The city of Beaune is a delight to visit with its old walled center, cobblestones, quaint shops, and wonderful restaurants. I was able to wander around the Hospices and see the amazing multi-colored tile roof and intricate architecture (see photo). I had two wonderful dinners in town – the first in a charming restaurant with melon colored walls where I had a tomato & zucchini gratin, veal, and a cream flan for dessert. The second was my birthday dinner with friends Eric and Mao in La Paradox restaurant. There I had the traditional Burgundy 4 course meal starting with escargot, then beef Bourgogne, cheese, and dessert. Of course all meals came with a wonderful glass of red burgundy – and sparkling Cremant de Bourgogne to start the meal on my birthday.
The first winery in the old town of Beaune was the famous Maison Champy with some of the oldest cellars dating from 1720. Eric and Mao joined me on my visits all day. Dimitri, the winemaker, immediately took us to the vineyards outside of town where we were impressed with the biodynamic practices they were implementing. Next we tasted 12 wines and toured the ancient cellars. All of Dimitri’s wines are very international in style with pronounced tropical fruit and creamy lees in the whites and soft cherry and spice in the reds. Maison Champy is very successful in selling their wines around the world. We tasted through Beaune village, Pernard Vergelesse, Savigny Les Beaunes, Pommards, Volnays, St. Romain, Meursault, and ended with a fabulous 2006 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru. This had a very long finish, pineapple, mango, minerals, and vanilla.
A second winery in Cote d’Beaune was Domaine Rollin Pere et Fils in the small village of Pernaud Vergelesse. Here the owner only spoke French, so it was nice to have Eric there to translate. Again we started in the vineyards and toured the cellars. We enjoyed seeing how he tested the barrels to see if malolactic was finished and kept track of everything on a large wall chart. The wines were lovely and I purchased a 2005 red Premier Cru which was both elegant and fruity for $17E. I was torn because the whites were exquisite with a streak of pure minerality and acid dancing around the apple/pear fruit – but I can only take so much wine back on the plane. Remy also let us taste a 2006 Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne (he owns an excellent parcel in this vineyard) and a 1986 Pernaud Vergelesse out of magnum. He sold about 35% of his wine direct from his cellar, so this was a great place for visitors to stop, taste, and purchase. So many of the famous wineries do not have wine to purchase as they export most of it and sell only through brokers and negotiants.
The last winery I visited in Beaune was the 3rd largest winery in France – Maison Bouchart-Aine. Cecile at Sopexa was kind enough to obtain an invitation for me to attend a lovely wine & food pairing there at 6pm. They had a fascinating sensory tour consisting of aromas to smell, textures (fabrics to feel), and colors to see – all reflecting wine. The pairings were quite unique, and we started with red wines paired primarily with seafood – such as my favorite: 2003 Grand Cru Echezeaux paired with lobster – and ended with whites paired with meat. Rather avante-guard – but perhaps they were trying to be controversial in trying unique new pairings. All of the wine and food was lovely. Nathalie, the PR director, gave me two of their famous wine posters of aromas and colors in wine glasses to share with my students. A very thoughtful and useful gift.
A final note on wine-tasting in France: at least 6 of the wineries I visited in both Burgundy and Bordeaux began the tasting with reds and ended with whites. This is completely opposite of what we do in the US, but they all insisted it is a better way to taste, because the crisp acidity and fresh fruit of the dry whites cleanses your palate after the big tannic reds. Guess what – it actually worked quite well! Perhaps we should reconsider our tasting order in the US.