Category Archives: Wine-Related Posts

A Sneak Peek At Grape Trips

If you are on our mailing list you will have already heard about Franck’s first ever “Grape Trip” planned for the week of March 28th to April 4th. If you are interested but these dates don’t work for you, there is also the possibility of organizing other Grape Trips during any week where there is availability at one of our properties between now and July 15th.

On his Grape Trips Franck will be taking guests staying in either La Maison des Deux Clochers or La Maison de la Vieille Vigne on three half-day guided bike rides through the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. The week will also be punctuated with wonderful meals and many delectable surprises such as a very special winetasting in the vineyard below.

This isn’t any vineyard. It is the Premier Cru appellation Clos de la Rougeotte in the famed winemaking village of Volnay.

Our friend Marco (who is the one wearing shorts, I always berate him for not wearing something warmer on his legs when the trois amigos go for their Sunday morning bikes rides) manages the Domaine that has the monopoly for this very wonderful Volnay terroir.

That’s right, Domaine Buffet, Marco’s family Domaine since the 16th Century, is the only one in the world who grows and produces this particular wine.

Franck will take his Grape Trip guests to taste some of this exclusive wine in the vineyard you see in the photos. This is of course where the actual grapes are grown, and Marco will be on hand to give his thoughts and to answer any questions.

See that cherry tree by the stone wall? It is apparently what gives Clos de la Rougeotte its rich and unique flavour of red berries. Marco (not at all biased, of course) says is the very best Volnay in existence.

We’ll be sending out more information about Franck’s Grape Trips in our next Grape News which I’ll be posting here. But if you have any questions before then you can always find my email address at

Authentic France Travel Tip #14: Laura’s Primer on Winetasting Etiquette

I received a few emailled questions about winetasting etiquette in France after my last Authentic France Travel Tip entitled “Don’t Be Intimidated by Winetastings“.

So without further ado, here is Laura’s Primer in Winetasting Etiquette that I include in all the information binders at our properties.

Rule #1

If you would like to do a BIG tasting where no wine purchase is expected or required, go to one of the big Domaines such as Patriarche, Bouchard, or Reine-Pédauque where you pay for a tasting.

Another fabulous possibility is to take part in one of the MANY wine festivals in France such as our local Saint-Vincent festival in late January, the Beaune wine auction in November, or the Fête du Vin Bourru in October in Nuits-Saint-Georges. In all of these places you pay for a glass and / or tickets and can then winetaste to your heart’s content. These events are a blast, and definitely give you an authentic experience of France’s wine regions.

Rule #2

At the smaller, family-run Domaines, winetastings are almost always free. There is never an obligation to buy, but do keep in mind that making wine requires a lot of hard work. If you like the wine, it is good manners to buy a bottle or two after the tasting. This is one of those unspoken yet understood points of etiquette.

Rule #3

Many people drop in to the smaller Domaines without an appointment for impromptu tastings. While this is indeed accepted practice, all the winemakers I know here are always saying how they prefer an appointment. This way they can set aside time in their busy days to consecrate to the tasting, and a more relaxed, more involved tasting is inevitably the result.

Rule #4

Don’t keep going back to the same (small) place expecting tastings every time you come to buy a bottle or two. Better to vary the places you visit, and besides, this is the best way to discover the unbelievably diverse world of French wines!

Rule #5

You are not expected to swallow everything you are given to taste, though you can if you want. It is perfectly polite to spit. Complain about those nasty gendarmes patrolling the routes with their alcohol tests and you will be viewed as un type sympathique. If the spittoon isn’t conspicuous, ask for one; this is infinitely preferable to spitting into the Sterling silver family heirloom champagne bucket by mistake.

Rule #6

If they offer you a free bottle of something nice at the end of your tasting, by all means accept it – they wouldn’t offer it if it wasn’t heart-felt; that’s the Burgundian way.

*”Authentic France Travel Tips” are posted every Tuesday and give ideas for savvy travellers who want to experience the authentic side of France.

Authentic France Travel Tip #13: Don’t Be Intimidated by Winetastings

If you have even the remotest interest in wine, it would be a shame to visit one of the myriad of France’s wine regions and not experience a winetasting.

