Bicycling along the Route des Grand Crus, past some of the most famous vineyards in the world can be quite challenging for wine-loving cyclists! Tasting opportunities are many, and the temptation to taste is overpowering. But in the heat of the summer, there is only so much tasting one can do, and still manage to safely arrive at your intended destination for the night!
With this dilemma in mind, I planned ahead. The route from the northern edge of the Cote De Beaune in Ladoix to the southern edge in Santenay could easily be covered by bike in a day. But I wanted to really experience the area, explore the vineyards, the history, the wines and the people, so when planning my trip, I opted for shorter days of cycling, with plenty of time available at the end of the day for visiting caves, tasting and wine drinking. I allowed three days to tour the Cote De Beaune, but ultimately, this wasn’t even close to enough time. It’s hard to narrow down my favorite tasting experiences, but these three were definitely among my favorites.
The Village of Aloxe Corton:
It’s really easy to miss Aloxe Corton, even on a bike! With a population of less than 200 and just over 700 acres of vineyards, this town is home to some of the greatest wines of the Cote De Beaune: Corton and Corton Charlemagne. According to local history, the vineyards have roots going back to Charlemagne in 775 AD. As a matter of fact, some claim that chardonnay grapes were introduced to the area in order to produce a white wine that would not stain Charlemagne’s white beard!
Tasting in this tiny town was interesting, fun and comfortable. There were no crowds and we enjoyed easy-going conversations about the wines and local history at three domaines: Caveau Aloxe-Corton, the glazed-tile roofed Chateau Corton-Andre with tasting in its beautiful cellar, and Domaine Michael Voarick, where we were able to taste the much-requested, but rarely available Corton Charlemagne.
The great news about tasting here is that we spent the night at the lovely Villa Louise in town, so all we had to do at the end of the day was walk back to our hotel. We had a picnic that night on the terrace at our hotel overlooking the famous Aloxe-Corton vineyards.
La Table D’ Olivier Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet
Puligny-Montrachet has a population of 420, huge compared to Aloxe Corton! The town is home to four grand crus, and has roots going back to the 12th century when local monks planted the first vines in the area. It is home to a number of domaines and many tasting opportunities, but my favorite by far was our dinner and wine tasting at Olivier Leflaive’s restaurant.
At a price of 50 Euros/person, it definitely was a splurge, but the wine, food and overall experience was a once in a lifetime experience. Over the course of our three hour dinner, we tasted 14(that’s right, 14!) different appellations from the 65 produced by Leflaive. Wines were served in groups of three, along with wonderful Burgundian food, ranging from gougeres, light and tasty bits of cheese heaven, to terrine of tuna and smoked salmon to chicken in puff pastry to local cheeses and mousse au chocolat.
Each flight of wines was served at our table by our sommelier Rachel, who was diligent with her description of each wine, and instructive in maximizing the tasting experience. The experience at Oliver’s Table was about as great as a wine-tasting experience can be. The atmosphere was warm and relaxed, the tasting was leisurely and slow, allowing time to savor, contemplate and enjoy. Our sommelier Rachel was a joy, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and informative, always taking the time to explain the impact of the soil, the environment and the elements on the elegance and depth of the Leflaive wines. This experience definitely rates near the top of my Burgundy wine tasting experiences!
The Chateau de Mersault
This chateau is one of the most visited properties in Burgundy, with more than 20,000 annual visitors. The chateau’s roots can be traced back to the 11th century, and it currently is one, if not the biggest cellar in Burgundy with over 700,000 bottles and 2,000 barrels of wine. The tour of the cellars and the tasting was a fun and very informative experience. Walking through the huge cellars, surrounded by thousands of bottles of wine was really incredible.
I really got spoiled with great wines on my trip through the Loire and Burgundy. I’ve never had the opportunity to taste so many different types of wine in such a short period of time, and the unbelievable wines were really a highlight of the trip. How to pick a favorite? That’s pretty tough! Many of the wines that you taste aren’t meant to be consumed for a few years, so those don’t really count. One of my favorites in Burgundy was a bottle of 2006 Beaune LeClos des Perrieres from Domaine Lois Dufouleur. I wish I had a case of it!