Burgundy by Request - Private Guided Tours in Burgundy
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St Vincent
Portes Ouvertes
Wine Tasting in Burgundy (Part 1)
Burgundian Hospitality


Climats de Bourgogne
Fete du village
Nuits Saint George
Portes Ouvertes
St Aubin
St Vincent
Wine tasting
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Burgundy Uncorked

St Vincent

January 22nd is St Vincent’s day and the traditional day for the pruning of the vineyards to start.  Last year I wrote about being a privileged guest at the private winemakers’ festival of St Vincent.

Not much is known about St Vincent, the patron saint of winegrowers although there are many legends about him.  However he is most likely their patron saint due to the play on words ‘vin’ wine and ‘cent’, one hundred, or from a Christians perspective it is the words ‘vin’ win and ‘sang’ blood that make the name of the Saint.

Chevaliers du TastevinMany of you will be more familiar with the St Vincent Tournante, held on the weekend following the 22 January, in one of the wine growing villages.  This year exceptionally, three towns are hosting the event simultaneously, Dijon, Nuits Saint Georges and Beaune in honour of the Climats of Burgundy.  It is part of the on-going campaign for the inclusion of the Climats of Burgundy on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

It’s probably a great year to visit this year as being held in three separate places, the visitors will be spread out a bit so it shouldn’t be as crowded.  It will also be more accessible as there are special trains running between the towns with a special price of 5€ for travel between them, this will also get you a discount of 3€ on the entry price of 15€.  If you have to come from further afield, the price is 7€ from all over Burgundy, again entitling you to a 3€ reduction on the entry price.

The entrance fee provides you with an engraved glass, a glass carrying pouch to hang around your neck and a bracelet of 7 tokens which you can exchange at each wine tasting stand.  Each town will have several ‘Pavilions’ representing seven themes and you have the opportunity to taste each theme, they are:
Chablis and the Yonne, Cote de Beaune, Cote Chalonnaise, le Maconnais, le Cote de Nuits, Crement de Bourgogne and regional Burgundy
St Vincent 2012 

This years St Vincent really is a fantastic opportunity to taste wine from all the regions of Burgundy in one day, not something that happens very often.
For those who can’t make it to the St Vincent Tournante next weekend, there is also the St Vincent de Beaune, held this weekend in Beaune, where you will be able to taste the wines of Beaune.

Happy Tasting

Portes Ouvertes

Oh how I love this time of year, the evenings are lighter, the days are getting warmer and this year the sun is shining already.  Everyone in Burgundy is coming out of the winter hibernation and there is a ‘Portes Ouvertes’ or ‘Fete du Village’ practically every weekend.

This weekend we had a choice of two events, a Portes Ouvertes at Chateau de la Velle in Meursault or the Fête du Bouzeron et du Persillé de Bourgogne
What a dilemma and what is the difference between them?  In general a Portes Ouvertes is held once a year by local businesses, it is literally, ‘open doors’ when everyone is welcome to have a browse around, with absolutely no obligation to purchase.  Not only do you get to browse but you often are able to see many parts of the company that are normally closed to the public, great if you are a bit curious like me!  So when you next see the signs – go ahead and have a look around, it’s the perfect way to go wine tasting if you feel as if you don’t want to interrupt.  And an extra bonus is that the wine is often being sold off at a discounted price and believe me, that doesn’t happen very often in Burgundy.
A Fête du Village in Burgundy is similar to a British village fete but a fete with a difference.  The difference is that you generally have to pay to enter the village – however in return you receive an engraved glass and a booklet of coupons.  You then amble around the village holding out your glass and a coupon at which ever wine tasting stand takes your fancy.  A slurping size portion of wine will be poured in to it for you to enjoy.
This gives you an excellent opportunity to try out several vignerons in the same village, all at the same time.  This means next time you are here, you can go direct to the vigneron to try out all of his wines, knowing that you are sure to like something and therefore sure to make a purchase.  Which will make you a welcome guest as the whole purpose of going wine tasting is to actually buy some wine - isn't it?
For a family eye view of the Fête du Bouzeron et du Persillé de Bourgogne, have a look at this blog.
For photos of the Portes Ouvertes at Chateau de la Velle in Meursault and the early bud burst, take a look here.
For professional photos of the same event, have at look at the photos by Jim Tanner of JETGRAPHICS, www.jetpix.fr

Wine Tasting in Burgundy (Part 1)

Wine tastingMany people dream of wine tasting in Burgundy.  Hopefully you are reading this page as you are either planning a holiday in Burgundy or passing through on the way south or to the Alps for a spot of skiing.  Whatever, one of the most usual reasons for visiting Burgundy is the legendary wine.  Although the wine is well known, what is not so well known is how to go about tasting this liquid treasure.  Considering there are over 4000 wine producers, where on earth do you start?  and it can be rather a daunting task to knock on a Frenchman's door and ask for a free taste of his wine! 

