I don’t know a better way to spend a day than in one of Burgundy’s five wine regions Cote de Beaune…the world’s finest producer of Chardonnay. For those of you that know me, it wasn’t by chance!
Beaune is just 20 minutes by train from Dijon, so easy to get too. We were met by our cycling enthusiast and well-connected local guide, Garcenot. His trailer was laden with bikes ready to take on the 25 kilometre ride through the villages and vineyards stopping for tastings and lunch.
As we got going the beauty of the countryside unravelled like a fairy-tale. It’s what I dream of when I think of small French villages.
This is what I learnt…
- Cote de Beaune produces such incredible wines because of its terrior – environmental factors. It is set in part of a limestone escarpment giving the wine its greatness. Nowhere else in the world is there such a concentration of limestone combined with the slope of the hills and unusual climate.
- The slope of the hill defines the quality of the grape. Grand Cru are grown at the top of the slope, then Premier Cru and finally the quaffing grapes at the bottom. This is because of the drainage, sun and soil quality.
- Premier Cru vines are ploughed between the rows by horse, the grapes are hand-picked, hand sorted and 20% of the grapes are crushed by human feet… no wonder these wines are so expensive.
- The area produces only Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for which it is most famous. The wine label on each bottle does not state the grape variety as there is only Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown. If it’s red its Pinot Noir and if it’s white it’s Chardonnay. Instead, the label states the exact plot the grapes came from and the village. Where the grapes are grown really matters much more than the producer.
- Today, California and Burgundy compete intensely for the top Chardonnay’s in the world. Thirty plus years ago in May 1976, nine French judges stunned the wine world when the majority preferred an unknown Californian wine to the French wine in a famous blind tasting. It is known as the “Judgment of Paris” marking a turning point for the Napa Valley when a Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay took first place over its French rivals.
For great wine/biking tours in Cote de Beaune, Burgundy – get in touch with Garcenot Florian – firstname.lastname@example.org