Being in the Burgundy region of France meant that we were in one of the great wine-producing regions of the world. We could not leave France without learning about the history, culture, and production of wine, so we decided to take a tour of La Côte de Nuits—one of the subregions of Burgundy. We happened to have a tour guide with, well, . . . shall we say a “boisterous” personality (please see the photobombed pic further down in the post).
Luckily, he also happened to be a bonafide expert in Burgundy wines.
Our tour started in the vineyards of Gevrey-Chambertin. This stop, along with the ride over from Dijon, allowed our tour guide to give us an introductory lesson in Burgundy wine. Here are a few things I learned:
- The history of wine making in the Burgundy region goes back many centuries—all the way back to the Benedictine monks of the tenth century (and even earlier).
- Ownership of rows of vines is usually inherited, although there are exceptions. For example, Louis Vuitton recently purchased a vineyard in Burgundy for so much money, it will be generations before it starts turning a profit.
- There are only two types of wine grapes in Burgundy: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Pinot Noir is one of oldest known grape varieties in the world.
- The concept of unique pieces of land producing unique flavors (depending on the soil conditions) is called “terroir.”
- Grapes that produce the most prestigious wines are grown on hills. These grapes may have the designation of “Premier Cru” (excellent) or “Grand Cru” (the best). Grapes grown on flatter areas of Burgundy may have the designation of “Regional” or “Village.” The vast majority of these designations have been held for many decades. It is nearly impossible to change them.
Clos de Vougeot
Some vineyards in Burgundy are enclosed by stone walls, which are often very old. If a vineyard has these walls, it is called a “clos,” which gives it extra prestige.
Our next stop was the Clos de Vougeot. It was started by the monks of Cîteaux as a wine farm in the 12th century. The main building was added on to during the Renaissance. Here, we enjoyed seeing medieval wine presses and vats, the interior and exterior of the main building, and the beautiful surrounding vineyards. The last picture below shows a map of the specific plots of Le Clos de Vougeot.
The first photograph is the forementioned photobombed picture of Le Clos de Vougeot unintentionally featuring our tour guide.
Nuits-Saint-George: Molliard Grivot
Our last stop was a wine tasting in the commune of Nuits-Saint-George at the headquarters of a wine maker dating back to the French Revolution: Moillard Grivot. Here, we got a “behind-the-scenes” tour of the wine making facilities (presses, etc.) and the old stone cellars where the wine is aged in oak barrels. Our wine tasting was in one of the cellars and included five offerings, including one Grand Cru.
It was a great experience that allowed the Smiths to be just a bit more refined and just a bit more cultured . . . at least for a day!