After our virtual wine trip to Bordeaux in our last blog post, this time round we’re taking our wine club members on a visit to Burgundy! Burgundy is a charming rural region of France which is packed with gorgeous medieval towns, dreamy canals and rolling hills speckled with vines as far as the eye can see. Fall is a fantastic time to visit Burgundy as the leaves change color and locals start cooking up delicious seasonal specialities made with truffles, the famed poultry from Bresse, and earthy mushroom and game dishes.
Fall in Burgundy
The first place where you’ll fall in love with Burgundy is the region’s capital, Dijon. Blessed with immense wealth under the Duchy of Burgundy during the 14th and 15th centuries, the city is liberally studded with enchanting medieval buildings everywhere you look. It is well worth spending a half day or so simply wandering the streets and soaking up the atmosphere in the crisp fall light, stopping off for a glass of wine or coffee as the evening starts to draw in.
Dijon is also a great place to immerse yourself in Burgundy’s exquisite gourmet scene. The city is famed for its delicious mustard which can be bought in specialist shops like Edmond Fallot. Another regional speciality is Boeuf bourguignon, the hearty stew which is traditionally made using bottle of red Burgundy plus another glass or two to accompany the dish! Cheese lovers should also try Epoisses, a particularly strong-flavoured rind-washed specimen and pairs brilliantly with Burgundy’s crisp Chablis white wines.
Once you’ve eaten and drunk your fill of hearty Burgundian fare, be sure to visit some of the region’s vineyards to enjoy the spectacular displays of fall colors. If you are limited on time, it is probably best to focus your trip on the Côte de Beaune which is famed for its top white wines and the Côte de Nuits which is better known for Pinot Noir. Stop off along the way to enjoy charming villages like Meursault which is famed for its white wines and Vézelay which is a UNESCO Heritage Site known for its stunning Romanesque basilica and ancient ramparts.
Festivals & Events
The beginning of fall is a busy time of year in Burgundy as the grape harvest comes to an end and producers race to bring in all their crop before the weather turns. After all this frenzied activity, the locals celebrate the harvest with a glut of festivals and events making the most of local produce. In Chalon-sur-Saône the Paulée marks the end of the harvest in mid-October. The name refers to the very last shovel of grapes that goes into the wine press and festivities include a gourmet feast typically prepared by a top French chef, plenty of wine tastings, and concerts.
In mid-November the town of Beaune celebrates one of the world’s most famous wine events, the annual auction of wines at the Hospices (shown above) which raises money for local charities. The event brings together the great and good of the global wine industry who vie to get their hands on these excellent wines which are predominantly from Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards. Although busy, this is a great time to visit Beaune since there are exuberant street performances, tastings, gourmet food and even a half marathon to watch or participate in, depending on your energy levels!
Foodies shouldn’t miss the special truffle market held in November in the lovely medieval village of Noyers-sur-Serein. The event is organised by the Brotherhood of the Noyers Truffle and is famous throughout Burgundy for the quality of the local truffles. Highlights include the judging of the truffles as well as a farmers’ market selling regional specialities and delicious wines.
Our Favorite Burgundy Wines
While you let your mind wander the winding streets of Dijon and wander in the vineyards of Burgundy, why not treat yourself to a real taste of the region with a few of our favorite wines? Kicking things off with a delicious white, we highly recommend the delicious and complex Viré-Clessé 2018 from Domaine Michel. The domaine has been in the hands of the same family for six generations and today it is run by talented winemaker Franck, his nephew Vincent who looks after the vineyard, and Franck’s father Denis who takes care of the cattle on the family farm, which provide natural fertilizer for the vines. This reflects the Michel family’s philosophy of working in harmony with nature wherever possible and avoiding chemical pesticides and herbicides. The family also adopt a minimalist approach in the winery, fermenting the must and aging the young wine in stainless steel tanks without adding any commercial yeasts.
This creates ripe yet elegant wines with incredible purity of flavor. On the nose there are hints of ripe tropical fruit and citrus while the palate has a vibrant freshness with luscious pineapple and mango notes which linger long on the tongue. The Viré-Clessé great match for summery salads, roasted chicken or fish dishes served in a rich, creamy sauce! This delicious Chardonnay is a real steal given that many top Burgundies can easily cost double its price tag. Macon is known for producing great white wines which are still under the radar and thus offer amazing value for money.
Moving to the reds, next on our virtual Burgundy line-up is the Côteaux Bourguignons 2017 from Domaine Deveney-Mars. Coteaux Bourguignons is a brand-new appellation which was set up in 2011 to allow winemakers in Burgundy to use other indigenous grapes like Gamay. Under the rules of Burgundy’s other appellations red wines must be made from Pinot Noir and white wines from Chardonnay. This new label helps winemakers express their creativity and give greater diversity to Burgundy’s wine scene!
This stunning red is made by Domaine Deveney Mars, a fairly young winery founded by Lionel Deveney and Jeremy Mars (above). The duo began their project in 2014 with 30 hectares of vines in Bligny Les Beaune with Jeremy overseeing the winemaking and Lionel and his wife Severine taking care of the marketing and commercial side of the business. This is a vibrant, medium-bodied style of red wine which is ideal for year-round drinking thanks to its ripe fruity flavors and plenty of freshness. Why not try it with a generous platter of charcuterie or cheeses!
Our final stop on this virtual Burgundy wine tour is to Famille Picard who make our lovely Hautes Cotes de Beaunes 2016. This passionate winemaking family own a 85 hectare domaine set around the impressive and historic Château of Chassagne-Montrachet. Heading up the business is the talented Francine Picard who joined the family business in the 1990s. In recent years Francine has taken the domaine in a new direction by embracing biodynamic agricultural practices and strictly limiting the use of herbicides and pesticides in the vineyard.
This particular wine is from the village of Beaune which is known for its excellent red wines made from Burgundy’s classic Pinot Noir grape. The grapes are sourced from 50-year old vines grown on clay and limestone soils which are attentively harvested by hand to maximise quality. The young wine is aged in oak barrels for 10 months followed by another 5 months of ageing in neutral vats to add the final polish. And even if we say so ourselves, it’s absolutely stunning!