The sights of Burdundy didn’t disappoint me as the vineyards were sporting the best of the best autumn colours. Though it was a week earlier to all the events lined up in Burgundy including Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction and Beaujolais Nouveau. I can’t always be lucky with dates, can I? Sometimes we just have to go with the flow and this tour was set out for the eyes to indulge rather than for the palates, and especially not for my interest, but for that of Cyrille, who would never have bothered to visit Burgundy if I hadn’t made the plan for him.
The towns in Burgundy seem to have a mystical and mysterious ambience. We drove around and between the vineyards, getting lost at one point on the hill somewhere, thanks to the old GPS, but got a good view looking down the slope. This town, Gevrey-Charmbertin, is always wet whenever I’m there; it doesn’t seem to like me as much as I do him.
I love its masculine and meaty personality, as I’m all too feminine, therefore it seemingly completes my unfulfilled desire, but Cyrille was in confusion, not knowing what to make of this tannic and powerful Pinot Noir he was tasting, especially right after the light-bodied fruity Jura Pinot Noir.
They both have their own charm and one can’t dismiss one for the other. Two different characters suit different settings, and Burgundian Pinot Noir is made to sip and chew with meat in the mouth. Of course, I can’t drink Chambertin every day; it has to have a balance.
On my last visit in early May, most domaines were closed due to the Medieval Festival or something – well, they hardly open to the public in general, do they?, as they are always so busy growing grapes and making wines. The towering walls enclosing their properties tell you that – Keep away. We are busy or we are already rich! But I saw quite a few domaines with an Ouvert sign this time and we jumped at the opportunity, which turned out to be a bit of disaster but a good lesson.
Domaine des Varoilles… we were welcomed by a very genial lady with a good sense of humour, who kept picking on my ostentatious photo-taking and making jokes to the crowd at the tasting, and for the way Cyrille didn’t want to translate every words she said, I figured she said something mischievous.
We tasted a number of bottles in different appellations and millesiems while she was explaining about the vines and terroir of her vineyard. People seem to be enjoying themselves, it being a long All Saints Day holiday. But I wasn’t.
Unfortunately two wines among the last wines offered had a smell of mouldy cardboard, definitely corked, and I whispered that to Cyrille, who nodded in agreement, and I had to refrain myself from speaking it out loud because I didn’t want to be a killjoy. I wanted to get up and leave immediately but had to buy a bottle to avoid the charge for degustation which we weren’t aware of. So we got away with Gevrey Chambertin, les Champonnets 1er cru, which appealed to me the most.
Further down toward Cote de Beaune, we stopped off in Volnay and Pommard, which I didn’t visit last time and where we planned to have a lunch break at the Bar a Vin I had feasted on a degustation plate with the best pork terrine with good wine.
The first stop was at Michel et Marc Rossignol, and there we had a good tasting with the help of the owner, who kindly presented us with several bottles for tasting and comparing and explained about the different vintages. The difference was obvious and if you like firm tannins like me, don’t ever look at 2007.
In general, 2007 is regarded as a bad vintage both in Bordeaux and Burgundy, and the years 2009 onward are good, however 2008 vintages here were pretty good and I had to decide between Pommard les Chanlins 1er cru 2008 and Volnay les Pictures 1er cru 2008, and I picked the former, which seemed closer to the standards of the wine I like; tight tannins balanced with acidity, complex aromas of fruit, animal and spices, and a long finish.
So I got that one whereas Cyrille got Crémant de Bourgogne, not being a huge fan of tannic Pinot Noir. By then, he’s collected quite a number of Crémant on this tour, and it seemed like we were going to have a big celebration at the end of the tour with bottles and bottles of Cremants to drink and compare.
The next place we dropped in was Domaine Henri Montagny, whose estate has been through several generations. We visited the cave with barrels and old bottles. She was a painter herself and her paintings were hanging on the walls in her reception room. Here we picked up a bottle of Volnay Les Pictures 1er cru 2009. Oh, lucky I didn’t get it at the last place.
