A Winelover’s Tour de France (12 )

It was late afternoon when Bede reached the large wine town of
Beaune. The roadside sign proclaimed “Ici Beaune – Capitale du
Bourgogne”. Beaune is the centre of the Burgundy wine trade and
lives up to the nobility of its neighbouring vineyards. To the traveller,
Beaune comes as a respite. It is a drowsy Burgundian town, very old
and very ripe, with crooked, cobbled streets, ramparts, vistas (always
oblique), steep moss-covered roofs, and the famous Hospices de
Beaune, known as the Hôtel-Dieu.
Bede stayed at the Logis de France Hôtel Grillon on the edge of town.
It was a comfortable, family-owned and -operated two-storeyed hotel
set in a quiet garden. Bede was to spend two very relaxing days here
as he went about exploring this delightful town. On his first night he
dined at the hotel restaurant, which had an intimate and sumptuous
setting with a view through large French doors to an expansive and
delightfully landscaped garden. He found himself sharing a side table
for two people with a French national, Michelle, who, it turned out,
was visiting Beaune on her way through to Dijon. Michelle was a
business consultant based in Lyon with a background in commercial
law, a tall and striking brunette in her forties, sassy, and with a
personality and attitude to match. Bede’s kind of woman. Over the
course of the meal they discovered they had a number of shared
interests: travel, sport (particularly tennis), books, and fine dining and
wine. Michelle lived alone in her own apartment in Lyon. After dinner
they adjourned to Bede’s room for a nightcap and an intimate chat.
The initial encounter was very hot, with much flirting and sexy talk
on both sides. Bede had a first-time experience of getting right up
close to someone without actually making physical contact, which
was incredibly sensuous . It was a highly charged and sexually
stimulating experience. Nothing further happened between them that
night, but Michelle took her leave with a promise of things to come.
Their contact with each other would be renewed and come to full
fruition later in Dijon. Michelle had her business dealings and
appointments to occupy her, while Bede went about discovering
Bede explored the centre of this beautiful medieval walled town,
taking in the Musée du Vin de Bourgogne, which is located in a
former mansion of the dukes, a handsome wood and stone structure
from the 15th and 16th centuries. The history of winemaking is
represented by artworks, tools, costumes and photographs. He also
visited a number of négociants ( wine merchants ) and wine cellars in
this charming town of wine. These included the Caves du Couvent des
Cordeliers and the Maison du Colombier.
The Hôtel-Dieu was founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, the
Chancellor of Burgundy under Philippe le Bel, as a charity hospital. It
was renovated, restored and altered in 1871 as a place for the aged. It
is a building of flamboyant design – multi-coloured mosaic roof tiles,
small towers, ranks of inviting dormer windows, and eccentric
weather vanes. Chancellor Rolin bequeathed his vineyards to the
hospital, and the annual income from the seasonal wine production
goes to preserve and implement its good works. The wine is sold at
auction on the third Sunday in November in each year and carries
over into a three-day festival of feasting, watched over by the merry
group known as the Confrèrie des Chevaliers du Tastevin.
It was a fine but cool morning when Bede left Beaune, headed for the
city of Dijon. Before leaving he had arranged with Michelle that they
would catch up in Dijon and that they would both take rooms at the
same hotel. Early on he encountered the interesting wine villages of
Aloxe-Corton and Corgoloin, before reaching the small town of
Nuits-St-Georges. The headquarters of many négociants éleveurs (the
wine merchants who control and market the wine of individual
growers) are based in Nuits-St-Georges. It is a busy town situated at
the limit of the Route des Grands Crus, which extends from Chenôve,
just outside Dijon.
After a light lunch at a café in Nuits-St-Georges, Bede proceeded on
through to the village of Vosne-Romanée and then to Vougeot. It is
here that one finds the walled vineyard of the Clos de Vougeot. The
estate has a fine Renaissance château dating from the 16th century. It
is the headquarters of the Burgundian wine order Confrèrie des
Chevaliers du Tastevin, an organisation which promotes the wines of
Burgundy throughout the world. Bede visited the wine museum in its
huge Romanesque cellars, with some interesting medieval wine
presses on display. On he went through the villages of Morey-St-
Denis; the world-famed Gevrey-Chambertin, where its inhabitants
live for the vines; Fixin, where in a park above the village is a bronze
statue of Napoleon, sculpted in 1846 by Francois Rude, whose most
famous work is the decorative panels of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris;
Chenôve; and then on to the city of Dijon. It is here that he discovered
a truly handsome city with picturesque and bustling pedestrian streets,
parks and gardens, which all contribute to the city’s lively and warm


BARRY JOHNS ( aka Le Vigneron )