Wine Dine and Play: The Bourgogne Tasting

The Bourgogne Tasting

The Old Willamette Damn it!!
Wine Style: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, & Gamay
Average Price: $ - $$$$$$
Overall Rating:  93 points
By Sean Overpeck (CFE)
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In the year 1522 Erasmus wrote: "O happy Burgundy which merits being called the mother of men since she furnishes from her mammaries such a good milk" This was echoed by Shakespeare, who refers in King Lear to "the vines of France and milk of Burgundy.

Dijon Cathedral 
When I was a teenager I really enjoyed Science Fiction, and still do to this day. Before I knew anything about wine, besides the fact that it was alcohol that adults drank and kids snuck a sip or two, I saw one of my favorite shows have a storyline that took place in the Bourgogne. Star Trek The Next Generations episode called “Family” (1990 TV) showed Captain Jean-Luc Picard on holiday in the town he was born in called La Barre, which is a commune in the department of Haute-Saône, in the eastern French region of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. La Barre is situated between Dijon and the city of Besançon, and his family home and vineyard is called Château Picard, which is a real Château, only it is located in Saint-Estèphe, Bordeaux, not Bourgogne. I learned later that the show was supposed to depict Burgundy, but the episode was actually filmed in Napa Valley, California, where I did do a sip and taste tour back in 2013. Little did I know years later that I would visit the Bourgogne on a wine tour. Before that story begins, here is some information about Burgundy and its wine.

From Star Trek The Next Generation (Patrick Stewart and Jeremy Kemp) 
Star Trek Movie prop for Picard's Vineyard
Burgundy wine (Bourgogne or Vin de Bourgogne) is wine made in a region of eastern France, west of the Saône River, which is a tributary of the Rhône River further south in the city of Lyon. The most famous wines produced here are commonly referred to as "Burgundies" or dry red wines made from Pinot noir grapes and white wines made from Chardonnay grapes. Other grape varieties include Gamay and Aligoté. Small amounts of rosé and sparkling wines are also produced in the region.
Star Trek Label of a real Bordeaux Chateau
Burgundy has the highest number of appellations d'origine contrôlée (AOCs) than any other French region.The Burgundy region runs from Auxerre in the North to Mâcon in the South, or to Lyon if the Beaujolais area is included as part of Burgundy. Chablis, made from Chardonnay grapes, is produced in the area around Auxerre.

Eighty-five miles southeast of Chablis is the Côte d'Or, where Burgundy's most famous and most expensive wines originate, and where all Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy (except for Chablis Grand Cru) are located. The wine-growing heart of Burgundy is just 40 kilometers (25 mi) long, and in most places less than 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) wide. The Côte de Nuits contains 24 out of the 25 red Grand Cru appellations in Burgundy, while all but one of the region's white Grand Cru wines are in the Côte de Beaune.

Viticulture in Burgundy started as early as the second century AD, although the Celts may have been growing vines in the region previous to the Roman conquest of Gaul in 51 BC. Greek traders, for whom viticulture had been practiced since the late Neolithic period, had founded Massalía in about 600 BC and traded extensively up to the Rhône Valley, where the Romans first arrived in the second century BC. The earliest recorded praise of the wines of Burgundy was written in 591 by Gregory of Tours, who compared it to the Roman wine Falernian.

In 2000, Burgundy had a total of 3,200 wine domains (50 in the early 19th century). The small growers sell their grapes to larger producers, and merchants called négociants, who blend and bottle the wine. The 110+ négociants who produce the majority of the wine only control around 8% of the area. Some small wineries produce 100-200 cases per year, while many producers make a few thousand cases each year. The largest producer is Maison Louis Latour in Beaune with 350,000 cases per year. Grower and producer-made wines can be identified by the terms Mis en Bouteille au Domaine, Mis au domain, or Mis en Bouteille à la propriété.

My tour through the company I hired began in the city center of Dijon, famous for its mustard among other things. There were a few others who were on the tour as well, but we all fit into a small van, versus the Sip and Taste of Bordeaux article I wrote, where we were all cattle loaded onto a tour bus with fifty people. We traveled down road D974 passing famous places like Gevrey-Chambertin and Morey-Saint-Denis. The “D” on French road designations stands for “Départementale." We entered the commune of Vougeot in the Vougeot AOC where three of our four stops for tasting would be. 

The Clos de Vougeot is a wall-enclosed vineyard, (or clos), known for red wine. It was named after the River Vouge, which is actually just a stream separating the village Vougeot from Chambolle-Musigny. The vineyard was created by Cistercian monks of Cîteaux Abbey in the 12th century to the early 14th century. Our first stop was the Domaine Bertagna owned by Eva Reh-Siddle, where we tried a few wines with my favorite being the 1er Cru Clos de la Perrière. 

Next stop was a few moments down the road next to a large Castle and was called Clos de Vougeot owned by Julien-Jules Ouvrard, who also owns the Romanée-Conti which produces some of the most expensive wines in the world. The Clos de Vougeot has some wonderful wines as well, all being Grand Cru Classe red wines averaging 5,000 bottles, 200 magnums, 12 jerboams and 4 rehoboams each year. 

The third stop was back onto the D974 heading south but still in the Vougeot commune called Pierre LaForest where we toured a cave complex where the wines were stored and gathered around an old table with cobwebs and low light to taste wines such as the Les Montespierres.

While driving south and leaving the Vougeot AOC we detoured off of the 974 to the 109 passing 1 Place de l'Église, in the commune of Vosne-Romanée to see the small brick enclosed vineyard of Romanée-Conti. After a few snapshots, we were back on the road, stopping for lunch at a small restaurant near the city of Nuits-Saint-Georges, where our fourth and final wine tasting of the day would be. The Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur (Ne pas confondre Avec Dufouleur père et fils), produced several excellent wines including the Fixin 1er Cru, which was my favorite. 

We continued our drive to the city of Beaune where we toured the Hospices de Beaune, part of the Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune, built in 1443 by the chancellor of Burgundy, as a hospital for the poor. It was a beautiful building with rich history. Afterward, the group walked around the city with some free time and souvenirs, then back into the vehicle taking a faster route back to Dijon on the A31 motorway (Autoroute). 

The following day I started a nice drive up the A6 for about two hours until running into Chablis and stopping at the Domaine William Fevre for a tasting of their Grand Cru, not the first time I enjoyed this wine, but it was a pleasure to see the property. I continued my trip to Paris where I would spend several days before closing out the tour of France. The wine adventure starred in the Loire, through Bordeaux, over to the Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, finishing up in Bourgogne and Chablis; An amazing 14 days.

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