Simple pleasures make great holidays in Burgundy – Meanderings through France n° 143
By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Burgundy is rightly known worldwide for its unique wines and names such as Pommard, Meursault, Chambertin, Vosne-Romanée, Côte de Nuit or Alox Corton make connoisseurs’ mouths water. But Burgundy also appeals to those who simply have a soft spot for good wines and even to those who don’t drink wine! Let me introduce you to some of Burgundy’s hidden charms.
Over the centuries vine growers have designed most of Burgundy’s landscapes. There have been vineyards on its hillsides since the 1st century during the Roman invasion. Later nuns and monks expanded vine growing and after the French Revolution the vineyards were sold to private owners who had well seen what a good business opportunity they were. Whatever the time of year driving along the Burgundy Wine Road is an endless show.
But on the way you can discover unexpected treasures. For centuries, mustard growing has been a major production in Burgundy but in the second half of the 20th century farmers lost interest in it. Following a decades long decline, this farming was resumed on the initiative of mustard paste producers. One of them, the “Moutarderie Fallot” founded in 1840, is still making mustard by traditional means. Fallot is one of the very last mustard factories to use stone grinders that ensure the gustatory qualities of the seeds paste. They are proud to make authentic Burgundy mustard using only mustard seeds grown in Burgundy and a famous local wine, the Burgundy white Aligoté wine. Since 2009 this unique mustard has gained a Protected Geographical Indication (the sought after PGI).
The “Moutarderie Fallot” also has a wide range of flavoured mustards made according to old recipes and to totally new ones. Tarragon, basil, walnut, honey, balsamic vinegar from Modena, gingerbread from Dijon, peppercorn from Madagascar, Brassica seeds, blackcurrant from Burgundy are used to enhance the mustard paste. The factory is located in Beaune and is open to the public. It offers an interactive discovery tour during which you will learn everything about the mustard making process. You will even have the opportunity to make your own mustard! In the factory shop, you will be surrounded by colourful jars full of many different mustards, pickles and vinegars, mustard honey, mustard oil… all made in Burgundy. A free tasting corner will help you make your choice among the different flavours. https://www.fallot.com/en/
A few miles away from Beaune on the “Route des Grands Crus” you will get to Pommard, one of Burgundy’s most famous villages. The wines made in its wineries are loved throughout the world and “Chateau de Pommard” is one of the most iconic ones of them all. This is the largest privately owned “clos” in the Cote d’Or area, founded in 1726. A clos is a plot of vineyard entirely surrounded by walls, typical of vine growing in Burgundy. Visitors are welcomed not only for wine tasting but also for an intimate discovery of the vineyard for the whole family. Young ones from 5 to 17 are invited to discover the life that bursts in the vineyards, thanks to biodynamic viticulture. Biodynamic methods mean that as little input as possible are used to wisely cure the vines when needed, that only horses are allowed to plough the soil several times each year, that each grape is hand-picked at optimum maturity and that wines are slowly and delicately vinified. It also means hard work, patience and time, year-round care and of course passionate people to make several of the best wines in Burgundy.
All wine tasting are guided by a sommelier and are tailored for wine novices, intermediates and seasoned wine enthusiasts. Depending on your expectations you will learn more about Pinot Noir or Chardonnay or both, about Burgundy climats, about the way to build your own cellar, about storing, handling and aging your wines and of course about food and wine matching. Chateau de Pommard also proposes “Vendanges Experiences” in late August or early September when harvest time has come. A limited number of guests have the opportunity to take part in harvest of Clos Marey-Monge. From handpicking grapes to being picky at the sorting table, this is your chance to live an experience of a lifetime. Not to forget the hearty and friendly breakfast. More at: https://chateaudepommard.com/
Before leaving Pommard make sure to pay a visit to “Appellation Chocolat”, a divine shop and workshop where Michel and Béatrice Dessolins make incredibly good chocolates. Of course everything is homemade and chocolates are all 100% guaranteed pure cocoa butter and made with the finest chocolates from the whole world, without any preservative. Praline, ganache, bars or ice creams and sorbets are flavoured with fresh fruits and even with Pommard wines! “Appellation Chocolat” is located on the main square of Pommard. It’s a tiny village and the shop is easy to spot. In case you wouldn’t be able to find it just ask passersby, they’ll undoubtedly know the way to this delightful place!
On our way on the “Route des Grands Crus” we discovered a haven of peace and of wellbeing, the “Chateau de Citeaux-La Cueillette”. This 4-star hotel is set in a beautiful castle built in 1865 in the middle of vineyards by Jules Bernard, a prosperous wine merchant. Originally the estate belonged to a community of Cistercian monks who grew vines and made wine in vast underground cellars that can still be visited today.
After extensive works of renovation the hotel opened in 2009. With only 19 rooms it offers to few lucky guests a relaxing and quiet stay, only “disturbed” by the singing of the birds. A few rooms on the second floor have their own large terrace, with chaises longues and parasol, so romantic at sunset, when the sun offers the village roofs in the distance an unforgettable golden silhouette.
The hotel spa is like no other and proposes treatments called “Fruititherapie”, based on the healing powers of organic red berries rich in vitamins, trace elements and mineral salts. These berries are grown in Burgundy and frozen in order to preserve all their properties until being mixed with honey and grape seed oil, and turned into facemasks, scrubs or creams just before being used on your body by the beautician. Next you can relax in the sauna, the steam room, the indoor heated swimming pool or the outdoor solarium facing the park and the vineyards. A unique experience!
The “Chateau de Citeaux” hotel has two restaurants, both ruled by a talented chef, Sebastien Dorier. After working in Michelin starred restaurants in France and in Japan (he speaks fluent Japanese) he settled in Meursault last year to better enjoy his family life and delight all gourmets coming to Burgundy. After a sunset drink on the castle terrace facing the vineyards, we had dinner at “La Cueillette”, the hotel’s gastronomic restaurant. It is set in the former dining room of the castle that has been carefully renovated. Wooden panelling, precious tapestries, period chandeliers and an impressive fireplace have regained all their 19th century splendour.
Sebastien Dorier carefully selects local and fresh produce to concoct inventive and tasteful dishes, smoothly mixing French and Japanese influences. In his hand a simple organic poached egg harmonized with tagliatelles of green asparagus, Comté cheese cream and grilled chips of Morteau sausage turns into a flavour bomb producing a lovely texture in the mouth. Simply served with mashed Ratte potatoes, watercress and yuzu cream a freshly fished arctic char retains all its flavours and aromas. Sebastien really spoils his guests with his dessert creations. Everything is homemade including a delicious and unheard of balsamic vinegar ice cream served with a perfect raspberry mousse and a drop of mint and yuzu. A grand finale for a great dinner!
Open for lunch the “Potager” is the second restaurant of the hotel, set in the former kitchen of the castle. In summer time you can have lunch in the garden and enjoy Sebastien’s cuisine with more affordable menus but with the same attention to quality and taste. Menus often change according to seasonal produce and to Sebastien’s inventiveness. Hotel “Chateau de Citeaux-La Cueillette” definitely is a delightful stay in Burgundy!
The “Chateau de Citeaux-La Cueillette” is located in beautiful Meursault village, only 5km away from Beaune. https://www.lacueillette.com/en/
More about Beaune and its region: https://www.beaune-tourism.com/
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny