If I had to pick one wine, and only one wine to drink over the remainder of my days, it would be a toss up between pinot noir from Burgundy or the effervescent bubbly from Champagne. Coincidentally, on our visit to France this spring, we spent a couple of days touring these respective wine regions to help me solve this dilemma to which there really isn’t a wrong answer. I’ll leave the account of a day in and around Reims tasting world class Champagne for another post… this one is all about a spectacular day spent in Burgundy.
We took an early morning train from Lyon to Beaune and waiting for us at the quaint station was Patrick, an expert on all things Burgundy. He was our guide for the day and after some quick hellos and a sketch of our plans, we got into the back of his car to make our way to Auxey-Duresses for our first tasting and visit with a winemaker.
It couldn’t have been a better start to the day. Michel Prunier warmly welcomed us into his small facility. Although Patrick was available to translate where needed, Michel spoke in French slowly and we followed along except for the most technical of winemaking jargon. Michel explained his winery and its 5 generation family history and spent some time showing us the small batch of bubbly he makes each year in addition to his pinot noir.
It was great to have a guide and a driver for the day as it let us sample liberally. Michel’s Crémant de Bourgogne was refreshing with a nice touch of minerality and would make a great aperitif. His pinots were lovely – delicate, nuanced and unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. We sampled three Premier Cru wines which made me feel I could have decided to live in his cellar the remainder of my days. Fruit forward, light and crisp, we liked the 2014 Auxey-Duresses the best and purchased a bottle to take with us.
Michel was a character and we were sad to leave him behind. He was a charming man and I would have loved to spend the afternoon sipping wine and chatting with him. Hopping in the car, we drove through the stunning countryside to our next stop.
Interestingly, the next stop was to meet another winemaker, Perine, in her plot of vines. She explained the terroir here and how a difference of less than 100m can mean a significant difference in the quality of the grapes.
Getting back in the car with Patrick, we followed Perine to her family winery, Domaine de la Choupette in Santenay for some tastings. All of her wines were lovely – approachable, delicate and easy drinking. We selected her Cassagne-Montrachet 2015 to enjoy later on our trip back in Lyon. Even on this day trip I was starting to daydream of sipping our selection in a park later on our vacation.
One of the best things about organizing our day through Patrick was being able to visit small, relatively off the beaten path wineries. These weren’t large companies making wine, they were families who had been doing it for generations, and getting a window into their lives and operations will be something that I’ll always remember about this day.
Something else I loved about this day in Burgundy, was simply looking out the window as we chatted about wine and food with Patrick while he toured us through vineyards and small towns between our tastings and visits. We had completely lucked out with an unseasonably warm 22C day in mid March as the backdrop to our day in Burgundy.
There isn’t a lot of activity in the vineyards in March, but in Meursault and a few other small towns we saw some pruning and burning of the vines taking place.
After a relaxed and leisurely lunch of terrine, grilled pork with mustard, potatoes and cream and a café, we made our way to our last stop in Fussey in Hautes-Côtes de Beaune. We enjoyed another nice chat with winemaker Nadine Marcillet and sampled 5 of her wines in the 200 year old cellars and (you guessed it) picked up a bottle to take with us that would end up being enjoyed back in Paris near the end of our trip.
The wines were nice, but this Crème de Cassis de Bourgogne was mind-blowing. Made by a neighbour, the blackcurrant flavour was so pure and full that I found myself closing my eyes and savouring each sip. I ate and drank some amazing things over two weeks in France, and this was right at the top of my list.
Patrick drove us back down in Beaune and to the station for us to catch our train into Lyon. As we stood on the platform waiting for our train, every so often you would hear the clink of the wine bottles we purchased. Those would be delicious souvenirs and memories from a great day in Burgundy.