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  • Shelley Dark

5. a walk through the vineyards

Here we are in Chambolle-Musigny, a tiny village in Burgundy between Dijon to the north and Beaune to the south. It's a delightful boutique hotel with only 10 rooms. It was built in the 18th century on the foundations of a Cistercian abbey.

the previous wine label of the château - photo website Château André Ziltener wines

André Ziltener, a Swiss wine-maker, bought the château in 1989 to fulfil his dream of expanding his wine production into Burgundy. He renovated the château totally and it opened as a hotel in 1993. His daughter Nicole Ziltener Bollinger was the marketing and sales director. The Ziltener family has since sold. There's a tasting room (caveau) at the left of the photo as you enter the chateau from the street. I had a Montrachet wine tonight and it was sensational.

That's the Nîmes station above. Our driver this morning from Gordes to the Avignon train station was an interesting fellow. A dancer, a choreographer, an actor, a geologist, currently a taxi driver. He prefers to stay in a job for about 3 years. He loves qi gong and yoga and has spent months at a time in India. He's just bought a small motorbike and is going to travel across Spain and Morocco for his holidays this year.

I'm always nervous about catching trains in a foreign country. I find it a little nerve-wracking. In France I think the 'voie' or platform is marked in an unusual way. It has a sign above eye height with the alphabetical letter, and an arrow pointing downwards which makes me think that we have to go down stairs to reach it. But it actually means that the platform is right here, under the arrow. We managed the Avignon/Nîmes and Nîmes/Dijon without a problem. Bystanders were very kind. I think they felt they must help the poor old couple. A stranger took my suitcase and loaded it on the train, another took it off the train, before John could do it. Just so kind.

A taxi delivered us here in no time. The château is quite lovely, with very high ceilings. This is the bedroom of our suite. The walls are pale lemon moiré satin, the bed cover a lemon brocade. The curtains are a pretty toile, and the chairs a stripe.

There's also an office/salon as well as the bathroom with separate loo. All very comfy.

Our guide John came here at 2pm. When I say guide, he gave us our maps and directions for the 5 days. We walk alone. He is an American who is married to a Burgundian whose family has always made wines. So he's a winemaker and a tour guide. We will see him and his van during the next 5 days, when he ferries us to the start of walks or transfers our luggage. This afternoon he drove us to Nuit-Saint-Georges and we walked back the 8 kilometres to the hotel through the grand cru vineyards. It was a flat easy stroll along paved roads through the Cote d'Or, so we declined to take the hiking sticks John offered. Tomorrow he will pick us up and take us to the start of tomorrow's first walk.

This sign belongs to the world-famous Romanée Conti vineyard, generally acknowledged as producing the most expensive wine in the world. It says it understands that people come to visit, but requests very politely that passers-by do not enter the vineyard.

Let me tell you a little about the wines of Burgundy. The reds are all mostly made from pinot noir grapes, and the whites from chardonnay. So the real difference between the wines of Burgundy comes from the area or terroir where they are grown, and the skill of the wine-maker. We're quite near Beaune, the wine capital. I'll tell you more about Beaune later when we visit it.

There are four wine areas, defined by Appéllation Contrôlée, a regulatory classification for wines.

Grand Cru are known as the greatest wines, and come from the top areas. There are only 32 tiny areas (with specific boundaries as in the photo above) allowed to call their wines by this name. eg Le Montrachet Grand Cru

Premier Cru is next best in quality, producing consistently better grapes. eg Beane Premier Cru

Village Appellation are generally nice wines, from particular villages. eg the wine would simply say Beaune

Regional Appellation is the least specific label, generally meaning a decent table wine. eg Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits

Now we can recognise the quality of a Burgundian wine by its label!

Our walk this afternoon was through the Côtes de Nuits area, past the who's who of the wine industry in the area.

This is Clos de Vougeot which is a vineyard enclosed by a high stone wall. We didn't stop to taste test as there were storms threatening! It was started as most vineyards were, by Cistercian monks. The chateau dates from 1551. During the French Revolution it was seized by the state and sold off to private buyers. The land has been progressively subdivided since then. Wines from inside the wall are entitled to the grand cru designation. You can see that it's very early in the season and there's only minimal leaf growth on the vines with the beginnings of bunches of grapes.

photo of a Gevrey-Chambertin vineyard by Urban own work Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

This photo above shows a vineyard in full leaf. Archaeological excavation has found Gallo-Roman vines dating back to the 1st Century BC in the area. That's a long history of wine-making.

I took this photo of the front of a church in Nuits-Saint-Georges. Five minutes later, we were caught in a torrential downpour which lasted for 10 minutes or so. The streets were awash. Thank goodness for the hotel umbrellas. After that, the storms held off until we arrived home.

It was a very pretty walk through little villages.

We met these two German women hiking. Their outfits made us look like amateurs. We wished each other happy travels in pidgin.

The vines stretch uninterrupted for hundreds of metres.

It was fun strolling along, stopping to take photos. John took this one of me. That's the directions I have in my hand, in a plastic sleeve so they didn't get wet. And the orange hotel umbrella.

So many photos begging to be taken....

Small areas of wildflowers.

I'm so glad the wisteria is out here. It was nearly finished in Provence.

There isn't a colour which doesn't look fabulous with grey stone is there?

We were at home at the château by 5.45pm when it poured again with rain and thunder and lightning. We had intended to have dinner at a local restaurant just down the road. But we didn't feel like going out in pouring rain, so we settled instead for very, very good wine and lots of nibbles and now we are ready to fall into bed. It's easy to say that staff are outstanding, but I'd have to say that the staff here, led by Olivier, are second to none. Genuine care and concern. It really feels like home.

Bonne nuit mes amis! Until tomorrow night from Beaune.

shelley dark, writer 

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