After much delay, our EU Austerity Drinking Tour continues. 131 continuous days of travel, drinking, eating, and drinking our way through Europe has worn us out. But somehow, we keep striving in Burgundy. Today, we visit Beaune: wine capital of Bourgogne and possibly the world:
The gates of famous wineries frame our entry into town. Already starving, we grab our thousandth lunch of quiche to go (don’t try vegetarian travel in France). Then, a walk through a park pops us into vineyards:
A bit up the road, we find a map that provides much needed context (and direction).
In order to brush with that Premiere Cru greatness, we hike the hill. We assume we’re alone, but grumpy French men, like lonely icicles tend to the vines:
We climb higher into Premier Cru territory. The road wiggles up the ever-steeper, terraced slope. Orphan grapes hang on hibernating vines. With no one looking, I try some:
“Nice”: not my most shining tasting note. But in truth, they are sweet, notably acidic, dark-fruited, spicy, and tannic. What makes these grapes so well structured, yet delicate their restraint, is (in addition to the miserable weather), chalk:
Nearing the top of Mount Beaune, a sliver of topsoil covers flaking, calcium rich bedrock. The dirt tastes bitter, bone-like, and silty, but somewhat like coffee. The chalk bedrock tastes like, well, chalk. This difficult soil strains vines to the max, while providing stellar drainage in this wet, wet place.
And then we get completely lost. Who knew a massive forest park topped Mount Beaune? Luckily, we find our way out.
We tumble back into Beaune (more on that next Monday). But since we made it to this edge of vine-growing, we should try a wine from here.
Also, because this is an EU AUSTERITY Drinking Tour, we forgo the pricey Premier Cru from Beaune’s middle slopes, for something less expensive from its higher elevation: Hautes-Côtes de Beaune:
Nuiton-Beaunoy, Le Mont Battois, Pinot Noir, Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune, France, 2010. €12.00
Appearance: It looks like a clear, light, bright ruby.
Aromas: Clean, developing, medium plus intense aromas of strawberry jam meld with an over-toasted creme brûlée.
Palate: This is dry, with medium plus acidity, flinty moderate tannins, a medium alcohol of 12.5%, all of which creates a medium body. Bright, edgy, but average.
Flavors: Whereas the aromatics shined, here medium intense flavors of red grapefruit and cranberry juice, cigar, dried herb, and chalk persist for a medium plus length.
Nuiton-Beaunoy, Le Mont Battois is very lean, sprightly, but needs a roast turkey or chicken. The extreme strains of growing high up Beaune’s slopes denies this wine premier cru status, let alone standard Beaune AOC status. It is good (3 of 5) and completely true to its place and price, but not compelling.
Next Monday continues our tour of the city of Beaune and its famed Hospices de Beaune: home of wine’s greatest auction.