Our first night was in the historic walled town of Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy. Beaune is particularly well known for its Hotel-Dieu or Hospices de Beaune, which holds an annual public auction of wine on the third Sunday of November.
Built in 1443, the hospice, with its gothic facades, is beautifully preserved, particularly the internal facade with its multi-coloured tiles which are now considered
typical of the province.
Nearby, based in the
15th/16th century residence of the Dukes of Burgundy, is the Museum of Burgundy Wine which traces the history of wine-making in the area. The walled area of the town is very
compact, and everything is near each other.
Although dinner was not included as part of the package, we were invited to join either Derek or Rebecca at a local restaurant. Most of the
group accepted the offer.
I tagged along with Derek's
party to Le Gourmandin, which has a large eating area outside, although unfortunately there were no places by the time we arrived.
The main problem when eating in a group is that even if you don't pick the most expensive meal on the menu or do not want to drink too much, you are still obliged to pay your share.
If one sticks to the set menus, eating in France can be
extremely inexpensive. My three courses worked out at about £13.50. Those who had
four courses - cheese is always on offer as well as dessert
paid around £ 18. This gets bumped up with aperitifs,
wine, coffee and bottled water.
Being with Derek, we left
him to choose our drink and therefore had some rather
good, if fairly expensive, wines.
The area has its local
dishes, which can be found on most of the menus, such as perch and boeuf Bourguignon. The sauce of the latter, which is very rich, is also the basis
of other regional dishes such
as coq au Vin.
One of the most notable things about being on a wine tour is getting used to tasting in the morning, but it is amazing how easily one gets into the swing of it!
A benefit of being on an organised tour is that you have entrance to estates that
you might otherwise not be able to visit, and certainly not always have the opportunity
of meeting the owners.
At each place, we were shown around their cellars and given an explanation of how their particular wines are made.
For example, although many are aged in oak casks, the type of oak used and the age of the barrels will have an effect on the actual taste of a particular wine.
Seeing exactly how the wine is made, and actually seeing the vineyards, adds interest to the whole experience of the trip. We even had an explanation of why, in some cases, rose bushes are planted at the end of a row.
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