Oh Burgundy, the good life indeed. We explored the Côte D'Or, based in the darling town of Beaune and sampling all the regional specialities.
First, the wine. The Côte D'Or grows two types of grapes: pinot noir and chardonnay, and in Burgundy wine is all about terroir. The small region (with about 1/10 the production of Bordeaux) is justifiably famous for its wines and produces some of the world's most exclusive and expensive appellations (Google Richebourg or Romanee Conti if curious). Fascinating, but not our style. Great wine from Burgundy doesn't have to be shockingly expensive. It's a matter of learning which specific towns / appellations that you prefer, and for example I have an appreciation for Corton Charlemagne, Nuit-Saint-Georges, and Mersault. We learned that some wine makers (particularly those that are smaller and focused on quality) make all their wines exactly the same regardless of the designation (i.e. Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Villages, or regional, in order beginning with the most prestigious) because the appellations in Burgundy are all based on the specific characteristics of each plot of land, not winemaking technique.
Then, the food. It's hearty, rustic fare like beef Bourguinon, escargot, and terrines, plus cheeses like the famously stinky Époisses and the more nuanced Comte. We spent a day learning to cook regional specialties and to appreciate Burgundy's bountiful produce at the Cook's Atelier, which is was a highlight of the whole trip and just heavenly. There's so much to share from the Cook's Atelier that it merits its own post, so tune in next week!
Seriously, how cute is Beaune?!? It's even darling in the rain (see below), which we didn't mind because, well, you have to keep those rolling hills green somehow. I would definitely recommend staying here on a trip to Burgundy. The ancient walled city is charming, it's accessible by train (we had a car but you wouldn't need one) and there are plenty of restaurants.
We ate at Le Caveau des Arches (well executed traditional dishes in one of Burgundy's many wine caves), Les Tontons (quirky wine bar), and Le Bénaton (a more haut cuisine take on local fare, with a Michelin star to prove it), all of which we would recommend. We also heard great things about La Lune and La Dilettante, which we would hope to try on a return visit.
Above: The Hospices of Beaune, also known as the Hôtel Dieu, which was founded as a hospital to care for the poor in 1443 and operated as a hospital until the 1970s. The original site is now a museum, and annually hosts a world-famous wine auction each November. The Hospices of Beaune are one of the town's main tourist attractions, and a vivid example of a traditional Burgundian roof.
We spent a day wine tasting along the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuit, and our favorite stop of the day was Domain Chapuis in Aloxe-Corton. The winemaker, Maurice Chapuis, is a gem, and he generously took time during the busy harvest season to introduce us to his wines and provide background on the region and its traditional winemaking methods. He conducted a tasting for us in the domain's 14th century cellar, and we were so taken with his wines (including some Grand Crus, the highest designation, and Premier Crus, the second highest designation) that we couldn't resist bringing some home.
Above: Vineyards with the town of Aloxe-Corton in the background. Below: Visiting with Maurice Chapuis, the winemaker at Domaine Chapuis, plus wine barrels and bottles being stored in the cave.
If you were asked to draw perfect grapes, I'm confident that's what they'd look like.
Hm does that dress look familiar? I told you that I wore it in France! ;)
Above: the town of Vougeot, where we had lunch at Au P'tit. If you find yourself there, the burger with Époisses is out of this world.
The vines were just dripping with giant clusters of grapes, ready to be harvested in a matter of days.
Ironwork, enormous windows, and a mansard roof. Le sigh.
I think the main thing we took away from Burgundy (ahem, aside from wine) was that we hope to return to Burgundy one day. Until then, we'll just have to settle for drinking wine from Bourgogne!