When I was studying to become a sommelier a dozen or so years ago, I decided that one day I had to make a visit to the Burgundy region of France. It wasn’t only for my love of Pinot Noir or the way the French bring out the best in Chardonnay, it was the beauty of the architecture, the complexity of their classification system and the long and storied history of their vines.
Brenda was thoughtful enough to include a five day stop in Beaune in this European trip’s itinerary, allowing me to cross one more item off my bucket list.
For me, the magic of visiting a place like this is the way in which all the theory and instruction I received during my sommelier classes suddenly becomes concrete. I now understand how the classification between regional wine, Villages, Grand Cru and Premier Cru are established. I saw with my own two eyes many of the 1247 different parcels of land that are under vine. I walked through the rocky, limestone, clay or Marl soils that give these wines their individuality and complexity. I saw the hills where the grapes grown at the top of the south facing slopes produce the finest and most expensive Pinot Noir on Earth. I learned that one vineyard may have a limestone subsoil, while its immediate neighbor may be clay, giving completely different expression to the wines produced there. I saw numerous small plots of vines surrounded by short masonry walls that were built from the stones taken from those very vineyards. These enclosed plots are what are known as “Clos” , and the wines made from those grapes will show that word on their labels.
The entire Burgundy Appellation covers a length of only 67 kilometers, and although we were based in Beaune, we managed to cover a good portion of it, and more than one third on foot!
As we walked South from Beaune to Santenay, passing through Pommard, Meurseault, Chassagne Montrachet and Puligny Montrachet, tasting fabulous Chardonnays as we went, all the names on all those bottles I puzzled over in wine shops for so many years, gained recognition and gave me one of those big “AHA!!!” moments when it all became a lot more clear.
To the North, we did some exceptional tastings in Nuits Saint Georges, where the Pinot Noir was in the forefront, except for our last event where we sampled five different bottles of Cremant de Bourgogne, which I’m pretty sure were Brenda’s favorites of the entire Burgundy visit.
The weather on Wednesday was wet, windy and cold, so we pretty much stayed in our room, did laundry and relaxed.
On our last day in Beaune, we did a tasting at Le Cellier de la Cabiote, where, in their XVIth century cellars, we sampled six different wines, and a very syrupy, but delicious, Crème de Cassis. Of all the tastings we did, this was probably our favorite. All the wines were from different producers and each was hand selected by the owner of the shop, who provided detailed and knowledgeable comments on each of the samples. Anyone going to Beaune should make it a point to stop into that shop.
Our time in Bourgogne is now over and we’re about to start a five day visit to Paris, where Brenda will be catching up with another old friend. Other than that, we have no real itinerary, although I may want to spend a day at the Louvre if the weather is uncooperative.
We already climbed the Eiffel Tower eleven years ago, so we have no need (or desire) to do that again.Read more