Tour de France without bikes but with wine: Les Hospices de Beaune

We obviously had to eat during our, but this wasn’t easy as thought… not because there were not enough restaurants, but because the famous Hospices de Beaune were about to take place the next days (so lots of people from all over the world already traveled to Beaune). The Hospices de Beaune aka Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune is first of all know for formerly being a charitable almshouse in Beaune founded in 1443 by chancellor of Burgundy Nicolas Rolin, as a hospital for the poor. The Hôtel-Dieu, one very beautiful building to say the least. Nowadays they service their patients are in new/modern hospital buildings.

Hôtel Dieu (2) Hôtel Dieu

The second reason they are very well know (mostly amongst winelovers) is because of their yearly charity wine auction held in November (so the period I was in Beaune :-)) already since 1851 (on the 3rd Sunday of November to be more precise) . Domaine des Hospices de Beaune is a non-profit organization that owns around 61 hectares (150 acres) of donated vineyard land by patients (with most appellations being Grand and Premier cru). So as they are a non-profit organization they decided to yearly keep auctions where the bidding happens mostly by professionals, but surprisingly also by a lot of private buyer and they can bid on 31 cuvées of red wine and 13 of white wine. I have no clue for which prices these barrels are sold, but I’m sure some nice investments can be done by the cause. The Hospices de Beaune is also the moment all winemakers in Beaune open their doors to the public and they whole town celebrates with food and wine 🙂 Also it is up to the buyer to age, cure and elaborate the wine further…

Auction

Hospices de Beaune

This year's hosts Michel Drucker et l'ex-mannequin Adriana Karembeu

Hospices de Beaune wine

Hospices de Beaune wine Bouchard

So moral of my story is that most restaurants were fully booked and I just had to look harder to find one 🙂 But instead of looking I just asked local people as to my opinion this is still the best way to discover good new places! One of the restaurants we were suggested and liked during our stay in Beaune was the Ermitage de Corton located a few minutes outside the city center of Beaune (direction Nuits St. Georges). The spot if you are looking for good refined food to be enjoyed in a relax atmosphere and put your thoughts on hold for a few hours. That is how I would describe the Ermitage de Corton…

Ermitage de Corton

As we were in Bourgogne it didn’t seem a bad idea to take the menu Bourguignon… I started with a Poached egg a in a red wine sauce with onion and bacon. Carlos being a snail lover started with the Chinese cabbage stuffed with snails, butternut and chestnut mousse.  Mine tasted as I wanted it to taste, which is basically comfort food where you can taste the butter and rich ingredients 🙂

Chinese cabbage stuffed with snails, butternut and chestnut mousse Poached egg a in a red wine sauce with onion and bacon

As we already had been tasting the whole day it wasn’t easy to decided which wine we wanted, but as I know Carlos is a big white wine fan we chose a nice bottle  2011 Saint-Romain, “Sous Le Château” by Christophe Buisson. Why I chose this wine? Well first of all I wanted to try a local wine that I hadn’t tried yet that was affordable 🙂 . I can also say for a fact it was a very nice bottle of wine, very floral with a little richer taste that everybody would like. Perfect for an evening amongst friends.

Saint-Romain Sous Le Château 2011

We continued our meal with for me Steamed fillet of plaice with quinces, lemons and walnuts, Crémant Sauce and polenta crisps. Although I must admit Carlos’ choice did make me doubt as he had the Beef cheeks cooked in a red wine sauce during 7 hours… (I did get to taste some 😉 )

Beef cheeks cooked in a red wine sauce during 7 hours Steamed fillet of plaice with quinces, lemons and walnuts, Crémant Sauce and polenta crisps

We finished our meal with French toast of gingerbread, pears poached in red wine… more comfort food I’d say. A lovely meal in great company!

French toast of gingerbread, pears poached in red wine

A few other places you have to try when you have the chance when visiting Beaune:

Up to Damery …

Tour de France without bikes but with wine – Bouchard

After a good night of sleep (which we needed because the day before was a very long day) we set sail to visit a vineyard in one of Beaune’s most ancient buildings that goes back to Louis XI (15th century) and where thanks to Michel Bouchard there is wine made. Up to today this vineyard is still family owned with Christophe Bouchard as current General Manager. I must add that eventhough the vineyard is still family owned and lead by a Bouchard family member, it is now owned by the Henriot family (who are also owner of Henriot Champagne). Welcome to the Bouchard vineyard I’d say! We are in Beaune… for those who didn’t know it yet, we entered the world of Bourgogne/Burgundy wines. Together with Bordeaux, Bourgogneis one of the most spoken about all over the world (mainly the wine world I’m sure). Most wine makers from outside of France either follow the Bordeaux or the Bourgogne methodology to make their wines … so I was really interested in knowing/seeing what was so special about it and what fascinates/attracts all the winemakers to this wine region, but also why they all come here to learn everything about winemaking.

Bouchard pere et fils (1) Chateau_de_Beaune_remparts SAMSUNG CSC

First things first. What do you guys need to know about Bourgogne/ Burgundy wines to be able to mingle in when people are talking about this wine region? The Bourgogne wine region is located somewhere between Lyon and Dijon in which we can distinguish 4 different departments: Yonne (Chablis), Côte-d’Or (Côtes de Nuits and Côte de Beaune), Saône-et-Loire (Chalonnais en Mâconnais which is next to the Beaujolais (Fleurie) wine region) and last but not least Nièvre. The vineyard from our friends from Bouchard is in the Côte-d’Or which is basically the heart and soul of the Bourgogne wine region.

