By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Clos de Vougot is undoubtedly one of the most iconic vineyards in Burgundy and that name rings a bell in the mind of all wine connoisseurs around the world. Today Clos de Vougeot wishes to reach a wider audience and proposes exceptional wine and food pairing lunch menus blending local grands crus and specialities with the help of skilful maitre d’. A high quality experience set in the historic Clos de Vougeot castle.
With more than 900 years of history Clos de Vougeot is a proud example of French wine excellence. This centuries-old know-how has now spread in countless wine making areas worldwide. Today drinking a glass of Clos Vougeot Grand Cru allows you to experiment in one sip this sum of knowledge passed on from generation to generation.
In Burgundy many vineyards are surrounded by dry stonewalls and this is the reason why they are called “clos” that has the same etymology as the English verb “to close”. These walls were first built by Cistercian monks in the Middle Ages. Today they are well kept by their lucky owners and create the typical vineyard Burgundy landscape. You may already have heard of the Burgundy Climats that have been listed as UNESCO Heritage Site in 2015. A Climat is a Burgundy notion that refers to a delimited vineyard bearing the same name for centuries with specific sun exposure, microclimate and soil properties.
The Clos de Vougeot is a perfect example of these climats. It was created in 1110 by the monks of the nearby Citeaux Abbey who kept it until the French Revolution. It is located in the Vougeot village in the heart of the famous Burgundy wine road. If you want to feel like a true insider make sure to say “Clos de Vougeot” when talking of the castle or the vineyard while saying just “Clos Vougeot” when talking about the wine. Thus you will go to the “Clos de Vougeot” to drink a glass of “Clos Vougeot”. A subtlety that makes all the difference! Clos Vougeot wines are only red wines made with Pinot Noir… so once again be smart and do not ask for white wine when ordering a glass of Clos Vougeot.
The Clos de Vougeot is 50 hectares wide (123 acres) entirely surrounded by a 3 km-long wall and topped by the castle built in the middle of the 16th century. You may think that it is a very small piece of land but it actually is one of the largest Burgundy climat. Since the French Revolution when the monks were deprived of their property the Clos de Vougeot has been sold and bought several times. Today there are no less than 80 owners! But Clos Vougeot is such a prestigious and expensive wine that just one or two vine rows make you a rich man.
In 1889 Leonce Bocquet a local wealthy landowner and wine merchant, bought the castle and 15 hectares of vineyard surrounding it. At that time the castle was close to collapse and Léonce undertook huge works of restoration. He actually built the castle that we can see today. Nothing was too good for his beloved castle and he spent his money lavishly. The castle looked wonderful but Leonce ended penniless and, brokenhearted, had to sell Clos de Vougeot.
The Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin -the Knights Brotherhood of the Tastevin- was created in 1934 to promote Burgundy produce especially wine and cuisine as well as local customs and festivities. The brotherhood bought Clos de Vougeot castle in 1944. Ever since the castle is a Mecca for all gourmets and wine lovers worldwide. Today the Confrérie has 12,000 members throughout the world and they organise many international events each year. Head of State, ambassadors, royals, captains of industry, artists, champions… are welcome to join the Confrérie if and only if they show a true interest for France and French culture as well as a real commitment to stand up for human values. Of course the most prestigious events take place in Clos de Vougeot that is now the epicentre of Burgundy good taste, joie de vivre and friendliness.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a member of the brotherhood to enjoy a unique wine and food experience at Clos de Vougeot. “La Table de Léonce” is not strictly speaking a restaurant but a complete immersion in the Clos de Vougeot that will make you feel like a guest of the” Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin”. Upon arrival at 11:30 am you will first enjoy a one-hour guided tour in French, English, German or Italian (other languages are available on request) of the 12th century cellar, the ancient grape press, the monks’ dormitery, the huge kitchen, the well… and of course the castle beautifully renovated by Leonce Bocquet.
You will be next invited to go to one of the magnificent rooms of the castle where a few guests are going to have lunch. There is only one set menu proposed with a food and wine pairing including four or six different glasses of wine. All the wines have been selected by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. This is a real guarantee of quality since only premium wines from all over Burgundy are selected each year. It is a very good opportunity to taste rare and expensive wines. When we had lunch there we were thus able to taste an authentic Clos Vougeot Grand Cru. Be sure that having lunch at the “Table de Leonce” unable you to be part of the lucky ones who can tell how it feels to drink such wines.
A sommelier accompanies you during all your lunch. He will tell you many things about the history of wine in Burgundy, in Clos de Vougeot and about every wine served with each dish. Lunch starts with traditional Burgungy gougères that are savoury choux buns filled with snails. Please do taste them before making a face… they really are delicious. They are served with a glass of two different Burgundy white wines, a Merurey Premier Cru 2015 and a Rully Premier Cru 2017 Chapitre.
Next, we had a delicious slowly cooked ox cheek dish served with a Chambolle Musigny 2012 and a Saint Aubin Premier Cru 2015. Next comes a plate of local cheese paired with a glass of Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 2010 and of Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2012. Unless you are a skilled connoisseur of Burgundy wines you may not know all these different wines but believe me after tasting them you will undoubtedly want to visit several of those wine makers to bring a few bottles home. The castle shop doesn’t sell any wine so you can ask the sommelier to give you the name and address of these wine makers.
Finally, the lunch ends with dessert such as Pears Poached in Chardonnay wine, organic coffee or tea and Burgundy ginger bread. When booking your visit and lunch on the castle web site you can opt for a package including the castle visit; lunch and four wines (two village wines and two Premier Crus) for 75€ or with six wines (two villages, two Premiers Crus and two Grands Crus) for 105€. When we had lunch there all of our fellow lunch guests agreed to say that this had been one of the very best if not the best wine tourism experience they ever had. You can also privatise the “Table de Leonce” for a special lunch with friends or family. The Clos de Vougeot castle can also organise big events for you such as wedding or company reception.
More information and booking at www.closdevougeot.fr/en/
Last year Clos de Vougeot edited a beautiful cookbook that will tell you everything about the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin and their favourite recipes. This book is available in English. More about it in one of our previous article: b-c-ing-u.com/architecture/iconic-chateau-du-clos-de-vougeot-publishes-a-unique-cook-book-coffee-table-book-review-n-5/
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny or ©Annick Dournes