This is part 2 of my road trip down the Burgundy wine route, check out my previous post if you missed it. After a wonderful stay at the Chateau Sainte Sabine luxury hotel resort, we headed out to the medieval city of Beaune in the heart of Bourgogne or Burgundy.
Beaune is considered as the “wine capital” of Burgundy and is located in the Cote d’Or department between Paris and Geneva. It holds the most important wine auction of France in the Hospices of Beaune (which I really wanted to visit). It is a walled city with many of ramparts, battlements and medieval buildings still standing to this day.
I loved walking through the narrow streets and felt like I was taking a trip through time.
This town is very quaint and definitely worth a stop. We happened to be there on a Saturday, so we were lucky enough to have the traditional market open that morning. I feel that the French open air markets are the best when it comes to discovering the local products and getting great quality produce and a feel for the local cuisine.
Each french region has its specialties but Burgundy has one of the top notch cuisines in France and that’s really saying something.
After browsing through the sights, scents of the market, and yes making a couple of purchases we naturally ended up in front of the beautiful Hospice de Beaune.
Hospices de Beaune
We purchased our tickets and took the audio guide. This hospital is a breathtaking example of French architecture. The tiled roof tops are exceptionally amazing.
The Hospices de Beaune or Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune is a former charitable almshouse. It was founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor of Burgundy, as a hospital for the poor. The original hospital building, the Hôtel-Dieu, one of the finest examples of French fifteenth-century architecture, is now a museum. Services for patients are currently provided in modern hospital buildings.
The Hospices were created right when the plague had hit the Burgundy region. After the 100 year war many Beaune residents ended up destitute. These buildings were to cater to the poor, provide care and solace to the ones society had set aside.
The Hospices de Beaune consists of a pair of two-storied buildings arranged around a stone courtyard. In the middle of the courtyard is a well. The hospital is arranged so that the wings served the office, kitchen and apothecary functions.
Here are some pictures of the kitchen :
The nuns and patients were housed nearer the chapel, towards the center of the complex.
I find the polychrome roof tops particularly entrancing ! With the sunlight reflecting off of the glazed tiles, it was truly a gorgeous sight. They just don’t make hospitals that beautiful anymore! Though I have to say, walking through some of the museum rooms did give me a few chills, especially the ones regarding surgery. Modern hospitals definitely have their perks and general anesthesia is one of them! Just look at this gaz mask. It’s impressive from a historical point of view but I wouldn’t want that for me.
The room that I preferred was the Room of the Poor. Healing was both physical and spiritual. This really appeals to me as I feel modern medicine often times leaves the spiritual to the side. We’re not just bodies, we have a heart and soul as well! It is a huge room that opens up to the Chapel.
The ceiling is shaped like an upside down boat skiff. I loved how the wood was beautifully painted. There are also beautiful glass stained windows.
On each side, a row of curtained beds with night tables or chairs can be seen. The curtains were pulled when the nuns and their patients needed privacy. The patients could attend the mass from their beds.
To think there is no central heating is harsh! I’m always super cold when I’m sick. The nuns had to bring hot pans to warm the patients’ beds. Paintings that depict the care provided by the nuns and the way the hospices worked can be admired as you walk through this Room. It’s crazy to think that the Hospices received their first patient in the middle ages and closed in 1970!
The altarpiece is a gorgeous work of art that is now exposed in one of the other museum rooms along with many other paintings and treasures that were housed here.
One of the other rooms that particularly drew my interest was the apothecary or pharmacy. My French grandmother was a pharmacist in a time when they actually had to make a great deal of the medicines not just sell the labs pre-made or packaged products. Seeing the origin of this noble profession is very interesting. The machines they used were exposed and all the glass jars had been preserved. I found the packaging very beautiful.
A charity wine auction has been hosted in the hospices since 1859. It’s naturally devoted to the wines of Burgundy. The Domaine of Hospices de Beaune actually owns 61 hectares (150 acres) and produces wines that have received the label of Grand Cru and Premier Cru. You can purchase them in the gift shop on your way out.