Bourgogne wine region by Wine Folly

As grapes, they mainly use Pinot Noir for the red wines and for white wines this would be Chardonnay. Sometimes they’ll also blend with other kinds of grape like Pinot Blanc for whites and Gamay Noire or César for the reds. Bouchard mostly sticks to the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Something that always used to confuse me in the past with French wines was when they started talking about ‘Premier cru’, ‘Grand cru’ and/or ‘Village’… you agree?? The difference between them all is mostly the location of the grapes which leads to either a very affordable or very expensive wine 🙂 (so even in winemaking it is all about ‘location, location, location’). The ‘Grand Cru’ represents the best of the best where the grapes were able to grow in the best conditions (best weather, sunshine, nutrition, etc…) whereas the regular wines aka ‘Appellations Régionales’ in “lesser” conditions (there are obviously more differences, but my example is just generally speaking). Due to the fact that there are not that many grounds/area’s that are considered as ‘’Grand Cru’makes it that it only represents 2% of the total wine volume and therefore are also much more expensive than the ‘Appellations Régionales’ or the’ Appellations Villages’ For example. A fact you do also need to take into consideration is that Grand or Premier Cru wines also age much longer (so a bigger investment for the winemaker) Maybe the pyramid below will help you understanding.

Appellations Bourgogne

It is also very possible that for example a particular wine can all 4 gradations of wine of the pyramid. So for example a ‘regular’ Nuits Saint-Georges and a Nuits Saint-Georges 1ière cru 🙂 . To understand the best the difference between them you should just buy all 3 and taste them next to each other… a whole new world will open, I promise!

Back to our visit to Bouchard which was basically a walk through history (without some King doing his business behind the curtain in the hallway that is 🙂 (luckily)). All kidding aside, Bouchard might be one of the most beautiful vineyards I have ever visited and it being in an ancient castle with everything still intact makes it soooo incredible. I was also surprised to find out they still have a few bottles from the 19th century that believe it or not that are still drinkable! They did admit that not all of the bottles preserved as well. A reason why Bouchard still has bottled wines of the 19th and 20th century, is because they first of all can age them in the original conditions and they change the corks every X years (depending on the wine they do it more regularly, but mostly between 20-30 years) . The moment they change the corks, they do check if the wine is still OK or not. In case it is not OK anymore they don’t keep that bottle… this makes that the bottles they do still have are still good to drink… can you imagine to drink a wine from over 200 years??? Obviously this is only something a few fortunate people are able to taste, but still….

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BTW Comme Chez Soi’s wine-cellar reminds me a bit of the Bouchard cellar (less ancient obviously) … just FYI that I mentioned that 🙂

I hope it doesn’t come over in a wrong way or make you think differently about me, but it was 10:30 in the morning we started tasting wine 🙂 🙂 BUT in my defense, when I say tasting I do mean tasting and spitting out the wine (so NOT drinking it) no matter how good they were. It might be strange we started tasting the reds and afterwards the whites, but according to a French saying, ’Blanc sur rouge, rien ne bouge, rouge sur blanc tout fout le campthat says that it is better to first drink red and than white wine 🙂 so we didn’t want to argue with that…

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Already from the first sip I was converted into a Côte-d’Or Bourgogne fan… even the first, a 2011 Monthélie , wasn’t the highest level they had or more complex wine yet it was definitely my cup of tea :-). It was a very playful wine that everybody would like and is easy to drink and that leaves a very fresh fruity taste in your mouth. FYI all wines we tasted were 2011 Premier Cru’s (besides the first that is as that was an Appellation Village)… which proved (not that I needed it to be proved) I prefer the stronger/ more complex wines and that I am one spoiled brat :-).

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My Absolute favourite from amongst the red wines we tasted was the Nuits-Saint-Georges – Les Cailles Premier Cru with scent and taste of very ripe dark red fruits like cassis or bil/blue berry and even lickerish accents in it and yet very elegant to drink without too heavy tannins…. The second favorite would be the Volnay – Caillerets Premier Cru which is made from the Bouchard Family’s first and oldest vineyard… It must be said that these wines are best with a stronger meal and not really like a Monthélie that can be drunk on a summer’s day outside with some friends.

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What I was surprised to read is that unlike the Rhône valley where red wine is 89% of the total wine production and I did also assume it would be the same for Bourgogne… but I was wrong as it seems that 70% of the total wine production in this region is white??? Who knew (I didn’t, nor expected it)

When tasting their white wines I started understanding why… the most famous white wines from this region that for sure ring a bell are Chablis (Chardonnay) or Pouilly-Fuisse. FYI not all chardonnay wine from this region is Chablis! What is nice about white wines, is that most of the time you can distinguish ‘easier’ what flavours or smells they have. Like the white variant of the Monthélie (and with variant I mean that you can drink outside on a sunny day with friends) would be the Bourgogne Chardonnay La Vignée where you can find hinds of peach and pear.

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Again here my preference went to the stronger whites. Number 1 would be the Meursault – Genevrières a rich wine with hinds of vanilla, wood (not too much) that can still ago for 8 years and would be a perfect match for foie gras or poultry. N°2 and 3 would be the Beaune du Château Premier Cru (Marzipan, almonds, grilled bread) and the Montagny Premier Cru (Honey).

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I could keep talking about how they taste or with what they would go well, but there is only 1 way to find it all out yourself and that is by tasting it yourself (I know I say it every time, but it is true). Also I think this post it more than long enough and I hope you already learned something 🙂 BUT there is still more to learn!!

To be continued….

info about these wines like where you can buy them contact Peter Lauwerens: Cinoco – Le palais Du Vin 0475/595.3456 – peter.lauwerens@cinoco.com