As discussed in the comments of my last Frenchitude post, the big commercial tastings that you pay for are fine if you want to taste a bunch of wines with no obligation to buy, or tour really impressive cellars. However, I persist in believing that the heart and soul of French wine culture resides in the smaller family-run Domaines.

There are of course hundreds of these all over Burgundy, but it is not always easy for a visitor to summon the courage to push open their doors and venture inside.

Many visitors to France know little about winetasting technique or appellations or terroirs. French winemakers, by definition, know a lot. It’s definitely outside most people’s comfort zone to willingly enter into such an unbalanced situation. As adults, most of us are not big fans of feeling ignorant.

However, allow me to let you in on a little secret…the least favorite tasting clients of my winemaker friends here in Burgundy, by a long shot, are the ones who have spent years building up an encyclopedic knowledge about wine, and who are dead set on showing it off.

I regularly hear complaints from local winemakers about this brand of client. One superb but low-key winemaker I know has said of them, “they are so focused on trying to impress me with what they think they know that they spend all their time pointing out the flaws in my wine. They don’t appear to enjoy the wine they’re tasting, and I know that I’m certainly not enjoying myself.”

In my opinion, trying to impress a Burgundian winemaker reeks not only of the pretentious, but of the ridiculous. Consistently I have found that the more a French person knows about wine, the less they need to show off that knowledge.

One amazing tasting I did at the Domaine Comte de Vogue in Morey-Saint-Denis was ample proof of this. Francois Millet, the winemaker, obviously possessed an other-worldly knowledge of wine, and one taste of his “Les Amoureuses was proof enough that he also boasted a winemaking talent of the same breadth and depth.

Yet Monsieur Millet spoke very little, mainly letting his wines speak for themselves. When he did answer a question about winemaking technique, he answered plainly and simply. In France, and perhaps especially in Burgundy, trying to impress everyone with your store of wine knowledge is the best way of illustrating how little useful information you actually know.

Instead, consider winetastings an opportunity to discuss and learn. With this attitude, you will make yourself welcome and appreciated at all kinds of Domaines, from the biggest to the smallest.

Also remember there are no right or wrong answers in regards to how a wine tastes. As Aimé Guibert, a Languedoc winemaker, rhapsodized in the film Mondovino, taste is “an internal symphony”. He describes taste as the marvelous alchemy between what you have inside you and how that relates to the wine you drink. It does, and should, vary widely from person to person.

That is precisely what makes wine, and winetasting, so fascinating.

*”Authentic France Travel Tips” are posted every Tuesday and give ideas for savvy travellers who want to experience the authentic side of France.

Frenchitude Lesson #13: Enjoy Red Wine

My Dad, an avid adept to this aspect of Frenchitude, recently sent me a link that tells how, as well as combating cancer and heart disease, drinking red wine may also have another health benefit, preventing Alzheimer’s.

In Burgundy it goes without saying that red wine, even more so than bread or water, is viewed as the staff of life. It is seen as an indispensable way of nourishing the body, and even more importantly, the soul.

Burgundian winemakers take pride in austere, chemical-free wines that don’t benefit from any special assistance such as irrigation or fake oak flavouring. Made as purely as possible, wines become the link between man and the Earth. One cannot exist without the other, and together through an act of almost mystical alchemy they produce the sublime nectar in your glass.

The French have long known that drinking good red wine (emphasis on good) is a highly agreeable way of putting important compounds and minerals from the earth back into your body. It is also, and no less importantly, a way to commune with Mother Earth. The result is not only a bit of protection from the nasty tricks our bodies can play on us, but even more importantly a lovely sensation of being at one with the world.

The key to enjoying red wine the French way is twofold.

First, of course, is moderation. The French aren’t susceptible to the AngloSaxon tendency towards the “if one glass is good for me, a bottle must be even better” mentality. The French have long grasped that too much of anything detracts from pleasure, and pleasure, not health, is always the primary goal.

Second, the wine has to be good. This does not mean that the wine has to be expensive. Our winemaker friend Claire Naudin in MagnylesVillers is producing a new table wine that is not only inexpensive but as pure and gorgeous as all of her other wines.

