Bienvenue Beaune

The world of  wine is a broad and wonderful spectrum; rich, full reds from Bordeaux, crisp complex Riesling from Alsace, luscious Chardonnays from California and elegant sparkling wines from Champagne. Yet few wine regions conjure the excitement and passion that enthusiasts and wine lovers alike have for Burgundy; the golden slope where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines thrive.

Age old debates have ensued over which region produces the ultimate French wine, Bordeaux or Burgundy, yet after a visit to this hallowed region, any doubt is often immediately removed.

Pinot Noir for Breakfast at Gachot Monot

Today we began our trip through the  heralded wine region of Burgundy, home to some of the worlds best Chardonnays and most complex Pinot Noirs.  Our visit began at 9am with a visit to Gachot Monot (a small producer based in Corgolion). Damien Monot, the son of Gachot, runs the domaine with his wife Liselotte, and produces wines from the Cote du Nuits. Known for producing wines of exceptional value (their Cote du Nuits Villages is a must try) this small domaine is a true example of the wines we love to carry in the shop. The vineyard (pictured above) is tended by hand and cared for with minimal sprays (they could soon be certified biodyamic) and the people behind the wines are genuine and passionate about producing wine with a focus on quality rather than quantity. A fun and relaxed tasting, Damien was an excellent host and a great introduction to Burgundy; he even walked us through his vineyards and introduced us to his vineyard team!

Barrel Tasting at Robert Chevillon

Bertrand Chevillon with Alanna and Caroline

Not unlike our own wine industry (where our winemakers collaborate on wines and spend time together socially), the Burgundian wine scene is also extremely close and well connected. During our visit with Damien Monot we mentioned we would be headed off to Robert Chevillon after we concluded. Damien was quick to inform us that Bertrand (proprietor and son of Robert Chevillon) was a dear friend and close colleague whom he respected dearly. The connection immediately made a large and complex area feel a little bit smaller and a little less daunting.

The visit to Chevillon did not disappoint.  Upon arrival, we were greeted with an additional surprise… a barrel tasting. Barrel tastings consist of trying a wine directly from the barrel prior to bottling.  These tastings provide an interesting look into a wine’s potential early in its lifetime.

Barrel after barrel, Bertrand led us through his exceptional lineup of premier cru wines from Nuits St Georges. Thankfully Caroline and Alanna had worked on their French prior to our trip and were able to converse and translate exceptionally; an extremely valuable asset when trying to understand the complexity of 1er Cru Nuits St. Georges wine from someone who spoke virtually no English (Thanks ladies!).

Finishing the Day with Luc Bouchard

No visit to Beaune is complete without a visit to the cellars of Bouchard Pere et Fils. Founded in 1731, the Bouchard family has played a central role in Burgundian wines sales and production for several centuries. Our visit began with a historical briefing while standing 10 metres under the city in one of Bouchard’s historic wine cellars. Bouchard Pere et Fils has over 4km (yes 4km!!!) of wine cellars under the city of Beaune – holding over 3 million bottles of wine;  a number so large it’s nearly impossible to fathom.

As we made our way through the damp cellars (every corner was filled with neatly stacked bottles) we were eventually led to the museum portion of the cellar. It was here that our guide pointed to thousands of bottles from the 19th century, including the oldest bottles in the cellar; Meursault Charmes from 1846 (see picture below). Needless to say, to be in the presence of wines this old was truly a memorable experience that we’ll never forget.

After making our way through the centuries old bottles, we found ourselves in one of the four remaining towers of the Bouchard castle. It was here where we met Luc Bouchard to taste through a lineup of wines from Burgundy and Chablis (unknown to many – William Fevre, the exceptional Chablis domaine, is owned by the same company that owns Bouchard). The wines showed extraordinarily, especially the white wines from 2010. The 2010 vintage was 30% smaller than normal due to a cold snap during the flowering period, resulting in fewer grapes, yet producing wines of great concentration and flavor.

What an amazing day in Burgundy! Alanna, Caroline and myself can’t wait for Thursday, where our travels will take us north to Vezlay (an area renowned for white wines), as well as a visit to the Burgundy wine museum and the Hospices de Beaune.

Cheers from Burgundy and stay tuned for more travel stories as we venture throughout Europe to find new and exciting wine.

Matt