We made our trip to Burgundy in 3 days and 4 nights, so a very quick one, but one of the best wine trips of my entire life. We drove from Montalcino to Burgundy, around 1.000km and 9 hours in the car with our two best friends: “Borgona, the Cote d’Or vineyards” book from Armando Castagno and “Vini e Terre di Borgogna” from Favaro e Gravina.
We decided, as this was our fist time in Burgundy, to do an “on the road” kind of trip, driving throughout the villages and vineyards of Burgundy, jumping out from the car every time we found an important vineyard on the way, reading that part of the book to learn more about that village and drinking a wine from the same village for lunch and/or dinner. At first, I was a little bit disappointed about not visiting wineries (we did one actually), but at the end this was the best choice we could make for our first time there and in such small time. We learned much more than visiting producers, just seeing the vineyards, talking with people at restaurants and wine bars, drinking the wines from the area we just saw. Next time we are coming back, we will visit some interesting producers but for the moment we built a strong local knowledge that is what we wanted, the purpose of this trip, discover Burgundy.
First stop was in Fuisse, we arrived perfectly for lunch time in this gorgeous restaurant, L’O des Vignes, where we had an incredible meal. Pouilly-Fuissé is in the Maconnais part of Burgundy, the Southest part, so the first part we met arriving from Italy and is out of the Cote d’Or. The most diffuse vineyard here is Chardonnay, in the past years this area was not very well known and their wines where not really noteworthy but nowadays there is a new generation of vignerons, who gives a very interesting expressions of this particular terroir. Chardonnay here is elegant, fresh, with strong savory notes and personality. We tasted at lunch two different appellation of the Maconnais, Puilly Fuissé and Viré-Clessé.
We stayed the first two nights at Chateau de Gilly, Small Luxury Hotels of the World property few Km from Vougeot, a nice hotel and for our purpose it had a great location.
That night, our first night in Burgundy, we had dinner at La Dilettante, in Beaune. It has been probably one of the best meals we had in our entire trip. A great place, with a super interesting wine selection, possibility to dine at the bar, (which we did) and we loved it cause we could speak with their wine expert guy, who had a very strong knowledge of their wines and of the area and he suggested us some interesting wines. We tasted two Chardonnay from Cote de Beaune, which we will be visiting the second day: Santenay from Maison en Belles Lies, bio-dynamic wine and Savigny les Beaunes from Simon Bize & files. It was great to try all chardonnays from different villages and appellations in the same day to see how much this grape changes from one area to the other.
So finally our fist day out exploring Burgundy’s vineyards. We drove with our car from Marsannay to Nuits Saint Georges stopping in each village and each famous vineyard, discovering the characteristics of Premier Crus and Grand Crus, seeing them with our eyes.
Marsannay is the first appellation village right at the end of Dijon’s industrial suburbs. They still do not have any premier cru or grand cru and their wines are usually considered fresh expression of pinot noir and very drinkable. Here they also make some rosé but it’s pretty rare and really hard to find.
After Marsannay we found Fixin, an area that has a mix of geological elements from the village before and from the village after, that is Gevrey–Chambertin. Here you have 6 Premier Cru and their wines are known as more rustic than the ones from GC, with very strong tannin structure, but also with a great longevity.
One of the most extended planted area of Cote d’Or, with more than 450 hectares, Gevrey-Chambertin is worldwide know as one of the most high quality pinot noir. Here is where we can find the most ancient soils of Burgundy and they boast of 9 Grand Crus. The village is Gevrey and in 1847 they were the first to be authorized from the authority to add Chambertin to the village name, that comes from the most famous and prestigious vineyard. There are many differences between each grand cru and also between the grand cru, premier cru and the villages, and this is something that you can really see with your eyes because of the different disposition of the vineyards in the area in different altitudes and orientations. In the highest band ( 400msl ) you have mostly Premier Cru vineyards, that are affected by the cool winds coming from the Combe Grisard, a rift between the mountains which creates a strong wind current, in the middle band and southern part (opposite from Fixin) the Grand Cru vineyards and in the lowest band, surrounding the Route 74 and the village, in the flattest area are the villages vineyards.
Morey Saint Denis is very famous for its 4 Grand Cru that are all Clos (it means that the vineyards are closed: surrounded usually by low walls, some of them erected by the monks in the middle ages), Clos de La Roches, Clos Saint Denis ( that names the village ), Clos the Lambrays and Clos the Tart. The last two are pretty particular as they are right inside the village and are two monopole (it is very common in Burgundy that one vineyard has many owners and producers that owns it, the once which belong to only one producer are called monopole) and also if they are divided only by one small street, they give a completely different expression of pinot noir.
Chambolle Musigny with its two Grand Cru Bonnes Mares and Musigny is very well known for the elegance of its wines. Here you will not find the same structure that you have in Gevrey Chambertin, as the soil has less clay and more limestone marl. The wines from here are more mineral and acidic, more vertical and less powerful than the ones from GC.
Vougeot is a very special area, in fact, of the 70 hectares inside the Clos de Vougeot, 50 ha are Grand Cru, only 3 ha are village and the rest are Premier Cru. The Clos is very fragmented, you have almost 80 different producers owning small parcels of this famous vineyards, probably one of the most famous in Burgundy. The composition of the soil gets richer in clay the more that the altitude goes down and so the wines are usually more powerful and structured, vigorous and hearty.
Vosne-Romanée, when we are talking about Burgundy, most people think immediately about Vosne-Romanée. The wines from here are a worldwide symbol of the greatness, the elegance, the highest quality level a wine can reach. Driving towards south, immediately after Clos de Vougeot you find first the area of Echézeaux, which are around 40 hectares and here is the Grand Cru, Grands-Echézeaux. This Grand Cru is pretty often compared to Musigny for the refinement and the complexity of its wines. Continuing driving you find les Richebourg area, la Romanée Saint Vivant, la Romanée-Conti (monopole), la Romanée ( the smallest appellation of France, less than one hectare), La Grand Rue, that is in between the Romanée-Conti and La Tache (still a monopole from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) and 14 Premier Cru, which are recognized to be some of the best expression of the area. I can just say that seeing those vineyards, walking between them, admiring the famous Croix from La Romanée Conti, was one of the greatest emotions of my life and I think for every wine lover this place is like a Mecca, a sanctuary and coming here it’s a sort of spiritual journey.
Nuits-Saint-Georges, the village has no Grand Cru but Premier Cru and villages. We can divide the area in two, the northern part, closer to Vosne-Romanée feels probably its influence and gives the best expression of wines in terms of elegance. The southern part gives pinot noir that are considered more austere, especially when young and so are more appreciable after some years.
Our journey through the Cote de Nuits ended in Nuits Saint Georges, it was a full day filled with incredible emotions, we had a small aperitivo in the town, maybe not so small wine, I have to say. We tasted probably one of the best bio-dynamic pinot noir of burgundy, Prieure Roch, Nuits Premier Cru. That night we had dinner at Le Comptoir des Tontons in Beaune, a typical Burgundy’s menu, with many organics product, where we had one of the most amazing wines of my life. The wine is Bruno Clavelier Vosne Romanée Premier Cru Aux Brulees, also a bio-dynamic wine. Only when you first taste a wine with such an incredible complexity, vibrancy and elegance, you can really understand what is a Pinot Noir.
The second part of our journey to Burgundy will be dedicated to the Cote de Beaune in a different post, so stay tuned and follow my Paper Plane journey.