Discovering Côte de Beaune wine region in Burgundy: the heaven for wine lovers
There is no need to make a special introduction to Burgundy. Even people have nothing in common with wine, heard about this region in France. Similar to Bordeaux and Champagne, these names have direct connotation with France, la belle vie and wine, of course. Burgundy has wide wine-producing area which stretches almost for 300 km, from Joigny in Yonne to Mâcon in Saône et Loire. It consists of 5 large vineyards, from north to south: Chablis and Grand Auxerrois in Yonne, Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune in Côte d’Or, Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais in Saône et Loire. In my previous post I wrote about our cycling experience in Mâconnais area. Now it is time to discover Côte de Beaune.
Do you know that Grands Crus, Premiers Crus and prestigious appellations stretch out across the Côte de Beaune? From north to south, its vineyards extend from Ladoix-Serrigny to Maranges, geographically dominated by the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune. Côte de Beaune is known for its great white wines such as Corton-Charlemagne, Montrachet and Meursault. Beautiful red wines also contain many exceptional examples, including Corton, Pommard and Volnay. During that August long weekend we visited several villages and caves in Côte de Beaune and I can’t say that I have learnt everything about the region. I would say that I’ve touched a top of an iceberg and now I am curious to discover the region in details.
This time we stopped only in several villages of this rich region: Santenay – Chassagne-Montrachet – Saint-Aubin – Meursault – Pommard. I already have an idea for our next trip to Burgundy as it would be pity to leave the region half-explored.
1.A map of Côte de Beaune, one of five large vineyards of Burgundy.
2…And a view on endless vine fields
3.Let’s the journey begin! Somewhere between Beaune and Pommard.
4.Doesn’t matter if you cycling or walking – the visible and well-organised road navigation brings you to the most picturesque places.
5.Pommard is an easy name to remember especially in relation to its importance on a wine market place. Pommard is the second major area of wine production after Beaune with 130,000 cases produced on 337 hectares. About a half of its territory – 135 hectares – have been classified as Premier Cru (like Les Epenots and Les Rugien).
6.You know that you are in a wine region when road signs show direction to wine caves not to other villages.
9.Vines are everywhere, even on streets to decorate the village.
10.Chin-chin! Why not to start the trip with a glass of good white?
11.Remember this name, Auprès du Clocher. Even if it is not on your itinerary I strongly recommend you to book a table and come here for a lunch or dinner. An excellent dining experience is guaranteed.
12.A glass of red? Yes, please! Especially if it is Moissenet-Bonnard – Pommard les Cras and Rebourgeon-Mure 1er Cru Clos Micault.
14.I am not kidding, it was the best lunch ever. The restaurant Auprès du Clocher was above all my expectations. We asked sommelier to chose proper wine to accompany our meal and we got a perfect match of Burgundy wines and a cuisine of the chef Jean-Christophe Moutet. The chef used to work as a sous-chef at the famous 3-star restaurant Lameloise in Chagny where we had a birthday dinner, and I have to say that his cuisine is on the same level. It is classic but very light, with regional accents and seasonal. He takes the best from the local products and combines them in unexpected although tasty way. I do not eat meat. However, I wanted to choose a menu option where the main dish was with meat. The chef simply replaced this plate with the fish – rouget – which l loved! Of course, lunch in the heart of Burgundy can’t be complete without proper Burgundy wine. As I’ve mentioned the sommelier accompanied each course with a special wine, which suited the best the food. So I got not only excellent meal, but a degustation of great Burgundy wines. Of course, we switched glasses so I could taste wines suggested for meat dishes. To my surprise, I preferred those which were strong in tannins as the taste was deeper and broader.
15.Chagny is a home village to three-star restaurant Maison Lameloise. It is located in an ancient post office, transformed in to a hotel. The central place of the village is a lovely place with fountains and several wine bars and bistro.
16.The southern touch – the sunblinds are the same as they use on the South.
18.Streets were absolutely empty.
21.If you come one day to Chateau de Santenay, you will be welcomed by two gigantic guards of the castle, two enormous plane trees, who, probably, remember the Philippe le Hardi, the duke of Bourgogne. However, the plane trees are not the only one reason to visit the castle. Chateau de Santenay is the biggest producer of wine in Burgundy. It owns 98 hectare of vineyards in Côte d’Or and Côte Châlonnaise. Its Pommard, Saint-Aubin, Mercurey and Clos de Vougeot are waiting their time in our cave.
