Exploring Burgundy: Classic Wines & a Bit of Beaune

I had mixed feelings traveling to Burgundy. I was hoping that I would find a magical wine region where I'd fall in love with dedicated winemakers and regional dishes, not something that resembles the Napa Valley of France. Luckily, I did find a magical wine region...winding through tiny little streets, from town to town, I seemed to be the only person on the road and I felt as if I was discovering a secret, even though Burgundy might just be the most famous wine region on the planet! 

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One big issue in Burgundy is getting to a vineyard or getting into a winery. Job number one is finding a winery to see. It is well understood that most winery owners in Burgundy don't care about having tasting rooms and don't care to have their time wasted with your visits. After all, they're busy actually making the wine and tending to the vines! Winemakers in Burgundy are very hands-on and they don't have a huge problem selling their sought-after wines, so you really have to be with a tour, be in the wine industry, or "know someone" if you want to get up close and personal. You also really must have a car (or, again, get in on a small tour) to explore the region the way it needs to be seen, but if you're short on time you can certainly stay in the city of Beaune and still soak up a bit of Burgundy. 

 Oeufs en Meurette at Restaurant Le Fleury, Beaune

Oeufs en Meurette at Restaurant Le Fleury, Beaune

When in Beaune, I recommend heading over to Maison Joseph Drouhin for a tour and tasting. You'll get to see the caves and, if you're lucky, you'll also get a great history lesson. After the tour, you'll taste three Chardonnays (their 2013 Meursault was exceptional) and three Pinot Noirs (even some Grand Crus!), some of which are excellent! Afterward, head over to Restaurant Le Fleury, where I had the BEST oeufs en meurette (poached eggs in red wine sauce, an outstanding regional dish) my entire time in Burgundy. For dinner, Le Clos du Cèdre was a fantastic and memorable meal. Since I was on an ouefs en meurette kick, I had to order their fancy deconstructed version...while good, it just wasn't as good as Restaurant Le Fleury. 

You must also stop by La Moutarderie Fallot to tour the Edmond Fallot mustard factory and taste all the mustard you possibly can (unless, of course, you absolutely hate mustard...then you don't need to do this). Thomas Keller taught me about Edmond Fallot and I am forever grateful. It is the best mustard in the world and assists me in the kitchen almost every single day! It's just...the best. 

 Ancient wine press, Joseph Drouhin, Beaune

Ancient wine press, Joseph Drouhin, Beaune

 Caves at Joseph Drouhin, Beaune

Caves at Joseph Drouhin, Beaune

 Vineyard in Vosne-Romanée

Vineyard in Vosne-Romanée

 Clos Napoléon, Fixin

Clos Napoléon, Fixin

I absolutely do suggest renting a car, if you can, and spending at least a couple of hours driving through the region. I drove from Lyon to Dijon (Beaune is right in the middle), so I had a chance to see a great deal and it was the best part of the trip! I traveled to Burgundy just before harvest (or during harvest, depending on the vineyard) and saw lots of beautiful, mature fruit hanging on the vines. Since you're out in the middle of nowhere and probably need some sustenance at some point, make a lunch reservation at Au Clos Napoléon in Fixin, where they have an unbeatable atmosphere and view - literally surrounded by vineyards. They also have an excellent version of oeufs en meurette, if you want to stay regional. 

 The country roads in Burgundy

The country roads in Burgundy

 The famous Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

The famous Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

 Vosne-Romanée

Vosne-Romanée

There is so much to see - you just need to show up with an adventurous spirit to get the most out of the region. If all else fails, taste wines in Beaune and Dijon and ask for regional wine pairings with dinner - just taste as much as you can and always, always, always ask the sommelier for his/her help. Get a feel for each appellation, what it offers, and what you do or don't like about those wines. For whatever reason, I seem to always choose reds from Aloxe-Corton and Nuits-Saint-Georges. Maybe it's wrong, but I have strong preferences! And those preferences may or may not change with each vintage. 

There are also so many hidden gems and indescribable landscapes. If you love wine and need a break from Europe's big cities, head to Burgundy right now!!! Also, if you make it up to Dijon (essential if you're heading back to Paris on the train), be sure to make a reservation at Loiseau des Ducs - wonderful, wonderful food and an imaginative, modern wine program. 

By the way, Julia Child has a great recipe for oeufs en meurette in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Find it under "Oeufs à la Bourguignonne [Eggs Poached in Red Wine]". There is no need for me to come up with a recipe for this...some stuff is just classic and untouchable. If you can't make it to Burgundy, you can at least recreate this fantastic dish at home!