One of the simplest ways of doing it is to go with an established wine guide, either as part of a small group or booking your own guide.  A private guide will pick you up from your hotel, drive you into the vineyards, explain the principles of Burgundy wine, then take you directly to a producer or two, where you will taste a selection of wines.  You will be given a thorough explanation of the region, the terroir and the classification system used exclusively in Burgundy, a good guide will also teach you the difference between 'tasting' and just 'swallowing' - as we Brits tend to do!  Lunch in a recommended restaurant will follow, then another tasting in the afternoon before you are returned to your hotel, hopefully with a few bottles of wine on board.  Best of all, you haven't had to drive so you have been free to indulge yourself in the tastings.

Prefer to do it yourself?  Choose a producer from the list here, check out their information and if possible make an appointment.  If you are calling on spec, it is better to avoid Sundays, Bank Holidays and lunchtimes.  The reason for this is that the majority of winemakers in France are family concerns, so the wine tasting will be done by a member of the family.  The times noted above are family times and very important to French families, it is these little things that make France so different to the UK and why we love living here so much.

When you have chosen the time and the place, courtesy is very important.  Do not, go in and ask to simply taste wine, or worse, just say 'dégustation?'  It's most important to say 'Bonjour', no matter what your grasp of the French language, then ask if they speak English (assuming you don't speak French).  Once you have the language established, explain that you are looking for some local wine, do they have some to buy and would it be possible to taste it before you buy  it.  You will then probably be welcomed with open arms.
Too many foreigners just go in to the cellar, expecting to taste many wines for free and are then left wondering why they have not received a warm welcome.  Remember, this is the winemaker's livelihood, if he is not wine tasting with you he would be out in the vineyard working, in the cuverie checking the wine, bottling his wine or doing the marketing or the accounts.  It is only courteous to buy a bottle or two when the winemaker has interrupted his work time for you and lets face it, why on earth would you want to go wine tasting without actually buying any to enjoy later?

Burgundy Wine Tastings

Note: I'll go over how to taste in a later post

Burgundian Hospitality

What a way to start 2011! 

After being invited to participate in the St Vincent celebrations in the prestigious wine village of St Aubin in the Côte de Beaune, it would have been discourteous to turn it down.  All wine villages in Burgundy hold their own private St Vincent celebrations, the week before the St VincentTournante .  Tickets to these celebrations are not available to the general public as it is a traditional occasion similar to the old guild events in days gone by, however we were honoured by the host of this years St Vincent, in St Aubin, André Moingeon et Fils, and were absolutely delighted to accept. St Vincent is the patron saint of winegrowers and the 22nd of January is his official day.  Tradition has it that if it is a fine day, the winter is effectively over - or if it is cold, the winter will be a long cold one. A mass is always held, then a procession through the village, to transfer the statue of St Vincent from the home of the previous year's vigneron to the vigneron who has been chosen to hold him for the following year, thus passing on the blessing of a good year's harvest.  After this wonderful procession, with all the vignerons, the local dignitaries and their families (many children in traditional Burgundian dress) everyone is welcomed in the Salle des Fêtes for the speeches. 

So far, very traditional but Monsieur le Maire had some special news - St Aubin has officially applied to host the St Vincent Tournante in 2014, which will bring up to 40,000 visitors to the village for the weekend.  This news was welcomed by all the vignerons as it is a great opportunity to present their wines to a greater audience without leaving the region. If Sunday's hospitality and friendliness is anything to go by, the last weekend in January 2014, is a date to put in your diaries. 