I also found fun and interesting the fact that they took wine so seriously, wine was actually part of the healing process! They healed with wine and had many dedicated instruments and silver crockery with which they administered wine to the patients!
Healing with wine :
male patient : 0.5 liters or 16.9 fluid ounce per day
female patient : 0.4 liters or 13.5 fluid ounce per day
incurable female patient : 0.3 litres or 10.1 fluid ounce per day
children patient: 0.25 liter or 8.4 fluid ounce per day
Haha in France there was no legal drinking age ! In 1888 there was a recorded whopping 26 000 liters or 879164.59 fluid ounces per year consumption in the Hospices ! Science at that time found wine to have energizing properties. Good thing they had their own vineyards! Nowadays we know that drinking too much can lead to addiction.
All in all, I really recommend you visit this museum. Not only is the building gorgeous but the contents are enlightening and uplifting.
Burgundy Restaurant : La Ciboulette
69, rue de Lorraine
We wanted to experience real down to earth Burgundy cuisine away from the high end luxury restaurant we had enjoyed for dinner last night. We decided to ask a local from Beaune, word of mouth is still the best form of information if you ask me whether through social media or just in person. We got great advice from the sausage “Charcuterie” vendor. he told us one of the best local restaurants was called La Ciboulette.
It was a great choice, with a nice cosy interior but more importantly the food was very nicely priced and delicious!
Ciboulette is French for chives. Situated close to the Porte Saint Nicholas, in downtown Beaune, you’d never guess that the unassuming entrance to La Ciboulette, hides a fresh and lush garden themed interior. This interior, full of plants, and celery green furniture, gives the restaurant a pleasant and relaxing tone.
The beamed rooms with exposed bricks and decorated with flowers create a cozy place both pleasing to the eye and comfortable. This garden theme, which gives the restaurant a nice touch of simplicity and freshness, is also present in the delicious-looking dishes served. Each dish is full of colorful vegetables and fresh ingredients that come from local producers and the market. We of course had to have escargots, and burgundy wine cooked dishes with bourgignon beef and pear cooked in red burgundy wine!
The pricing ranges from 19€ to 52€. The prices were very reasonable compared to the quality of the food which I really enjoyed. The staff were very welcoming and kind. I liked the authentic feel, there were many other local people in this restaurant, it wasn’t a tourist spot.
The Porte Saint Nicholas used to be part of the fortified ramparts surrounding the city. It was built in 1762 on top of a medieval fortified door that was demolished. It used to have a drawbridge that many important historical figures rode through such as Henri 2 with Catherine de Medecis.
After our wonderful meal, we hopped back in the car definitely ready to get on with the serious business of wine tasting ! We had booked a tour of the winery at Chateau Mersault at 3 pm.
Château de Meursault has been a Great Patron of the “Climats de Bourgogne Association” that promoted their candidacy in the world heritage of UNESCO. We were more than delighted to know that on the 5th of July 2015 it was finally accepted!
The Château de Meursault is situated in the heart of Burgundy, in Côte de Beaune on the prestigious appellation of Meursault, which is a global reference for the great white wines. When you enter the Chateau de Meursault, you find yourself in a mythical Burgundy wine domain, a place full of history where you can taste the wines from Côte de Beaune surrounded by unique architecture.
It has became one of the most prestigious domains of the Côte-d’Or. The vineyard extends on nearly 60 hectares from Puligny-Montrachet to Aloxe-Corton, including fifteen Premier Crus, two Grands Crus and a monopoly.
In Meursault appellation, the Château is the owner of about 10 “climats” including the prestigious Charmes, Charmes Dessus and Perrières Premier Cru and possesses a monopoly: Clos des Grands Charrons.
Chardonnay is also the grape variety that is planted in the magnificent parcels of Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Gain and Champ Canet, Savigny-lès-Beaune, Beaune and Corton Vergennes.