I for one have tasted many a hideously expensive bad wine. When looking for wine to drink, don’t look for the most expensive bottle on the shelf. Search for a parsimonious use of sulfates and other chemicals, as well as a winemaker who has expressed a commitment to pure, honest winemaking.
Only eat and drink things that give you pleasure, especially red wine. That is the Frenchitude way.

**Frenchitude Fridays (French + Attitude = Frenchitude) give ideas for injecting a bit of frenchness into your life, whether you live in Washington or Wisconsin.

Why I Love Burgundy – Reason# 6

Because it is within the realm of possibility that one Friday night when the weather has turned cold your friends will call you up to invite you for an impromptu boeuf bourgignon, because it turns out they have – distracted by children – mistakenly poured in a whole bottle of 1991 Vougeot when making the sauce.

I have never before tasted a boeuf bourgignon that even comes close. It’s true what all the Burgundian grandmothers have always said: the quality of the wine in a sauce does make all the difference.

Of course we also drank the Savigny that had originally been intended for the sauce, and it wasn’t half bad either.

For The Wine Geeks Among Us : 2008 Beaune Wine Auction

Even the venerable Etienne Marey seemed a little down on Burgundy wine this year.
The Party Was Still On, But The Same Cannot Be Said For The Global Wine Market!

Everyone was expecting lower prices this year at the annual Beaune charity wine auction. The leader of the winemakers’ union was making nosies about a “soft landing” for global wine prices over the past several days. However, as it turned out, the metaphor of a fiery plane crash would have been more à propos.

Here’s what I mean;

Prices of Red Wine = down 31.53%

Prices of White Wine = down 2.45%

Total Price of White & Red Combined = down 26.42%

That’s right. Yikes. We were standing outside the halles looking into the auction, and listening as it was broadcast on speakers outside. The auctioneer from Christie’s would set the price, and then instead of going UP from there as it usually does, it went DOWN instead.

One of the most startling examples of this trend was the price of the pièce of wine that is traditionally sold every year with proceeds going to the charities chosen by the celebrity guests. In 2006 this pièce set a record by selling for over 200,000 Euros. This year it sold for 50,000 Euros. Repeat after me, Aie aie aie.

However, you wine geeks out there should know that these lower prices, in my opinion, really have little correlation to the quality of the 2008 vintage. True, 2008 was a vintage that suffered from a wet summer and a bout of very destructive hail. However, sunny dry weather leading up to the harvest and continuing all the way through saved the vintage.

The grapes were small, but all my winemakers friends are reporting that they are remarkably concentrated with considerable elegance and staying power. 2008 is looking like a year that is turning out better than anyone possibly could have expected, and all my favorite winemakers are predicting that it will be an excellent year for aging.

However, due to the problems with mildew this year, it is crucial for the 2008 vintage as it was for the 2007 vintage to only buy from winemakers who are rigorous about sorting their grapes and only harvesting optimal mildew-free bunches. For the many winemakers who do this as a matter of routine, the result of the 2008 Burgundy vintage is truly turning out to be a small miracle.

The real problem is the drop in exporters. I heard from my sources that the three most important wine buyers weren’t present at the auction this year, and I know that many winemakers here in Burgundy are suddenly unable to contact their US exporters.

The worldwide financial crisis has now, as of this weekend, officially reached Burgundy, but it is reassuring to note that despite all the whinging and wailing that the sky is falling, the wine here continues to be as delicious and authentic as ever.

The show must go on…

Beaune Vente des Vins Alert – This Weekend, November 14, 15, 16th

Just a quick alert for anyone who will be in or near Burgundy for this weekend (the 14th, 15th, & 16th) to come to Beaune and celebrate the world famous wine auction and city wide party.

The “Vente des Vins” or “Les Trois Glorieuses” happens on the third weekend in November every year in Beaune. The wines which are auctioned off by Christies to some of the biggest wine buyers in the world are produced by the hospital foundation. Throughout the centuries grateful and / or guilty people donated some seriously prestigious vineyards to Beaune’s hospital in an attempt to attain the “bypass-purgatory-get-through-the-pearly-gates” pass. The upshot is that Beaune’s Hospital Foundation has a porfolio of vineyards that can make a grown man weep with jealousy.

