Friday, October 22, 2010

Introduction to the Burgundy Region

Day four in France was jam-packed with excitement as we had our final Champagne visit and headed into a totally new region – Burgundy.

We came to Troyes (pronounced “Twa”)  the previous night for our dinner and stay at Le Maison de Rhodes, but didn’t have any time to explore.  We made up for it with a tour through one of my favorite places yet. This charming city appears to have all the food, shopping and architectural aspects of every major city in Europe all rolled into one. 

Within a short two hour drive (or 1-1/2 hour train ride) from Paris, you can reach Troyes for a day at the famous outlet malls or a visit to the village.  The combination of strolling past James Joyce’s Pub, Medieval cathedrals and an H&M Department store was fascinating.  It was a place I wished I could stay in for days instead of a few short hours, but we had so much more to do.

After the tour of Troyes, it was time to officially leave the Champagne region and drive to Chablis.  During the hour drive we could see the scenery change a bit as rolling hills replaced the flatter land and the cows (which I would later learned were Charolais, unique to this area) would turn all white.   We arrived in Chablis in time for our farewell lunch at La Feuillette with Sarah, who had guided us with perfect detail through the Champagne-Ardienne Region.  We were greeted by Veronique of Burgundy Tourism and her enthusiasm for the region she grew up in.

In the 1970s, Chablis was most often the “house wine” served in restaurants throughout the United States.  It got a bad rap of being the cheap and unexciting white that many (including myself) had as their wine first glass.  My impression of the beverage certainly changed after spending the afternoon checking out the picturesque vineyards and tasting this chardonnay based semi-dry wine.  The tasting itself was quite an experience as it was guided by Eric Szablowski and his wife.  The two own a company called Au Coeur Du Vin and they take groups (and individuals) through the vineyards of Chablis in their small, antique cars.  It was quite an introduction to the area and the wine which could have lasted hours more, but the temperatures in the vineyard were quite chilly and we had to go meet a Countess!

On the edge of the city, Countess Beru has a 15th century castle which is a unique mix of incredible ancient stone and modern d├ęcor in many rooms (including the bed & breakfast area she rents out).  Also in this castle is the production of Chateaude Beru wine, which makes a selection of chardonnay wines.  We enjoyed the tour  -- and the wine – as the countess told us the history of the castle.  We got to see a beautiful sunset over her vineyards before we finished our day and headed to Auberge de la Beursaudiere.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to not overuse the word “quaint” and this hotel didn’t make it any easier.  We were once again presented with museum-quality rooms before we enjoyed dinner in their restaurant.  La Plite Beursaude had a German flair, which we learned was because of the owner’s Alsace background.  This city in France is on the German border and carries the influence of both countries.  It was yet another delicious meal and our first paired without champagne, but who could complain about drinking burgundy and chablis?  Especially when you were in yet another quaint town in the wines’ namesake.


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