By Brett Jones
I always enjoy visiting Chalon-sur-Saône, a bustling city in Southern Burgundy, with a calm centre that straddles the river, the Cathedral Square on one side and Rue de Strasbourg, a street replete with restaurants, on the other bank.
We recently visited Burgundy during the Grands Jours de Bourgogne where wine tastings are organised in different regions of the area. After the giddy heights of the major appellations it was refreshing to reach this gentler area, the Côte Chalonnaise, where the vineyards are interspersed with fields of cows, chickens and other animals in La Bresse.
There is a good choice of restaurants and bars. Near the cathedral is the Rotisserie St-Vincent offering a classic, local menu.
For simpler fare you can try 120 Vins wine bar (say it in French: Cent Vingt pronounced Son Vin…).
You choose from a blackboard wine list, which not only specialises in the wines of the Côte Chalonnaise but other parts of France. When we were there we stayed local, choosing a Givry Clos des Vignes Rondes, Domaine François Lumpp 2008. It went well with a plate of local ham and cheese which was a pleasant respite after all our serious meals of the previous days!
The Rue de Strasbourg, on the other side of the river, is lined with restaurants from quite grand to simple.
We have enjoyed lunch a couple of times at Le Bistrot were the owner cooks and his wife looks after the restaurant. Small, very informal with short, but perfectly formed menus. In the summer you can eat outside on the car-free street.
In the centre of town you can indulge yourself in chocolate heaven at Allex Pâtissier-Chocolatier, whose window displays entice you to buy even if you are full up after a good meal!
The next day we travelled to the wine village of Rully where we were intrigued by the number of large, indeed very large houses in this village. Appararently in the late 19th century with the arrival of the railways, a branch line was built from Chalon, and a number of wealthy burghers built country houses in Rully, to enjoy its mild climate.
We ‘discovered’ a new restaurant in the heart of the wine town of Rully, La Grange.
Here in the converted stables of the Château Saint Michel, chef Ludovic Briday, who was at the famous Lameloise restaurant in Chagny just to the north, offers a choice of menus as well as à la carte. The wine list, as one would expect in the heart of wine country, is focussed on good local wines with a few by the glass, selected to complement the food.
Although La Grange is bang opposite Domaine Anne and Jean-François Delorme we decided to visit Domaine Brelière as I had just met the ebullient owners, Jean-Claude and Anna, at the regional tasting a couple of days earlier.
They own seven hectares of vines producing a selection of wines organically, including Crémant de Bourgogne as well as Premiers Crus, all of which can be tried in their charming small tasting room.
We enjoyed this visit to the Côte Chalonnaise, appreciating the softer, calmer aspect of one of the classic wine regions of France, and Wink used our visit as the basis to update and refresh our Wine Travel Guide to this area.