The wine is sold in large quantities to buyers who will then in turn bottle and sell it under their own names. The auction is not only an excuse to throw a three day party, but it also is an important indicator of the global market for red and white wines in any given year. There is always a lovely lady, like French actress Fanny Ardant above, present to beautify the proceedings. This is France after all.

Besides the auction there are constant parades, animations, and delicious food stands all around the Place Carnot. Also, Franck’s favorite part sthe legendary winetasting in the spectacular cellars of the Beaune’s Hospices itself. If you survive the mob to get in the cellar door, you will be guaranteed an eye-opening tasting of over 100 wines of the brand new (2008) vintage. I’ll be posting an insider take on the evolution of the new 2008 vintage on here soon.

For all the official poop, just click here;

Franck has also signed up this year for the “Vente des Vins” 10km race through the vineyards, but he informed me yesterday that he is also determined to do the traditional 100+ Hospices winetasting that very same morning. Should be interesting to put it mildly.

Stay tuned.

The Eagles Have Flown Le Nid

Message to sisters Suzanne and Jayne:

Franck transported The Eagles to the train station in Dijon this morning (only running three red lights – remarkable restraint) and they should now be winging their way somewhere over Greenland on their way towards you both.

Jean and Jacqueline gave Dad a lovely bottle of wine on Sunday of course (a Gevrey from the 1980’s if memory serves correct) but as a change of pace they also gave MOM a bottle of her own – a 1991 Monthélie. While translating Mom and Dad’s thanks I told Jean that I would be betting that we would be drinking Mom’s bottle first and, quelle surprise, I was right.

Dad is holding it with such pride that one would think it was his wine he was offering up, but I digress*…we very much enjoyed it last night for my B-day dinner. Wished you were here in theory, but frankly the bottle wouldn’t have been big enough for all of us.

Even before we opened it I liked it; 1991 was the year Franck and I met, after all.

It was delicious – very smooth and velvety with quite a bit of elegant fruitiness.

Totally off-topic – Do you like my new table cloth? I got that for my B-day too, as well as two shiny tiaras from Charlotte and Camille with fake jewels and fluffy balls stuck all over them. I am taking this to mean that I have attained royal status along with the ripe old age of 36.

Let me know when The Eagles land safely.


Your ancient sister xo

*Actually Dad did bring up lots of his bottles to drink during their stay, and they were very good indeed. However, it is just too fun to tease him about this.

The Hands of A Burgundy Winemaker Right About Now

These are the hands of our winemaker friend, Marc-Olivier Buffet of Domaine Buffet in Volnay, look like at the moment. The black-purple colour comes from mixing the huge vats of pressed grapes from the 2008 harvest as they macerate and begin to ferment.

The freshly squeezed grapes and their juices act as a very potent dye, as you can see here!

This is also a hazardous time of year for winemakers who spend a good portion of their days leaning over and mixing their enormous cuves (vats) of the macerating 2008 vintage. The carbon dioxide thrown off during the fermentation process can sometimes make a winemaker pass out – which is a major problem if you are hanging over or are actually inside a several metre high liquid-filled vat.

Then again, no-one ever said winemaking was for the faint of heart, or people who like to have lily-white hands…

Why I Love Burgundy – Reason #4

Why I Love Burgundy – Reason #4 : The Grape Harvest, known as “les vendanges

On my way home from picking the girls up from school yesterday I drove home through the exquisite village of PernandVergelesses and this is what I saw on the side of the road.

How can I not love the woven straw baskets full of just-picked luscious grapes, or the tired but exuberant pickers who joke with me as I snap my photos?

And how can I not love the trucks and tractors, decorated with crazy signs and grape vines and blown up plastic gloves that drive through the villages honking and singing to celebrate having all there grapes picked and safely stored in the cuverie?

Burgundy is all about les vendanges; les vendanges is all about Burgundy.

That’s why during these very special two weeks every year there is nowhere else I’d rather be.