Burgundy, France

In September, 2015, we immersed ourselves for a week in one of the world’s most famous wine-making regions, the land called Burgundy, France. We stayed our first three nights in the old world town of Beaune, France, the heart of Burgundy.

Beaune, France

We stayed three nights in the town of Beaune, the heart of Burgundy, in a beautiful third story apartment you could only reach through a low door and up several turns of a medieval stone staircase. Today, Beaune is a town of 20,000 people. We stayed in old town Beaune, surrounded by medieval walls, within sound of medieval church bells ringing the hours and quarter hours. Our apartment was up three flights of a medieval stone spiral staircase, with 12 foot ceilings and tall windows looking out across the rooftops of old town Beaune. We visited the huge Saturday Open Market, to taste local flavors, listen to street musicians, and pick up locally grown items for our lunch. I worshiped at Notre Dame Church, built in the days of Bernard of Clairvaux, in the 1100s, in the height of Romanesque architecture, with stately arches, and flying buttresses to hold up the grandeur of this place of worship. On the Sunday service, I was joined by 150 Sunday morning worshipers, including many young families and children. I visited the Burgundy Wine Museum of Beaune, seeing the historic development of vineyards in this world-class region for wine-making, including history of vineyard tools, barrel-making, development of appellations and classes of wines (Grand Crus, Premier Crus, Villages), and production of wine from harvest to barrel to bottle to glass. Wine was made in Burgundy by Romans during the time of Christ. Many of the earliest vineyards of Burgundy, were begun by Christian monks growing grapes to make wine for use in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. We also toured the historic first European public health hospital called Hospices de Beaune, or “Hotel Dieu”, begun in the late 1400’s by the Chancellor to the Duke, a generous philanthropist who had a grand vision of caring for the poor with excellence and compassion.

Josesh Drouhin Winery Tour in Beaune, France

On a tour of Joseph Drouhin Winery in Beaune (the oldest winery in the region dating back to late medieval period), we walked in Beaune’s “underground”, literally under the streets of Beaune, in the ancient wine-cellars, past hundreds of aging barrels and thousands upon thousands of aging bottles of Burgundy’s best. We saw winepresses from the time of Gutenberg, who boldly converted his winepress in the late 1400s into the first printing press in the western world. Our tour guide told us the years of fives often have produced the best wines in Burgundy, including 1995, 2005, and now 2015. Harvest came earlier this year than in the previous few decades, with a severe hailstorm in August that destroyed 50% of the grapes in a few of the finest vineyards in the region, yet producing what our guide told promises to be one of the best wines in years. We tasted three whites and three reds, all produced in Burgundy, each with their own unique aromas and flavors, including flowers, fruits, earth and stone.

Burgundian Vineyard Villages

During our week in Burgundy, we drove the length of this province, from north in Dijon southward to Taize, right down the Cote de Or, driving along the Route des Grand Crus, the “Route of the Finest Burgundian Wine”. Along the way, we stopped at Clos des Vougeot, a medieval Cistercian Abbey, founded during the time of St. Bernard in the early 12th century, still making some of the finest Pinot Noir wine in the world today. Along our drive, we saw harvesters in the vineyards, though there had been a major thunder and lightning storm with heavy rains the evening before. Master Wine-Makers dread heavy rainfall at harvest time, causing the fragile Burgundy grapes (Pinot Noir) to split open or become water-logged, lowering the sugar content, and thus the quality of the wine. We also saw vineyards heavy with clusters of black grapes ready for harvest, and others already harvested. Due to a hot summer, harvest came three weeks early in 2015. Here’s a list of names of Burgundy vineyard villages through which we journeyed down the Cote de Or, on our way from Dijon to Taize in September, 2015: Marannay-la-Cote, Couchey, Fixin, Brochon, Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey St. Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot (including a visit to Clos des Vougeot), Vosne-Romanee (including the famed Romanee Conte vineyard which produces some of the most expensive Pinot Noir wine on the planet), Nuits-St. Georges, Premeaux-Prissy, Comblanchien, Buisson, Aloxe-Corton, Savigny-les-Beaune, Beaune, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Chagny, Bouzeron, Rully, Mercurey, Givry, Buxy, Cormatin, Chapize (site of the oldest and finest Romanesque Church in all of Burgundy and picture above), Tournus, Cluny. While in Burgundy, I’ve also immersed myself in John 15, memorizing Jesus’ lessons of the Vine and the Vineyard: “I am the true Vine and my Father is the Gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me and I will remain in me. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the Vine and you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”