September 13, 2019
One popular tourist attraction in Burgundy is the degustation or wine tasting. You make an appointment at a fancy chateau in the countryside (or drop in on a wine merchant in town) and pay 10 Euros or so for a tasting. Usually the tasting is “vertical,” meaning that you start with the cheaper, less complex wines and work your way through four or five stages (a couple of sips) up to the good stuff.
This is a sales technique for the winery, of course. They spend time with you and you feel a subtle pressure to buy at least a couple of bottles. Tourists from the U.S. have the excuse that they are (technically) not allowed to carry bottles back on the plane, but tourists from France and Northern Europe often buy in quantity.
This week we paid 35 Euros each for a tour of the Chateau de Pommard, a high-end winery about three kilometers south of Beaune. This turned out to be well worth it as our guide, Xavier, gave the two of us a detailed tour of the vineyards and cellars in English, and explained the wine-making process in such a way that I finally felt like I understood it. Xavier then took us through a tasting of some top red wines produced by the Chateau.
Unfortunately we could not taste the very top (I think it is called Dominique), which comes from a small plot at the top of a hill next to the chateau and sells for about $375 a bottle as soon as it is available. There are only six barrels produced, with each barrel containing 304 bottles.
We did this by car because, as mentioned, I find it hard to combine wine drinking and bicycling. However, it is fun to drive around and pop in on the various chateaus.
So far the trip has gone pretty well. We had some comic mishaps the first day (first night’s room not booked, etc.) but everything else has been smooth. The weather — 75 or so degrees, bright sunlight, no humidity — is fantastic.
That’s it. Out for our version of a night on the town, which involves a cafe dinner and a brisk walk. No big meditations on the meaning of life, just stretching out and enjoying it a bit.