Visiting the Quieter Part of Burgundy

August 17, 2010

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.

300093 PANORAMA Cathedral, Chalons sur Saone, Burgundy 25 Mar 10

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.

300095 Rotisserie St Vincent, Chalons sur Saone, Burgundy 25 Mar 10

There is a good choice of restaurants and bars. Near the cathedral is the Rotisserie St-Vincent offering a classic, local menu.

300145 120 Wine Bar, Chalons sur Saone, Burgundy 25 Mar 10

For simpler fare you can try 120 Vins wine bar (say it in French: Cent Vingt pronounced Son Vin…).

300152 120 Wine Bar, Chalons sur Saone, Burgundy 25 Mar 10

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.

300110 Le Bistrot, Chalons sur Saone, Burgundy 25 Mar 10

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.

300125 Chocolatier Allex, Chalons sur Saone, Burgundy 25 Mar 10

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!

400084 Rully, Burgundy 26 Mar 10

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.

400037 Lunch, La Grange, Rully, Burgundy 26 Mar 10400039 Lunch, La Grange, Rully, Burgundy 26 Mar 10

We ‘discovered’ a new restaurant in the heart of the wine town of Rully, La Grange.

View 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.

400065 Dom la Breliere, Rully, Burgundy 26 Mar 10

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.

400072 Dom la Breliere, Rully, Burgundy 26 Mar 10

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Driving Down the Road of Grand Cru Legends

April 15, 2010

By Wink Lorch

Domaine d'Ardhuy, Côte de Nuits

There’s a road in France that always makes my heart beat a little faster, the first time I drove down it I was just 17, which is more years ago than I care to reveal. My friends with whom I was heading south from England on a European camping holiday, couldn’t understand my excitement. Look, I pointed – Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-St-Denis, Vougeot, Nuits-St-Georges … I simply couldn’t believe all those amazing wine names were flashing by us so quickly, one after another.

I knew the names, because my big sister ran a conference centre, and used to bring home wines to sample, often Burgundies, usually from one of the big négociants that exported to the UK. I’d tasted Gevrey-Chambertin and Nuits-St-Georges several times, and already acquired a taste for them, which I confess I’ve never lost! Recently, not only did I drive down that road again, but by pure chance shortly on our return, I was invited to dinner and served a sublime 1999 Mazis Chambertin. As a wine professional I don’t admit to favourite wines, but it’s true a little of my heart always belongs to red Burgundy and the road through the vineyards looks beautiful to me whatever the season.

Real wine touring isn’t just about appointments to taste wines at the producers interspersed with restaurant meals and shopping, it’s about breathing in the air and the scenery around – if you like, call it absorbing the terroir, in the broadest sense of that difficult word. Terroir, much talked about on other blogs and articles, to me encompasses the feeling of a place, not just its soil, climate and location. Do schedule in time on your next wine tour to take a walk or a drive through the vineyards or better still, both.

View from the Route des Grands Crus © Brett Jones

Back to Burgundy and more specifically, the Côte de Nuits which is the part of the Côte d’Or (the so-called Golden Slope) that runs from just south of Dijon to Beaune. First-time wine lovers to Burgundy tend to make a beeline to Beaune, and a fine city it is too, but recently I drove north from there to rediscover the wine villages and towns that are home to some of the greatest Pinot Noir wines. As you head north on the main D774 (formerly the famous N74), you will see the best vineyards on the warm south-east facing slopes, on your left. The more interesting and officially sign-posted Route des Grands Crus takes the smaller roads through the villages just up the hill.

Quite a busy thoroughfare, the town of Nuits Saint Georges is home to several of the large Burgundy merchants and you can taste at the Moillard shop for example, which is on the main road. Visit at quieter times and you will receive a good introduction here to the difference between the complicated Burgundy quality levels of Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru. There’s a pleasant shopping street in Nuits too with several wine shops, and I was particularly taken with a food shop called Fruirouge with tasty farm-produced jams, syrups and ideal gifts for foodies.

From Nuits, drive north through the vineyards and make a first stop to play homage to the Grands Crus vineyards above the village of Vosne-Romanée. In particular you can seek out the walled vineyard of Romanée-Conti, producing the most expensive Burgundy of all. Then drive on a little further to take a look at the quite spectacular Château du Clos de Vougeot surrounded by vineyards. If you decide to go in and visit, try to imagine the courtyard and buildings filled with the Chevaliers du Tastevins, dressed up in their red robes – quite a scene.