The tour in Burgundy is starting to chew away money fast; wines are so pricey here but you can’t resist buying once you taste them because they are so unique and impossible to find anywhere else. It’s good to have a sip of good Pinot Noir every now and again to keep the taste memory going. However, there is a new wave of Burdundian winemakers breaking the traditions and monopoly, even blending Pinot Noir with other grapes, and if you want to know more, check the links below.
Before blowing away more money, let’s go to the bar a vin for lunch and more tastings, we thought, just to come into a sight of a shop closed with no sign board in the same spot. As the woman at the last domaine warned us, the place had been closed down. Well, what a shame! But do not despair! Our van was full of Comte, wine and bread. So we had a quick picnic by the road and pressed on directly to Beaune.
Beaune is a charming town and Cyrille liked the ambience there. Oh la la, now I’m guiding a French person! Uh hm…
After riding ourselves of the big van and bags, we ventured into the centre, looking for a good place to eat and drink. While trying to avoid tourist traps, as it’s a weekend-getaway place for Parisiens so quite touristic, we got ourselves in exactly one. I had my eyes on Le Bistro Bourguignon after doing a round-up of restaurants and we went inside just to be told that it was fully booked for the evening.
Disappointed, we reluctantly settled in the restaurant a little up, called Brasserie le Carnot. While checking the menu, I felt the urge to leave somehow – women have a better instinct and I have an extra foodinct – but seeing Cyrille already settled in and comfortable, I didn’t want to drag him, and not wanting to offend the enthusiastic and friendly waiter who was serving us. I stayed just for the waiter and suffered eating the worst boeuf bourguignon, the worst wine, the worst cheese platter, which was a collection of pasteurised cheeses, which was so unacceptable.
The only thing edible was the poached egg in wine sauce (oeufs en meurette). I couldn’t believe this place was packed with fancy looking tourists. My assumption that this place might have good reviews in a travel guide or on tripadvisor turned out to be true.
If you want to eat real beef bourguignon, you’d better stay away from that place and go to Le Bistro Bourguignon or the more traditional Brasserie in the square, which I’ve written about in here but I’ve forgotten the name of. Cyrille suggested we go to have another beef bourguignon in another place, just to compare and to make me happy, seeing I hardly touched the food there, but I suggested going to the bistro for a good glass of wine instead.
So we entered Le Bistro Bourguignon and were surprised how big and nice the place was, so different from outside. The food, when I took a sneaky peek at the plates of other people, walking through the bar and into the lounge room, looked very good, classy and…delicious – you just know it from the look. Well, another time. After ordering wines, which came with a tag with the wine name on it, we threw ourselves in the chic and relaxing atmosphere.
I really liked the people there, happier, freer and sophisticated. Suddenly, a woman started to play the piano and a man did the same. It seems to me that this place is a regular spot for local people to socialise and do a jam. I’ve just found out through the search that it is a venue for the festival Jazz à Beaune and Jazz concerts take place on Saturday nights. You can check here for more details.
We might have missed the jazz night but we caught the market the next day. It was a big market, full of gourmet produce. Tasting truffles first thing in the morning wasn’t the best idea. So I quickly moved to cheese stalls.
Oh, what a beautiful piece of Beaufort! It almost beat the Comte I got in taste, but not quite.
We did some shopping to take home with us as we were heading back home the same day. We got oysters, sausages, garlic, cheese, etc.
These pumpkins look really funny as if they were for decoration rather than for cooking.
Leaving the beautiful scenery behind, we headed back home, fully stocked up with wines and cheeses that will get us by some time until the next visit. See you next time! I hope the next visit will be in summer when the vines are all green and bearing grapes. That would be really nice……..
- Bailly Lapierre Crémant de Bourgogne (annandalecellars.wordpress.com)
- Domain Parent Pommard / Coteaux Bourgogne (thewinesleuth.co.uk)
- Domaine Fanny Sabre (wineterroirs.com)