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!

Biking the Route des Grands Crus

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The Beaune to Santenay cycling route is an absolute must—a never to be forgotten experience—when visiting this region of Bourgogne. This 44-kilometer round-trip route will take you into the heart of the prestigious vineyards on the Route des Grands Crus while you pass through one charming storybook village after another.

To start, you can pick up your bikes at Bourgogne Randonnees in Beaune. The friendly staff will help map out your route and provide tips on where to stop for wine tastings. Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to bike 44 kilometers while stopping to taste wine along the way. J’aime la France!

After a short distance of cycling through traffic in Beaune, you will reach the peaceful bike route. The first village you will come to is Volnay. It’s hard to resist the temptation to leave the bike route and explore every nook and cranny of these picturesque villages filled with charm.

The next village you will come to is Pommard, which produces some seriously good vin rouge that is described as masculine compared to its neighboring Volnay that produces a more delicate, or feminine, red from the pinot noir grape. Oh so many great opportunities for tasting in this village! But we have a long way to go.

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The winding bike route through the vineyards as you approach Pommard

As the route takes you past Pommard and into the center of the next village, you will just want to pinch yourself. The charming village of Meursault is the most dreamy of them all. Here is where you will definitely want to stop for un café while you sit in the village square in front of the château.

From here it’s down the hill—which means you will have to come back up—and on to Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet, where the terroir contributes to the world’s greatest chardonnays being produced. There are ample spots along the way to stop and have a picnic on the side of a stone wall overlooking the world-renowned Puligny vineyards. Or you can have either an elegant lunch at le Montrachet or a tasting lunch at la Table d’Olivier Leflaive, both located in Puligny-Montrachet.

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At this point, if you can still make it on and up the hill to Santenay—or perhaps leave that for another day by car—you will cycle by more beautiful vineyards.

You’ve made it, hopefully. If so, there is another charming square with a beautiful fountain and more restaurants for lunch if you timed it right. We made it to Santenay one time at 1:50 p.m., plopped ourselves down at a restaurant, and ordered just a bottle of wine as a reward before making the long ride back. Of course, this was probably completely unacceptable etiquette. But at the time, we didn’t know any better. Nonetheless, we were served a bottle of wine.

If you can find the energy to make it up just one more little hill before heading back, you will be brought to the most picturesque château—where naturally there is wine tasting—and a fairy-tale-like turret above the village of Santenay.

Now, it’s a long trip back to Beaune. But what a gorgeous ride it will be! And what better way to end the day than at le Clos Carnot, because I think it should be about apéritif time!

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À bientôt!