The crazy cat that I am for my birthday I ran a marathon and dragged my boyfriend and parents out to France with me. I therefore requested no presents as I felt I’d probably cost them enough.
Whilst wandering through Reims one afternoon David let me know that he still wanted to get me a present so we thought we’d look out for something on holiday. A handbag maybe? Or a reminder of the marathon?
We left Reims a day later and enjoyed the empty auto-route (via a steep peage fee) down to Dijon, which is in the Burgundy region. Checked into our hotel and wandered into the beautiful pedestrianised streets of the town. After a few stops on the way to Dijon it was already getting late so after a hot chocolate stop we walked to the tourist information centre to enquire about wine tasting for the next day. There were lots of different packages but unlike in Reims (where many of the Champagne houses are in walking distance) the best way to taste Burgundy wine is to take a bus tour out into the vineyards and this of course pushes the price up.
We wandered away from the tourist office with the names of a few bars who offered a wine tasting menu. But the further we walked away the more we realised that we were only in Burgundy once (I’d like to go back, but that’s not the point) and it seemed silly to miss out on a potentially once in a lifetime experience. My birthday present popped into my head and asked David if I could have the tour for my birthday. With excitement we rushed back to the tourist information office with 5 minutes until closing. One of the tour companies, Authentica wine tours had a very sophisticated leaflet and mentioned wine and chocolates to accompany the tastings… sold! We booked on for the very next morning and left feeling excitement and a little bit smug about our upcoming tour.
As it was my birthday treat, I decided I would be in charge of the camera, I’m the inferior photographer, you’ll soon see! We had strict instructions to be 15 minutes early for our departure in the morning so spent some time the evening before deciding where we would go for breakfast and our timeline for the morning. I’m always planning! Here we are ready to leave the hotel!
I do love a good breakfast and I’d spotted a ‘Petit Dejuner’ on chalkboard outside a pretty patisserie the day before, so we headed straight there. We opened the door and it was empty, I suddenly felt unsure if they offered breakfast. There was a nerve racking, awkward moment while we waited for the lady in front of us to order her pastries and we loitered near the tables. With an authoritative manner we were sat, I was quite grateful for this as my language skills suddenly escaped me and I felt a bit helpless!
The menu was mainly lunch bits and pieces with one line for breakfast: Petit Dejuner: demi baguette, vienoisserie, cafe, jus d’orange, beurre et miel. Wowza, that’s a lot of breakfast! Half a baguette! As it was the only option we went for it anyway (and because I’m a glutton). We both opted for Pain au Chocolat and thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast. The cafe filled around us as we ate. Yes I ate it all 😉 In hindsight I’m pretty pleased I had all this bread and pastry… you’ll see why.
The leaflet stated each tour had 2-8 attendees and as we’d booked on at the last minute we expected a full tour. As we loitered in the sunshine at the meeting point, smiling at all the mini vans, we started to suspect we were alone. Perhaps they are picking others up at hotels? The meeting time came and went and we were still alone. 2 minutes later a swish Mercedes mini bus pulled in front of us and our fab guide Gabriel jumped out.
Yes, it was just the two of us! A private tour!
Before we set off out of Dijon into the countryside, we went through our route for the day and an explanation of what the terms on wine labels mean. Gabriel had laminated sheets for us to look at. This was really useful later on and allowed us to clarify when looking at real wine bottles. I was also thankful we did this before setting off as I get really carsick if I read in the car.
Gabriel, a qualified sommelier, who had worked in London, chatted away with us all the way to our first wine stop. We talked about London, great restaurants and what it’s really like to work for a sweary chef! We paused a few times on the way to check out some pretty views, buildings of note and an ancient wash station using spring water. I think the drive was about 45 minutes but it whizzed by we got out the van into beautiful sunshine at our first port of call.
This winery had a little wine museum/information tour in the cellars which we explored whilst our guide set up our tasting. It may have only been about 10:45 in the morning but we politely declined the spitoon (as he was driving he took full advantage of it), we paid for the wine, so we were going to enjoy it! This may have been a mistake. If you’ve ever been wine tasting in the UK, you’ll understand why we were expecting a couple of small samples. What we got was 7 different tastings and I’d estimate about 60ml of each, at least, it was all poured free hand!
Luckily we had this amazing cheese with our whites and chocolates to match with the red wines to keep us on the sober side. As there was just the two of us, I could get really stuck into the cheese and may have eaten more of my fair share… it was that good!
The wines were all delicious, so we probably shouldn’t have been surprised when they all retailed at €45 upwards. This winery had a very posh shop, with antique furniture and a little English speaking member of staff who was lovely. Unfortunately the price was a little steep for us this time and we only had room for one bottle in our suitcase.
Luckily Gabriel was there to tell us we were under no obligation to purchase, so we said our thank yous and warmed our bones up in the sun before getting back in the mini bus for our next tasting. Yes I did just say, next tasting. As if I wasn’t tipsy enough!
Our next winery was much more what I expected, a little lock up, one room shop with a red nosed owner (who spoke a few words of English), a dog and a bunny rabbit.
Said red nosed owner locked up the shop and took us into the cellars where we tasted 2 red wines amongst wine stained barrels and equipment. It was truly charming. Afterwards we headed back up the shop where David found that amazing corkscrew and we tried two more white wines. There was no food here and I could have probably done with that spitoon as I was getting a bit giggly!
The wine here was much more affordable and we bought a €15 bottle back with us to have over dinner one night. If we’d had a car we would have probably bought a couple of cases!
Alas it was time to head back to Dijon, this time it was a bit quicker because the second winery was nearer and again the chat with our driver/guide Gabriel made it zoom by. We got back at nearly 1 o’clock, really getting our money’s worth.
After all that wine we hopped, skipped and jumped back to the hotel via another bakery and had a hotel room picnic for lunch! My last snap of the morning sums up how we felt!
If you fancy a tour of Burgundy I can’t recommend Authentica enough.
We weren’t asked, given anything for free nor paid for this write up, I just really loved the tour and wanted to share it with you.