In the light of day
We woke up at our le Clos de L'abbaye B&B, and finally there was daylight for us. When we were lost for 3 hours, we could not really see what was around us, except for going forward on small vineyard roads. It was so nice to get out and see what we were missing the night before.
We squirreled our way down the hill from St Sernin du Plain in to the town of Beaune. We passed by vineyard after vineyard after vineyard. Many of these vineyards date back to the 1500s or more. The vineyards have been producing grapes and wine for hundreds of years by the same families. Looking at each plot and appellation in Bourgogne, I could feel the history of the land. Each vine was planted with purpose, and tending to each vine has been perfected down to a science. All the mistakes in planting, tending and harvesting were weeded out hundreds of years ago. These wine families just know how to do things from 100s of years of experience.
As a hobby, we are part of a collective that gets Napa wine grapes, and we crush, press and age some of our own wine. After winding though Bourgogne, and feeling the history of the area, it really put our wine making in our place. We have no idea what we are doing, it certainly doesn't have 100s of years of family know how behind it, and we are lucky to even have palatable product at the end. In France, luck does not play into wine making. I think I have gotten to the point where I may not make anymore wine, and leave my sipping to the generations of master wine makers of Bourgogne. But then again, with markups and taxes on wine in this country, it kind of costs a lot of money to buy really good Bourgogne wine here.
We got into the town of Beaune on this drizzly rain day. I did not get a lot outside photos because I did not want to get my camera lens wet. During a short dry spell, I got a photo of this old church in Beaune. Notice the roof. This area of Bourgogne, luckily, was spared from bombing during the World Wars. The old castles and churches that are 100s of years old, are still standing and still in use, even retrofitted with modern plumbing. I doubt the house I am living in will make it another 25 years, let alone 500+ years. Anyway, The roof tops of these buildings are glazed tile roofs, and make spectacular patterns.
What we decided to do on this rainy drizzly day was to go to the Beaune Wine Museum. I actually learned quite a lot about wine in Bourgogne. I took a photo of the map and the region for me to remember where we went. We did get through most of the Bourgogne wine making areas from south of Macon and up to Dijon. There will be more blogs about the other areas to come.
I learned that there are 2 major grapes grown in this province: chardonnay and pinot noir, that is about 95% of all grapes grown. I believe that from old traditions and then finalized in law, that certain appellations can only grow certain grapes. So now, an appellation designated for chardonnay grapes cannot just go off an grow petit syrah, as an example. Every dining experience we had in this region, we requested a locally made wine, and the question back was red or white? Well, it is either pinot or chard. Am I the only one who was not in on this clue until now? It turns out nearly all wines imported into the USA from Bourgogne are chard or pinot, and most of the last 5% of other grapes are just sipped on by families in Bourgogne. The important part about Bourgogne wine is what appellation (soil and grade) the grapes are from, and who the wine maker is, it is not the grape varietal.
This trip reminds me of something that happened to me 10 years ago in a Belle Meade area wine store. (note: Belle Meade is the town that ex-Senator Frist, ex-VP Gore and disco Queen Donna Summer live now. Also note, I am NOT talking about the wine store up at the 100-70 split, nor the one under the bridge next to the Kroger). Look, I don't claim to anything about wine, and 10 years ago, I really knew nothing about wine. 10 years ago, I thought Burgundy was a type red grape. So I walked into the liquor store, and a know-it-all clerk, with a beer belly, kind of rednecky, kind of sweaty greasy with a cheesy mustache, asked me what I wanted (apparently in certain adverse conditions, women like me don't forget too many details). I requested a Burgundy red. Then the kia said something like this: If you can't tell me what type of grape you want from this region, and it is a huge wine making region, I can't possibly help you. It is quite likely that all the Burgundy wine the store had at that time was just pinot. The store focuses on hard liquor, and doesn't have a wide range of wine, and I bet this kia had no idea about Burgundy reds, just like me, so he opted to act worse than the comic book store guy from the Simpsons. I left that store with a nasty Robert Mondavi and had not purchased another Burgundy until now because I was so intimidated. What a dis-service that guy did to me. For a decade, I could have been enjoying some of the best wine in the world. I gotta a lot of ground to cover, now that I know more.
Anyway, back to Beaune and the Beaune Wine Museum. We had a ball walking through this museum. There were so many cool vessels, and descriptions of the old ways of making wine. The old man-powered machines, the old school measuring devices, and the old wine vessels were all very interesting to look at. Since my French isn't so good, I did not understand all of what the placards were saying about wine making equipment and how they were used. I really need to know more about these old ways to help us with our hobby wine making. Since we do everything by hand, no machinery, it would to our benefit to learn more about the old ways.
There was so much to see and learn in this museum, and I only could take photos without flash. It is unfortunate that only a fraction of photos worked out for me because I did not have a tripod (flash photos nor were tripods allowed in the museum). I feel like I need to work on my French, or at least wine making related French vocabulary, and return to the Beaune Wine Museum and learn more the next time.
As we exited the museum, on the stairway down to ground level and exit door, I saw this placard on the wall with a word about Col. Charles R Codman from Boston. I googled him, and he was a wealthy man, Harvard Educated and served in both WW1 and re-enlisted in WW2. He spent his time between wars as a French wine importer, and he must have spent a lot of time in Bourgogne in Beaune. Because he was fluent in French, and his country needed him for WW2, he went to France during the war. I could not find any googled info about his contribution to the Beaune Wine Museum, and this might be the only proof of his contribution to this town. So says Wikipedia, Col. Codman's only child and son died in Paris in 1946 at the age of 24, and Col. Codman died in 1956 at the age of 63. With the lack of direct descendants for Col. Codman to carry on the memory of his contribution to the Wine Museum, this placard becomes that much more important as past days, years and memories fade.