And so we arrive in Beaune, the home of the wine industry of Burgundy, in the middle of the Cote d'Or - the home of some of the most legendary (and expensive) wines in the world. Immediately to the South lies the Cotes de Beaune - that makes arguably the world's best Chardonnays, and some excellent Pinot Noir. Cote de Nuits lies to the North, virtually entirely Pinot Noir.
The first observation is how different the vines are here, these are chunky but stubby vines, perhaps half the height or less than what we see in NZ. They live in immaculately tended plots, often surrounded by stone walls from knee-height to more than 2 meters+ tall. The individual vineyard blocks also differ from NZ and even elsewhere in France, as a single block can have many different owners, sometimes each only holding a few rows of vines. The entire industry is a patchwork of individual growers and collectives, often producing a dizzying array of different wines from their patches of different sub appellations around the region.
We have arrived after vintage is done and dusted, with the wines safely sleeping in oak barrels for the year and the Domaine owners can concentrate on selling their wares until the next round of vine maintenance. The Photo above is from Meursault, almost at the boundary of Puligny-Montrachet - regions that both produce outstanding but different styles of Chardonnay... Ranging from expensive to ridiculously expensive. The Puligny wines tend toward a more mineral and firm style, whereas the Meursault is more perfumed and creamy. Amazing the difference just a few meters can make with subtle differences in soils and orientation.
The villages themselves are quaint and almost austere, nowhere to be seen are either the locals nor throngs of wine tourists, and while we haven't visited in peak season, I would still have expected more of a wine-pilgrimage to these hallowed grounds. Small streets, old stone houses with aged tile rooves and the odd tractor and the streets are eerily empty- which suits us fine, many of these roads I would not want to meet oncoming traffic! (Photo here is from the streets of the town of Puligny-Montrachet).
We enjoyed an excellent tasting of wines from Olivier Leflaive, from a number of different appellations including some premier cru wines that are a dramatic step up in concentration and quality, but also priced accordingly. Gah - why don't they sell the good stuff at tasty prices?? The answer is obvious, these prized micro-conditions at their best produce wines that wine-lovers around the world treasure, and are priced based on the demand that they deserve.