In September a group of 20 of us enjoyed four days exploring the wines of Burgundy.
For the most part we stayed close to Beaune, but we were still able to experience a range of wines, and enjoy the hospitality of diverse vignerons, making this altogether a fabulous tour.
Our first visit, shortly after our arrival at Lyon Airport was in Beaujolais, at the quite extraordinary Chateau La Chaize, situated in the small village of Odenas. We were greeted by the owner, Madame Caroline de Roussy de Sales who gave us a wonderfully informative and fascinating introduction not only into the family estate but the wines they make.
Situated in the Brouilly AOC, Chateau La Chaize are leading the way in showing the top quality that can be achieved from the Gamay grape. We tasted a stunning 2015 rosé, a very approachable Brouilly 2014 and a deeply complex old vine 2013 Brouilly.
A short hop from the Chateau took us the restaurant Cote de Brouilly. A family run business, it was an absolute joy. We sat outside in their protected courtyard and drank a Macon-Chaintre with some smoked salmon, followed by guinea fowl in the most deliciously rich sauce. We managed to gulp down an amazing assiette gourmande with five different desserts before heading towards Beaune to settle in to our hotel before our second visit.
Domaine Drouhin is one of the big names in Burgundy and they occupy a central spot in Beaune itself with extensive old and historic cellars that sprawl underneath the town. Jacquie Morrison, who has been with Drouhin for many years, took us round and gave us a fascinating insight into the Roman origins of the cellar, the hiding of wines during WW2 and how the Drouhin negociant business has developed.
We finished off with an exceptional tasting of wines covering a broad cross spectrum of appellations, and illustrating the breadth and diversity that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are capable of.
Friday was devoted to one estate – Domaine Chanson.
Chanson are an extremely important negociant in Beaune and I have been dealing with their importer for a number of years.
I was therefore delighted to be able to organise a bespoke and private tour to the Bastion – one of five fortified buildings that protected Beaune in the Middle Ages.
Following a tour round the historic cellars and showed us the 8 metre thick walls that ensure a perfect temperature control, we tasted a superb selection of 10 wines that covered Chablis, the most northerly AOC, through to Pouilly-Fuissé in the far south. The tasting beautifully illustrated the subtle nuances from one area to the next and eminently reinforced the concept of terroir and its importance in understanding the region.
Finally, we enjoyed a stunning buffet lunch was then taken in a beautiful dining room accompanied by four magnificent 1er Cru wines that helped us to delve deeper into the wonderful expressions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
On Thursday and Friday nights people were free to sample the gastronomic delights of Beaune, but we luckily managed to retain some appetite, as Saturday was a massive day with three visits, a lunch, a dinner and 28 wines tasted!
Chateau de Santenay has great historical importance with winemaking history going back to the 9th Century. It was also here in the 14th Century that the incumbent Duke of Burgundy famously banned the ‘evil’ Gamay grape from his dominion.
We tasted seven wines focussing on the lesser known Mercurey wines and culminating in a Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru and a cheeky aged Marc de Bourgogne!
From the pretty village of Santenay we headed north of Beaune to the famed hamlet of Aloxe Corton. Famed for its Corton reds and very rare Corton-Charlemagne white, this is a very prestigious area of the Cote de Nuits. Our destination was a wonderfull, small, family estate called Comte Senard, oozing history, with old cellars dating back to the 17th Century. We headed in for a magnificent tasting lunch: parslied ham, boeuf bourguignonne with dauphinoise potatoes followed by a scintillating selection of perfectly kept cheese, with some utterly outrageous Epoisses the star.
The tasting line up was a glorious mix of Aligote, village wine, 1er cru and three superb Grand Crus, including the Corton Grand Cru 2001 Les Paulands.
We still had time to head further north towards Nuits St Georges and the village of Premeaux-Prissey. We met Beatrice Dubois of the family Domaine Dubois. This brought us back to reality as we got to grips with the trials and tribulations of a year dominated by frost and hail which has devastated their vineyards. The life of a vigneron is perhaps not as glamorous as is sometimes made out. We tasted a terrific array of eleven wines culminating in a Clos de Vougeot 2001.
Back to the hotel and a power nap ensued before heading to the Auberge du Cheval Noir for a delicious final dinner. Lobster, pigeon, epoisses and crème brulee was washed down with Monthelie Blanc and Chorey-les-Beaune, preceded by some Kir Royale.
After such a big day on Saturday, prior to our departure on Sunday we relaxed with a highly enjoyable guided visit of the famous Hospices de Beaune. Our guide Annie was great fun and really brought the history to life and revealed the importance of this institution to Beaune and Burgundy life.
It was altogether a fabulous trip, and I don’t intend to wait another 14 years before I return!
“Thank you for a fantastic few days in Burgundy. We tasted an exciting variety of wines, the highlight for us being the visit to Domaine Chanson, we found the content of the tour perfect and with your help we learnt more about Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines and we look forward to your next tour.” – Judy and Joe Brett, Ruislip