I’m off to Burgundy… WOO! In 2008 I undertook a glorious wine study tour. Mosel, Burgundy, Jura, Alsace, Paris (we drank a lot of wine there) and Champagne. I learnt a lot and I loved every second of it. Except the flying. People with sleeping tablets blocking aisles, first experiences with jet lag and on the way home jet streams and plane germs. Whatever happened to the paddle steamers?
When most people talk about Burgundy they are talking about the classic part of Burgundy known as the Cote D’Or (the slope of gold). When you visit there it is essentially one vineyard that is 60km long and maybe 5km at its widest. From this limestone ridge some of the most complex, long-lived and aromatic wines are produced from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Cistercian monks who owned the land codified the entire region and so each small plot has a name. This was the birth of Terroir and nowhere else has this level of detail been replicated.
Burgundy is a divine slippery slope of wine consumption that leads to obsession. Nailing down regional, village and vineyard flavours is a must and the journey is the best kind of fun you can have. To explain the region in full would take a few long visits with a lot of wine and food consumed. Let’s do that…
The first written evidence of the vine being in Burgundy was produced in 312. It is thought Burgundy was first planted to the grape-vine under the Gallo-Romans during the first or second Century. In the 11th Century the monks of Cluny and Citeaux started to work the vines and map out the region’s vineyards. By the 15th Century the Dukes of Burgundy were starting to market wines to Europe. The French revolution during the 18th Century saw the redistribution of the goods belonging to the Church and aristocracy. In 1936 The Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée was introducted. By 2013 there were 3800 wine growers, 250 merchants and 23 co-operatives.
In 2011 when I started TWD I resigned myself to knowing I wouldn’t be going back in the near future
But always knew I’d never be happy if I never got to see Burgundy again. It was as close as I’ll ever get to having a religious experience. And the cheese! Abbaye de Citeaux I hope you remember me because I sure remember you. I even drove to the shop. But during the line siesta, and no one would let me in.
Then while sitting at the Make A Wish ball last year some friends said (after a few drinks) “take us to Burgundy Phil”. I chuckled and said anything is possible. After some research on prices, I floated the idea again when everyone was sober. Here I am now, 19 days before I take off with 4 other people and another 4 will join us in Base Camp Beaune.
The whole point of this trip is to learn as much as humanly possible about Burgundy.
To fully understand the region you have to get your head around:
- The culture
- The wines
- The vineyards and
- The food. And the cheese. Especially the Abbaye de Citeaux. We’re going to the shop at the Abbey. When it is open. To maximise our time we are going to spread our attention across all of the aspects of life.
To do that properly you have to spend time enjoying each aspect on its own. Spending a whole day in cellars tasting wines from barrel is good but it takes away three other factors of understanding. And it can get a bit boring (yes, even in Burgundy!).
The mission then, is to maximise exposure to each factor and hopefully drive away with a greater understanding of the special place that Burgundy is. But also not cram too much in so it’s relaxing and fun and we don’t miss an opportunity that may arise if we had to run off to another appointment.
Arriving on Saturday 23rd April (my birthday mind you). We’ll settle into Base Camp Beaune and drink some lovely wine. One of my Burgundian friends promised me a birth year (1982) bottle of Le Chambertin next time I visited. I’ll be doing my best to encourage her to make good on that promise.
Sunday is our first chance to have petit dejeuner, a real highlight of my trip last time I have to admit. So much pastry. Yum. Then a trip along the route des Grand Cru. We’ll go from top to bottom and see all of the iconic vineyards. And stocking up on wonderful food for the week that is to come. Stocking up on wine will be a priority too. And cheese…
Monday will be when the serious study takes place.
A cellar visit each morning from Monday to Friday. We’ll visit producers in Chablis, Macon, Chassagne, Pernand Vergelesses and Nuits St Georges. Each producer will show us a different style that is classic to the region. Then after tasting their beautiful wines we’ll be off for lunch. Following lunch will be a more structured look at the vineyards we’ve just tasted. And that is where we learn the why. We all are already sold up, passionate Burgundy lovers but the real mystery, that can only be unlocked with a visit, is why does this vineyard taste so different to that one even though they are next to each other or very close?
Seeing the vineyards and the way they sit on and interact with the land around them, that is where I started to understand a lot more about the wines of the region. And that is why I am going back.
Want to join me in Burgundy in 2017? Send me an email.