When I told my French boss I was going to "Burgundy" over Easter, she stared at me blankly. Even worse (for both career and my French expertise) that when I adopted my best French accent to explain I meant "Bourgogne", she looked even more baffled. Then, I spelled it out - at which point she exclaimed "Oh, Bourgogne!". It sounded to me like exactly what I had just said, but apparently not. Fortunately, in Burgundy, if you know how to hold out your glass for more wine, you'll get along just famously, no matter how bad your French pronunciation.
TPG and I recently spent a week in Burgundy, including 2 luxurious nights at the Abbaye de le Bussiere (see earlier post). My memories of Burgundy will always be inextricably etched to the wine, the food and the beautiful green scenery. It's a stunning place to visit, and so easy - take the train from London via Paris to Dijon, hire a car, and you can mooch around the well sign posted winery trails with little or no planning, being guided by signs for towns you'll recognise from your favourite wine bottles - think "Meursault", "Ladoix" and "Beaune". It's a wine lover's paradise.
Burgundy is one of France's biggest and most famous wine producing regions. My favourite wines are Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs - which means you've hit the jackpot if you happen to share the same predilection and find yourself in Burgundy. The wine region includes not only the fabulous Cote-dO'r wines, but also those of Beaujolais, Chablis, Cote Chalonnaise and Macon.
Food wise, beef bourguignon, coq au vin (the famous Bresse chickens are locals here), steak (Charolais beef), foie gras and magnificent cheeses (such as the Epoisses made by local monks) feature heavily on the menus. This is not a place to diet. Burgundy is a place to indulge in multiple course meals for lunch and dinner, and it would be a mortal sin not to have the old cheese trolley rolled out on both occassions. You might be craving lettuce leaves after a few days, but you'll struggle to find a cafe or somewhere for a light salad outside of the main cities like Beaune or Dijon - and don't even think about eating lunch outside of the 12-2pm time slot in the tiny villages.
|Steak tartare in Dijon|
There are many fantastic options for wine tasting, including cellars and caves offering degustations scattered all over the villages and wine trails. We visited many. My absolute favourite was a tasting at Maison Louis Jadot in Beaune where we were lucky enough to meet up with The London Foodie and Dr G to be guided through a wonderful 3 hour tasting by passionate General Manager, Dominique Mounier. Dominique walked us through what can often seem like a complex classification system of burgundy wines, before we hit Louis Jadot's cellars to taste many magnificent wines - including some straight from the barrel (a first for me). Louis Jadot takes grapes from vineyards all around Burgundy and its wines range from the inexpensive and easy drinking to the complex and fabulous. In fact, if you want to learn about the wine region, the wine notes on Louis Jadot's website are a good place to start.
|Tasting from the barrels at Louis Jadot|
Another favourite was a wine tasting accompanied by food at La Table d'Olivier Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet. For 40 Euros, you will taste from 13 different red and white wines from around the region - including from St Aubin, Rully, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, Meursalt, Volnay and Pommard. For a 10 Euro supplement (which is well worthwhile), you'll also be given some fantastic grand crus. Wines are "matched" (although I use the term loosely) to a basic, rustic meal. The food is not the highlight - the wine holds that mantle, but after some cheesey gruyeres (a staple in the region), we were given a tuna and vegetable terrine with smoked salmon, baked chicken in a tarragon sauce, a selection of local cheeses and chocolate mousse, all of which was perfectly nice (but not a patch on some of the gastronomic highlights you'll find in Beaune).
|La Table d'Olivier Leflave|
In Burgundy, you can find wonderful, fine dining or hearty, rustic fare. Lunch at Loiseau des Vignes, the Michelin star restaurant of Bernard Loiseau in Beaune, was a highlight. We sat by the window overlooking the elegant tables in the pretty garden as sun streamed in through the window. Service was unstuffy and friendly, the wine extraordinary (it's hard to go wrong) and the food was fabulous. For 30 Euros, our "market lunch" menu included cheesy gruyeres, salmon delicately poached and served in a creamy froth, followed by rich, juicy lamb braised with tomato and rosemary. Three local cheeses were then served before an insanely good dessert - chocolate mousse with meringue, chocolate sauce and little chocolate balls. It was one of the best desserts of all time.
Another high end favourites was Le Pre aux Clercs in Dijon. The 50 Euro set 4 course dinner menu at this fabulous Michelin Star restaurant is great value. The food is refined and delicious, service is excellent and the sommelier gave us terrific wine suggestions.
|Terrine of asparagus and vegetables|
|Pike dumpling in crayfish soup|
|Saddle of stuffed rabbit, carrots, caramalised turnips, mashed potato|
|Fillet of sea bream with sauce of foie gras, oyster and egg|
The gorgeous Fabrice Gillott chocolate shop is another one to look out for in Dijon. Think sesame caramel chocolate bars, cassis macarons and hazelnut spreads. The range is exquisite - we sampled lots just for you (21, rue du Bourg, Dijon).
Even without the wonderful food and wine options, Burgundy is a beautiful place to visit. The fact that you can completely indulge your inner gourmand while you're there is a just the icing on the cake.
We travelled to Dijon (via Paris) on the Eurostar - and spent a day frolicking about Paris on the way home. Fares are approximately £180 return. While in Burgundy, we stayed for part of our trip the beautiful Abbaye de la Bussiere which I reviewed earlier.