France – Jour 8 – Part 1
Today was the first day of our Burgundy wine tour with Duvine Adventures – but first we had to pack up and get out of our apartment nice and early to catch the train! We had grand plans of travelling via le metro to the larger station of Paris-Bercy – but we saw a taxi and were seduced by the allure of bucket seats and personal delivery to the door of the station! So €15 and 15 minutes later were safely standing inside Paris Bercy Station. A quick negotiation with the ticket machine – and we were set.
Paris-Bercy Train Station
The train came and we settled ourselves into a car – we were in the first class section, where you could have your own little room – we shared ours with a lovely French lady for part of the way. She laughed at me when I said Au revoir Paris… as we pulled out of the station. The pictures below were taken from the train – just to show you a little of the country side! They’re not the best quality – but you have to remember they were taken through glass windows from a speeding train !! High degrees of difficulty you know!
Countryside hay bales
Countryside church spires
Les Vaches – who make all that beautiful cheese!
We’re getting into the villages now…
We finally arrived at the Beaune train station after three and a bit hours. Adam, one of the Duvine guides met us – and thankfully took charge of the largest suitcase. A quick transfer later in the tour support bus – and we arrived at our hotel. No rest for the wicked though – we enjoyed a quick welcome drink and did introductions and then we were on our bikes!
…and our steeds await!
Today’s ride was a little loop over to Mersault and back. Vincent, guide #2, was our guide for the ride. We have two guides – one drives the van and acts as support, the other rides with the group and talks us through the history and the cultural aspects of the area. Today, Adam was the van driver, and Vincent was our cycling guide. Vincent is a very feisty French man – who grew up in the area of Beaune, so has lots of stories to tell!! The lovely Adam is Irish, but lives in France with his girlfriend over in Corsica – supporting Duvine adventures during the touring season.
We rode through the vineyards and quickly came across a group of pickers who were harvesting the grapes. We’re right in the middle of harvest season – so everywhere we go there is lots of activity. La Proprietaire, the vineyard owner who was out with her pickers, came over to have a chat to us about the harvest.
Vincent with La Proprietare, and the pinot noir grapes that were being harvested.
Vincent explained to us the difference between village, cru and grand cru vineyards. It’s all about where the plot sits on the slope of the valley – if your plot is on the valley floor it’s called a village wine; on the slope, it’s called a cru or premier cru; and on the slope with the best sun exposure, you can call your wine grand cru.
We continued on our way through the vineyards then stopped in Mersault at a winery for a picnic lunch prepared by Adam – as you can see, it’s like no picnic you would prepare yourselves – so much to choose from, quiches, salads, cheeses, meats, wine – all very yummy!
We were very lucky to have this picnic in the courtyard of a great winery – Ropiteau. The lovely winemaker and a member of the family that owns the vineyard and winery, Regis, showed us around his cellars and told us a lot about how they make wine.
What’s interesting about these cellars are that they’re covered with penicillin mould – which apparently keeps away the bad bacteria. It looked a bit spooky – but the thought of having all that lovely wine so close to us was enough to fortify us! There was also thousands of bottles stacked up in different alcoves – apparently these are the “mistakes of the past”. It’s actually more expensive to get rid of these wines, than it is to keep them in storage – which is not so bad anyway – because it’s a constant reminder to everyone about what it costs to make mistakes in the winemaking process. Some of these bottles are hundreds of years old!
Afterwards we enjoyed a tasting, where Regis explained French wine labels. Unlike in Australia, where you can buy – say pinot noir – almost anywhere, in any wine region. Here in France it’s very particular. For example, here in Burgundy (Bourgogne on the label) they only have two grape varieties – chardonnay and pinot noir. Yet they create a huge diversity of wine – all distinguished by the plot where the vineyard sits. It’s all about the terroir – so, in order to know what you’re ordering in a restaurant – you actually have to know the particular vineyard or plot that you like. Knowing the winery itself is not enough…. The French must be great at geography!
More Burgundy Vineyards
Ahhh…. Time to get on the bikes again! It’s a bit of a challenge – given we drank so much wine at lunch, and then more at the tasting. We head off – there’s a couple of hills in the mix – always such a pleasure for me! Thankfully I had sufficient wine in my system to keep me going…
Map of the Mersault Loop
And here is the map of where we travelled, followed by the elevation (see just below)… just to let you know that it’s not all flat and easy going over here in France… we’re doing it a bit tough!!
Vital statistics: Distance: 18.45km Elevation Gain: 108m
We got back from our ride and checked into the Hotel – ooh la la!! Look at this room! Amazing – this is what’s great about the Duvine tours – the accommodation and the meals are so great! We enjoyed our well rewarded showers and got ready for dinner… which will be the subject of my next post….