That blog title is purely for SEO purposes. We shall see if that picks up some more random readers. Shameless I know haha. Anyway, the France vacation kicked off Friday 6th September 2012 and ahead of us we had 11 days of exploring to do, hitting three famous wine regions – Burgundy, Rhone and Loire. The general plan was to explore, taste wine by the VAT load and eat large quantities of local food (mostly cheese) trying not to get fat in the process. I jest of course. But the travelling party – my parents, the lovely Jacki and yours truly- did intend to do our best for the French economy whilst we were here. It was the least we could do. And it started here in Beaune.
It is roughly five hours drive (above average speed) from Calais to Beaune and it is pretty much a stress free ride down the main auto routes of A26 and A4/5. As soon as you get past Troyes it starts to get pretty from the passenger standpoint, which didn’t affect me too much as I was sharing driving detail with my Dad. Still, approaching the area the vineyards start to appear on each side of the highway and you can tell you are entering a very picturesque region. The air conditioning in the new-ish Citroën was playing up and with the sun beating down through the large windscreen, it was a bit crotch pot cooking time for the driver and navs – so we weren’t hanging around the last 40 miles or so to get to our destination to refresh. We had reservations at Hotel Grillion, which is located just on the outskirts of Beaune, a brisk 15 minute walk into the town. It was well signposted and very welcoming as we parked up and checked in. The hotel was very clean, friendly and accommodating to my request for cold beer within 5 minutes of arriving. The rooms (that we had) were small and basic, but perfect for a short two night stay where we will be out and about most of the time anyway. Bathrooms were modern but as you will find out on Trip Advisor, many small boutique hotels in France do not have proper showers and ours was the same, with no bath curtain or door to prevent major water spillage from the shower hose. The trick was to get in there before Jacki. What a Gentleman I am.
Beaune is pretty much considered the wine capital of Burgundy and it is a delightful town, both architecturally and visually. We took a stroll into the historic walled city as soon as I had finished a couple of beers as we had a reservation at Le Cheval Noir for 7.30pm. The restaurant was very nice, open concept and well lit and we started our 11-day wine journey with a very cheeky Auxey –Duresses 2008 (Chardonnay). The food was very well presented but we were a little confused with the menu. Jacki didn’t get what she thought she was ordering (there is a significant learning point here I think) but she tucked in nevertheless. Frogs legs aren’t all that bad to be honest. And it gave me a good photo opportunity to the horror of my mother. Cheese tray was great, bottle of Joseph Drouhin Cote de Beaune (Pinot Noir) not so much. Still, a good start to the evening – and we capped it off with a stroll through the main central square to look at the Hospices de Beaune lit up at night. Photo doesn’t really do it justice (so I took it out) but it is a breath taking building and worth a visit if you come here (we had a tour the following day). Wikipedia can tell you all about the gaff and it history.
The next morning, after flooding our respective bathrooms, we headed out for a drive through some of the local villages surrounding Beaune, such as Volnay (very famous for their wines), Monthelie, Saint Romain and Meursault. All very easy on the eye and camera data card. In Meursault, we stopped off to tour the Chateau and its 800,000 strong wine cellar (it was 11.45am and we were thirsty) and it was an amazing experience. The self guided tour was sufficient to learn about the history and importance of this wine producing giant and to enjoy writing ones name in bottle dust, especially in the 1996 vintage. The tour ends with a tasting of seven wines, including Savigny les Peuillies (purchased a couple of bottles of this), Pommard and Volnay. We even got some free glasses out of it at the POS – there is such thing as a free glass – one cannot complain (well one can and I do frequently – it is an age thing). Obviously, the Burgundy region is very famous for its wines – Pinot Noir the dominant grape for the Reds and Chardonnay the kingpin for the Whites. Neither of which are among my favourites. However, I was surprised as to how much I enjoyed the Savigny Blanc. You live and you learn.
After this, we raced towards a recommended sparkling wine winery: Veuve Ambal. Now Burgundy sparkling wine obviously cannot be call Champagne but I tell you this much – the NV Brut we tried was excellent and at a price of less than a third of famous makers as Moet and Veuve Clicqout, extremely good value (e.g. less than 10 Euros a bottle). We were all over that like Mitt Romney and his binder full of women.
Later that evening, we headed back into the town of Beaune and ate at Le P’tit Paradis restaurant on Rue du Paradis, just behind the Hospice. Food was pretty good and we enjoyed a couple of bottles of Chablis too. But it was to be a relatively early night the next day involved the drive down through the Rhone Valley towards Gigondas, our next port of call.
We thoroughly enjoyed Beaune and the surrounding areas (and let’s face it, we only explored 0.05% of the area) and would love to come back.
Coming soon – Gigondas & Southern Rhone: