Chablis - Northern Burgundy
This beautiful wine region covers much of the Eastern side of France, from the delightful wine town of Chablis in the north, to the rolling hills of Beaujolais in the south. In between there is much to see and do.
The town of Chablis is surrounded by a bowl of vineyards whose names appear on the Grand Crus with the wonderfully romantic names of these vineyards such as “Les Grenouilles”(the frogs) and “Vaux Desires” (the way of the knights). Dijon is famous not just for its mustard of course, but for the Palais des Ducs; the lovely walled town of Beaune, is riddled with cobbled streets, great wine shops, and Nicolas Rodin’s Hospices with its traditional colourful glass tiled roof. Moving on to the Beaujolais, there are many pretty, unspoilt wine villages to explore such as Morgon and Regnie and just out of the wine region Cluny with its magnificent Ciscertian Monastery is worth a detour (via the pre-historic Rock of Solutre).
The wines of Burgundy sprang to prominence in the middle ages. As early as the 10th century the Monks of Cluny were cultivating vines, and they, and the monks of other orders were the force in Burgundy’s development, opting for an ethic of hard work in growing vines. Through the middle ages and later they were endowed with more and more vineyards until they had near monopolistic control over a vast area. The Dukes of Burgundy in particular enriched the monasteries.
The French Revolution saw the dissolution of the monasteries. The vineyards were sold off, initially in large slices. A portion remains in the hands of the Burgundy merchants but the part in the hands of the growers has been divided up each generation according to French inheritance law.
The 20th century has seen the rise of estate wines though a new generation of négociants is also determined to make fine Burgundy. These vineyards are mainly planted with just two grape varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and so with a few exceptions Burgundies are varietal wines. The differences in wines come not from blending but (largely) from the vineyard.
As a wine region Burgundy is sub-divided into communes. The Côtes de Nuits and Côtes de Beaune which are collectively know as the Cote d’Or and which take in the famous top wine villages such as Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey St Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Vosne-Romanee, Echezeaux, Nuits St Georges, Pommard, Volnay, and the great white wine villages of Corton, Meursault and Montrachet.
And as for food, real Burgundian food is wholesome, unfussy cooking. Some of the regional specialities are: Boeuf à la Bourguignonne, Coq au Vin (not chicken in white wine but an old cockerel stewed for hours in red wine), Snails in hot garlic and parsley butter. Jambon Persillé (Cold pressed ham, layered with parsley in jelly) and Oeufs en Meurette (Eggs poached in red wine). Regional cheeses to look out for include:
Aisy-Cendre: Cone shaped cows milk cheese, covered in ash.
Epoisses: A tangy, soft, cows milk cheese.
In Beaujolais you meet a dry goat’s cheese similar to Sancerre’s Crottins du Chavignol. (Delicious with Fleurie).