It was now time to start the real celebrations, St Aubin Premier Cru, 2009 was served as an aperitif to everyone, along with a warm cakesalé, a mouth watering cross between a loaf and a savoury cake, made from various ingredients such as leek and peppers, lardons and gruyere and a melt in your mouth salmon.  Small gougères, a local speciality were also served; these are light, choux pastry balls, delicately flavoured with gruyere cheese and perfect to accompany wine tasting. In days of old, a pig was slaughtered and the families would sit down to a hog roast accompanied by the different wines from the wine makers own vineyards.  This year though it had been decided that a more varied menu would be served.

Quenelle de Crevettes sur son Pancake de Hommard, Réduction de Corail
Roti de Lotte dit <Lardé>, Crémeux de Pois Chiches, Dome de Butternut
Magret d’Oie légerèment Fumé, Cuisson à l’Unilatéral, Jus Réduit, Tube de Légumes Oubliés******
Beignet de Citeaux et Petite Mache à l’Huile de Noisettes Grillées
Sablé Breton et sa Mousse de Lait, Brunoise de Poires au Caramel de Beurre Salé
‘Le tout arrosé des meilleurs crus de nos caves' 

As the waiters started serving the meal, bottles of wine appeared from everywhere and I mean everywhere, everyone was so keen for their wine to be opened first!  Everyone, insisted that 'you just try a drop', great hilarity ensued when the first wine was - UNSCREWED!  As part of the host family, Nadine opened the first bottle - a Chenin Blanc from South Africa - everyone tried a little and commented nicely, then Nadine revealed she had bought it from Lidl, for the princely sum of 1.99€.  The atmosphere was set for the afternoon, everyone started opening their best bottles and it was hard to keep track of them all, 17 white wines and 14 red wines, not forgetting the Crémant de Bourgogne at the end (for those who are interested, I have listed the wines at the bottom of the page).

The menu was delicious, the wines elegant and the conviviality was exceptional.  It was a privilege and an honour to be allowed to share in a moment when deep seated Burgundian hospitality, was shown at it’s best.  It was an afternoon to relish and feel the passion that these illustrious winemakers and their families have for their wines.  The overall feeling being that although it may be a business, above all they are foremost vignerons, a ‘metier’, a profession that has been handed down from generation to generation.  To understand the Burgundian way of life is not easy but this was an impressive welcome that is not often extended to incomers of any nationality, not even the French. 

I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to M. et Mme Michel Moingeon and the winemakers of St Aubin and wish the village, all the best for the StVincent Tournante in 2014, which will be a great success.   

The wines tasted included:-

Chenin Blanc Amarosa 2009 - Oliphants River, South Africa
St Aubin 1er Cru Chatenaire 2009 - J Lamonthe
St Aubin 2006 - Domaine Larue
St Aubin 1er Cru Les Friandes  2000 - Domaine Moingeon
St Aubin 1er Cru Chatenaire 2005 - Henri Prudhon
St Abuin sous Roches 2008 - 2008 - Gerard Thomas
St Aubin 1er Cru Merger de Dents du Chien 2005 - Gerard Thomas
Puligny Montrachet 1999 - Andre Moingeon
St Romain 2009 - Gerard Thomas
Meursault 1er Cru Clos des Porusots 1996 -
Roux Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Le Vide Bourse 2007 - M Colin
Meursault Blagny Les Ravelles 2008 - Michel Lamanthe
St Véran 2008 - Perrand Earl
St Aubin 1er Cru En Montceau 2006 - M Colin
Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru La Garenne 2003 - M Colin
St Aubin 1er Cru Mergers du Dents du Chien 2005 - Domaine Larue 
Bergerac 2001 - Chateua Peroudin
St Aubin 1er Cru En Créot 2003 - Moingeon
St Aubin 2000 St Aubin 1er Cru Les Frionnes 1999 - Henri Prudhon
St Aubin 1er Cru 2007 - Lamanthe
St Aubin 1er Cru Derrièrre Chez Edouard 2005 - Hubert Lamy
St Joseph 2008
Gevrey Chambertin 2007 - Guillon
Chambolle Musigny 2004 - Thiery Mortet
Chassagne Montrachet La Budriotte 2005 - Jean Claude Bachelet
Volnay 1er Cru Les Santenots 2002 - Domaine Roux
Chassagne Montrachet La Boudriotte - Domaine Laroux
Pommerol - Château de Bel Air 2001