WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: AM
Driving about two hours north from Lyon through La Terre des Pierres Dorées - the land of the golden stones - we headed north to the centre of the wine region of Burgundy, the charming town of Beaune. Surrounded by wine and artisanal food producers, it is not surprisingly known as a gastronomic and wine destination and was therefore a must during this trip to France. Think of the Cotswolds but with wine and perhaps a little more sunshine. This really is a town where you come to eat out and buy wine, except for Wednesdays and Saturdays when you head off to the market to bring home local treats to feast on. Producers that look like the farmers they are, with earth encrusted hands, gnarled from digging in the soil, passionate and informed. Farm to table at its best. The local producers are easy to spot with their spread of locally grown food, in stark contrast to the traders, whose wares do not usually grow in this bountiful region.
The town of Beaune is famous for its hospices which were set up to help the sick and disadvantaged. Built in 1443 these hospices are perfectly preserved from the Middle Ages and are therefore not surprisingly, one of France's most prestigious historic monuments. Founded by the Chancellor Nicolas Rolin and his wife Guigone de Salins to help the poor, sick and needy with overriding principles of charity and care which can be seen throughout. This was sustained by access to its own income and resource in the form of a saltworks and vineyards - which today amounts to 61 hectares of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Amazingly the hospital part of the hospice remained open from the Middle Ages through until the 1970's, when the town moved its medical practices to another local hospital - their wine is then each year on the third Sunday in November auctioned off at their very famous Wine Auction organised by Christie's.
Wine, grapes and anything grape related feature heavily in Beaune from the numerous caves, wine shops, there is even the Marie de Bourgogne Spa located in hotel Le Cep which through the line of cosmetics they use - Vinésime, being based on the excellence of the Burgundy region with extracts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes - capitalise on the best that this unique terroir have to offer. You could also take part in a wine experience, such as Château de Pommard's 'Simone' for example, which allows you to really share in the wine making experience and where your private wine advisor will divulge the biodynamic wine making philosophy among Clos Marey-Monge terroirs and wine tasting. A philosophy that embodies the concept that in order to protect the future we need to look into the past by way of biodynamic viticulture, reconnecting to ancient roots, ploughing with a horse and hoe, back to basic methods in wine making and by adopting an all-natural methodology, they aim to improve the expression of their terroir. This forward thinking has to be applauded.
For a truly luxurious lifestyle experience incorporating so much of what this town has to offer - the food, wine, sharing, bon vivant, joie de vivre atmosphere we highly recommend enrolling in a local cooking class with The Cook’s Atelier - whose pied-à-terre is the ideal home away from home - run on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This delightful mother and daughter team, start their class in the market, where you can experience first hand the joys of the local market, after which you will return to their Atelier and together you will prepare and cook the fruits of your market finds - culminating in a delightful long lunch with your new found friends. Their classes encapsulate the richness that is Beaune, together they are pure sunshine - passionate, engaged, knowledgeable and a delightful force of life in this wonderful town.