Sculpture, Gevrey-Chambertin © Brett Jones

Gevrey-Chambertin (originally named Gevrey, but then, like many other Burgundy towns and villages,it added on the name of its most famous vineyard) is a quiet town with an old part up the hill. You’ll catch sight of views through to the vineyards and as you drive up through the middle there is a really interesting modern metal sculpture in the form of four gates, honouring the traditional winegrowing crafts. It was installed in the year 2000 to celebrate the village hosting the winter wine festival of St-Vincent held in a different village each year. Gevrey has a couple of wine producers you can visit in the town and an excellent restaurant with wine shop next door named Chez Guy. I ate the most superb traditional Burgundy dish there of melt-in-the-mouth beef cheek, braised in local red wine of course.

Driving back down to Beaune, south of Nuits-St-Georges we visited a wine estate with a fine house at the end of tree-lined drive just off the main road. Domaine d’Ardhuy is home to the wine of Clos de Langres, a ‘Monopole’ meaning the domaine owns the vineyard outright. A vineyard named ‘clos’ has a wall around it and here the other side of the wall is where the Côte de Beaune begins. Domaine d’Ardhuy produce a range of red and white Burgundies of good quality at all levels but the Clos de Langres is a simple appellation Côte de Nuits Villages, that tastes as good as most Premiers Crus. You can visit the shop at any time, visit the old cellar and pay a small fee to taste.

The Route des Grands Crus meanders all the way through both the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune. If you love Burgundy, it’s well worth a pilgrimage to travel this road, it will remain in your mind whenever you taste the wines back home.

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The first National Wine Tourism Awards from France

February 1, 2010

Last week the French minister of tourism presented the first ‘Prix National de l’Oenotourisme’ – wine tourism awards in four different categories and I’m delighted to say that all of them are already included in Wine Travel Guides! There were 260 entrants in all and I would love to get hold of that list. In the meantime, the winners are as follows:

The winners receive a plaque and also – apparently – public relations help with promoting the award. (Needless to say no-one has yet officially contacted Wine Travel Guides about these awards).

Source des Caudalies

As these were the first ever awards, the wine tourism council decided to mention four family wine producers they consider to be pioneers in wine tourism. These producers will also help on the council, which was only formed last year.

These last four recognitions demonstrate to me quite simply the public relations power of certain wine families in France. I will say no more except that there are other pioneers that could have been selected – let’s hope they will enter next year’s competition and receive just recompense.

The only other similar awards that I know of in Europe are the Great Wine Capitals Awards and these of course only cover one city/wine region per country so, in France that’s Bordeaux.

I do hope these awards encourage more French wine producers to fully embrace the potential of wine tourism. The next task of France’s wine tourism council is to create a new seal of approval awarded to those who fulfil certain designated standards of wine tourism. Applications are being called for now.

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The Weekly Twitter Quiz #4 – Mercurey in Burgundy

January 28, 2009

mercurey-labelMercurey is one of the 5 village appellations in the Côte Chalonnaise district of Burgundy – an area that can offer outstanding value Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. Most wine lovers are more likely to know red Mercurey, but the appellation rules allows white to be produced, though only just over 10% is white. There are no less than 32 Premiers Crus vineyards of which Clos l’Evèque is the best known.

Our Côte Chalonnaise guide recommends visiting the rather smart Domaine de Suremain in Mercurey. Burgundy-based specialist Jean-Pierre Renard writes:
A sizeable wine estate with 20ha of vineyards, the Domaine de Suremain at Château de Bourgneuf produces mainly red wines (90%) from Mercurey and Mercurey Premier Cru. Traditionally made, and aged in oak barrels (with 10-15% new barrels), they are very classic, of excellent quality and will age well.

You can even stay in the wine village of Mercurey at the modest, traditional 3-star l’Hôtellerie du Val d’Or, which would make a great base for a couple of day’s wine tour of the Côte Chalonnaise.

Congratulations to traveler-photographer-writer Lanora of Chicago who correctly identified the appellation and wins a PDF wine travel guide of her choice.

Follow me on Twitter for updates on the guides, new recommendations, random thoughts and of course, to enter the weekly Twitter Quiz.

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