Beaune France is a beautiful French town that is fun to visit. But another reason to visit Beaune is that it is the largest city in the Cote de Beaune Burgundy wine region. Since we love wine and love Burgundy wine, of course, we had to tour the wine region.
Biking the Wine Trail
We spent one day in the area on bikes: electric bikes to be precise. This was our first time on electric bikes. We rented them to explore about half of the 22 km “Voie des Vignes” bike trail. The lovely trail avoids main roads by following little-trafficked roads through the region’s vineyards and is a joy. The route is clearly marked, at least through the town of Meursault, where we lost the trail and ended up on the road before we found our way back into the vineyards.
We biked through a number of quaint lovely wine towns and through beautiful post-harvest, autumn vineyards whose leaves ranged from green, through yellows, to vivid reds and purples. And as a bonus, the trail is relatively flat, with few hills (although the electric bikes made fast, easy work of the few hills we did encounter).
But enough about the trail and the bikes. How about the appellations and the wines?
We biked straight down from Beaune to Puligny-Montrachet.
This appellation addresses our preferred taste profiles for both white and red Burgundy wines. The whites tend to be minerally, with a green apple-like tartness and acidity, while still having a creamy finish. The reds tend to be opulent with a combination of red and black fruit, leather, and in some cases, a bit of musk. We stopped at one of Puligny-Montrachet’s premier wineries:
- Olivier Leflaive. Eighty percent of their wine production is Chardonnay. Their wine tastings take place in their restaurant where a sommelier comes to your table to pour wines and answer any questions. We tasted three white and one red wine. The whites began with a very nice, round, minerally, young white 2017 ‘’Les Setilles’’ Burgundy and progressed up through a lovely, slightly older Village wine, a 2015 Puligny-Montrachet ‘’Enseigneres’’ and then to a 2012 1er Cru—a Puligny-Montrachet ‘’Grand Champ’’ that may age nicely over the next 20 to 30 years (but we found it tart and with a taste of iodine). We finished with a jammy, red fruit-based pinot noir, a 2012 Volnay 1er Cru ‘’Clos des Angles’’. The tasting came with a plate of three local hams (smoked, prosciutto, and salami) and three of Burgundy’s premier cheeses (a delicate Chaource, a mustard seed-crusted Delice de Pommard, and our favorite of all cheeses, an incredible Epoisse).
It was then time for lunch and a chance to taste a couple of other Puligny-Montrachet Premier Crus.
- Le Montrachet is a lovely, very formal restaurant at which we had a typically leisurely French three-course lunch with a spot of wine. Joyce chose organic salmon gravlax on beetroot slices, sautéed hake fillet with vegetable pot au feu, and the “idea of” a lemon meringue pie with deconstructed components and lemon sorbet. Tom had an incredibly thick and deep-flavored mushroom cream soup with mushrooms encased in a lightly fried bread coating, guinea fowl aux jus with parsnip mousseline, and roasted chestnut, followed by an under-roasted pear with ganache and pear sorbet. The meal began and ended with a number of small treats including smoked salmon with cream cheese, ham, balsamic mousse, and a beet emulsion, a cabbage veloute with ham, and ending with raspberry macaroon, and a lemon/lime cream tart, The atmosphere was lovely and the food was, for the most part, very good, although the service came with a large dose of attitude. We had two different Puligny Montrachet Premier Crus wines: a white 2017 Domaine Larve Cru La Garenne which was nice and flinty with a smooth, round finish, and a red, 2016 Aloxe-Corton ‘’Le Grandes Lollieres that tasted of red cherry and plum with a bit of acid.
Then, well-fortified for our return bike trip to Beaune, we made selective stops at some of the appellations we passed on the way down.
Meursault is a large village in Cote de Beaune. The area mostly produces minerally, floral, nutty, buttery, and slightly acidic Chardonnays.
We had an incredible tasting at Moillard-Grivot. We began with white wines, all of which see at least 12 months in oak. We started with Village wines from three neighboring areas to portray the differences among central Cote de Beaune locales:
- 2016 Saint Roman
- 2016 Meursault
- 2017 Puligny Montrachet, a richer, more complex, more buttery wine that is pretty much at the top of the Village Chardonnay spectrum.