22.The welcome desk at the castle offers excursions to its wine cave. The tours are organised daily at 10:30, 14:00 and 16:00 from April to November. There is a nice little garden in the castle so you may like to walk under plane-trees after your wine tasting.
23.The vineyards begin at the bottom of the castle’s walls and runs to the horizon.
24.Literally, in the heart of a plane-tree.
25.The size of the tree is enormous!
26.The castle is very well maintained. There is a possibility to organise an event – from wedding to birthday parties or corporate events. We met a guy who was discussing the wedding of his daughter in one year time and he said that a year and a half before the planned date of the wedding almost all the dates at summer time were fully booked. No wonder, I wish I had my wedding in such lovely place!
30.This is Bourgogne, baby. The wine yards are like sunflower or wheat fields in other regions, they are endless and all together they make a huge ocean of green. The ocean, which breaths, has its own tempo and life, hidden from strangers.
32.Very often you may see word “Clos” in the name of the domain. In the past the part of a vineyard separated from other parcels by stone walls and where horse riders couldn’t go through was called clos. Nowadays the wine producers keep “clos” in the name to respect tradition. Some of “clos” are very famous, such as Clos Vougeot or Clos de Tart in Burgundy and classified as prestigious grand cru.
33.Can’t stop making pictures of beautiful Burgundy.
34.The Saint Aubin is classified as “appellations communales”, although some of wines produced in the area are classified as 1er cru. 3/4 of wine produced in the appellations is white wine made from Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc vine grapes, while one quarter of all wines is red wines made from Pinot Noir.
35.The village itself turned out to be very cosy and picturesque and I enjoyed walking up and down its narrow streets.
38.I wonder where these narrow stairs brings a visitor to?
39.The Saint-Aubin church. The top of the bell-tower reminds me the little houses in vineyards where wine makers kept their equipments and hid from rain and storms.
41.Gamay is a village of three (or about) houses next to Saint-Aubin. Do not let the size of the village fool you. The village gave its name to the vinegrapes (cépage in French) called Gamay. In XIV century it was planted by the order of the Duce of Burgundy in the southern part of the region and in Beaujolais. The tradition is still strong and you may find the Gamay cépage massively planted in the Mâconnais area. The wine made from Gamay grapes has dark ruby colour with violet shades. It matches perfectly sausages and meat dishes such rabbit and boiled or braised beef.
44.View on the valley of Saint-Aubin – Gamay
45.Very famous village where parcels of 4 Grand Cru adjoin to parcels classified as 1er Cru or appellationes villages. It is actually very interesting and dramatic story how the parcels got their classification. Everything counts: the type of soil, location on a hill, orientation toward the sun. Therefore it is very common that two similar parcels separated just by a road are classified differently just because the altitude of the second one is lower.
46.Puligny-Montrachet is the must-visit village in Côte d’Or region. On the day of 15th August there was a big flea market in the centre. Some of the caves were also open. We came in in a randomly chosen door and didn’t regret: the owner was very nice and open, willing to show its production and products. Of course, we couldn’t leave without a box of wine.
47.No surprise that in a wine region monuments are also dedicated to wine culture and wine producers. We see and enjoy the result of their work. But do we know how hard and repetitive this work is? New technologies are used widely but a winegrower still depends on the weather and the Nature. 2016 was not really lucky for Burgundy wine makers. A severe frost at the end of April, a heavy hail in May, lots of rain and humidity in June and July could potentially decrease the 2016 harvest dramatically. We had a chat with a wine producer in Montrachet and he mentioned that 2016 was not the best one for vineyards. They had to spray medicaments every two weeks in order to protect vineyards from parasites and fungus.
49.Another famous Burgundy village attracting tourists and wine lovers.
50.It has lovely centre and you may stop for couple hours in the village just to relax with a bottle of wine on one of its terraces.
55.The symbol of France found its place in the church’s backyard.
57.Look at this painted facade of the building! The dame looks like alive and about to start calling kids for dinner.
59.Roses, roses, roses.
60.Endless Burgundy vineyards, you are in my heart!
61.Again, a map of Burgundy wine region: still too many places to visit, too many wine to taste, too many scenery to keep in the memory.
Other posts about Burgundy:
Burgundy by bicycle
My Michelin dining experience at Maison Lameloise