The bottle of Château de Meursault is produced in a special mould created in the 18th century: only the wines from Château de Meursault and Château de Marsannay are presented in these unique bottles !
But you might wonder : what is a “climat” or “clos” something wine?
Vineyards and “Climats” of Burgundy
Each village has its own vineyard and appellations, red (pinot noir) and/or white (Chardonnay), and along the route, a landscape that’s harmonious and full of charm. Gentle curves, vineyards organised into parcels, some of them surrounded by dry stone walls, a river or hedge. These are the “Clos” (enclosed plots), whose entrance is sometimes adorned with impressive gates or porches bearing the owner’s name. Some plots have also retained their small limestone structures, called “Cabotes”, which used to serve as tool stores, somewhere the winemaker could rest and stop for a bite to eat.
Generally, the whites express themselves with subtlety once paired with cold starters, white meat, sea food and soft paste cheese. The reds, being more structured, can be accompanied by some spicy food like grilled meat, sausages, red meat with sauce and chocolate desserts.
Is only a short drive away from Beaune (around 15 minutes). There are several wine tasting tours you can choose from. But if you want to taste a Grand Cru, then you have to pick the 9 wines tasting tour instead of the 7. What I find really interesting about this domaine is the age of the cellars. The first wine cellar was built on the location of a water mill way back in the 11th century! The mill no longer stands today as the castle was built on top of it. But this is a case of early recycling of architecture! Anyways as the centuries passed on, the cellar was no longer large enough for the wine making process, and many other cellars were added next to the first one. The chateau itself was only built during the 19th century.
The tour started from the most recent wine cellar and all the way the oldest. Beware it is chilly down there as the temperature needs to be constant for the wine to age properly, so bring a sweater!
I loved the older wine cellars.I loved seeing the dust collect on the oldest bottles. Unfortunately I didn’t end up seeing any angels snooping to sneak their share of wine or liquor away!
Our guide gave us a pretty good tour with lots of information, almost too much, so I’ll do my best to relate it to you here. I’m not knowledgeable at all regarding wine. I just love drinking it ! haha!. Here are some charts showing how to make wine :
At the end of the visit, the main event finally started : the actual wine tasting! In France no need to be 21 to drink, 18 is enough and if you are with your parents they won’t card you. Of course proper wine tasting would have you spit out the wine in special containers, but hey ! I was not going to do that !
The wine tasting was done is a room that had information about the wines of this estate. They are most known for their white wines.
The red wines of the Château have deep ruby color, beautiful aromas and are dense and delicious on the palate. The white wines that can be considered as the jewels of the Côte de Beaune, have the golden color and are elegant and fine. I have a weak spot for red wine, but I definitely wanted to taste their white wines.
They had a glass box displaying all the notes one could find in their wines. Honestly I couldn’t taste them all, but I did manage to recognize a few !
The wine tasting ended with a bonus for those that wanted : the Marc de Mersault liquor. I was keen to taste this as I loved the Angel’s Share story. “Angels’ share” is a term for the portion (share) of a wine or distilled spirit’s volume that is lost to evaporation during aging in oak barrels. The guide told us that at the beginning of the liquor making process, the winemakers didn’t understand why there was less liquor in the barrels after a couple of months. They thought at the time that the angels would come and have a taste when no one was looking.
It wasn’t as strong as I had anticipated, and actually had a nice taste. (I don’t like it when the liquor is so strong you are overwhelmed and can’t appreciate the palate).
To say I was a little tipsy by the end of the wine tasting was an understatement! I guess that’s what you get if you drink without eating at the same time. This wine tasting tour is very fun and not stuffy at all. I would definitely recommend it. You get to keep your wine glass as a souvenir.
After these great times on the Burgundy wine route, sadly it was time to head home. But I’ll be sure to come back to continue exploring the many delights this region has to offer.
What is your favorite kind of wine : red or white? Have you been to Bourgogne? Let me know in the comments!
I’d love to chat with you on :