Moving up to the Premier Crus, we began with the 2016 Saint-Aubin (Saint-Roman and Saint-Aubin are both satellites of the more highly regarded Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet appellations). Then we tasted the more highly regarded (including by us) Chassagne-Montrachet “Le Grande Montagne” 1er Cru. It had a toasted nut flavor and was more buttery. Where can you go after a wine like this? To a Grand Cru, of course. We had a fresh, wonderful, still ageable 2007 Chevalier-Montrachet, one of Burgundy’s seven Grand Cru appellations.
We then sampled a few of the winery’s Pinot Noirs, one from each classification. We began with two Pommards—a somewhat acidic, 2015 Pommard Village, followed by a more interesting 2012 “La Platiere” 1er Cru.
Then to the piece-de-resistance, a 2011 Corton Les Marechaudes Premier Cru. This incredible wine is from a tiny appellation that lies on the border of Cotes de Beaune and Cote de Nuit. It is the only one in all of Burgundy to be classified as Grand Cru for both its white and red grapes.
Our host explained that while the soil was the primary determinant in a wine’s classification, a number of other factors are also considered including the:
- Number of vines per meter;
- Number of grapes per vine;
- Sorting requirements;
- The time spent in barrels;
- Percentage of new versus neutral barrels and many others; and
- The incredible multiples for the cost of land in progressively higher classifications.
Now, that’s a wine tasting!!
Volnay is primarily a red Pinot Noir wine region. It produces more feminine wines that are lighter, more elegant, and more aromatic. As these are less our style, we biked through the town without stopping for any tastings. But we still could admire the town.
Pommard is an iconic Burgundy village that produces big, masculine reds. We tasted several wines from this area:
- 2014 Domaine de la Vougeraie ‘’Les Petite’’ Pommard was pleasant, but the fruit was a bit light and didn’t have quite enough earth for our tastes;
- 2015 Pommard Village and 2012 “La Platier” Pommard Premier Cru that we tried at Moillard-Grivot; and seven different white and red Pommards from a “lowly” “regional” wine through a Premier Cru;
- Domaine Guillaume Baduel is a small, family-owned producer that is now onto its seventh generation of winemakers. The regional wines we tasted were a basic, fruity 2017 “Les Aures” Bourgogne Aligote and 2017 “Les Blanches” Bourgogne Chardonnay. We then moved up to a Pommard Village Chardonnay, a 2016 “Les Sous Roches” Monthelie Blanc. Next came some Pinot Noirs starting with a regional 2017 “Les Grands Carelles”, moving to the Village-level, 2017 “Les Sous Roches” Monthelie Rouge, and a pleasant, light, red cherry-like 2016 “Les Saussilles”.
By then, we were beginning to approach closing, not to speak of dinner time. We engaged the motors of our electric bikes, entered our destination into our GPS, and hit autopilot (figuratively, if not literally) for our return to Beaune and a leisurely dinner with, of course, more wine.
We must, however, mention two other Cote de Beaune appellations. Although we didn’t have time to visit them, we did have some memorable wines from the areas.
The Chassagne-Montrachet region is the appellation just south of Puligny-Montrachet that is known for its Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Although we didn’t have the time to visit this highly regarded region, we did taste two 2015 Chardonnays on this trip. We had the Domaine Bernard Moreau Chassagne-Montrachet Village-designate wine at a restaurant and a Moillard-Grivot Chassagne-Montrachet “Le Grande Montagne” 1er Cru at the Meursault-based winery. While the wines obviously have different levels of complexity and different price points, both were among the best of the relative classifications of Cote de Beaune Chardonnays that we had tasted.
Cote de Nuits
Cote de Nuits is another area that we didn’t have time to visit, but we did visit a few of the region’s wineries on a previous visit to Burgundy. We also tasted a number of the region’s wines at tastings and at meals. These included wines from some of our favorite of the area’s appellations such as Nuits St-George, Chevrey-Chambertain, Vosne-Roman, and St-Denis. This trip’s tastes included:
- 2014 Jean-Claude Boisset Chevrey Chambertin “Les Murots”, which has a nice strawberry on the nose and a clean finish;
- 2014 Clos de Thorey Nuit St-George Premier Cru is a lovely full-bodied wine with dark berries and nice spice;
- 2013 Domaine Lechenceault Nuit St-George has a touch of tart cranberry that did not really open up for us.
That was about it for this trip. We look forward to our next trip for another shot at its wineries.
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