one of the great Meursault whites, you will be in bliss.

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The white wines of Meursault, made from chardonnay grapes, are considered some of the world’s best, along with its neighbors Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet. The unique Burgundian terroir produces Meursault whites that are crisp, rich, buttery, full of minerality. I would describe it as tasting the golden color of autumn in a glass. The wine shop in the centre of the village offers glasses of the region’s delicious whites for five euros. You can sit outside and enjoy the view of the château.

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Café across from château

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It is absolutely a must to wander off the beaten path onto the back roads of the village to walk through the gorgeous vineyards and discover the hidden charms.

Hope you enjoyed this little escape for today to the charming village of Meursault.

À bientôt!

 

Aloxe-Corton and a Visit to Domaine Comte Senard

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Aloxe-Corton is a charming little winemaking village in Bourgogne. The number one reason we explore new villages is for charm. The second? The food and wine of course! Loving good wine, yet being novices to the culture, we have somehow … Continue reading