Sadly, time has marched on, since the fantastic Bourgogne Immersion Trip I took with the Wine Scholar Guild lead by Andrew Jefford, October 23 – 28, 2016. Everyone on the trip was definitely a “wine nerd” but the group was composed of a mix of wine industry professionals, wine students of all levels that had “day jobs” and just wine appreciators. I had been on a few wine trips previously that were organized by friends or non-winegroups like Backroads (biking and wine). However, I had never gone on such a blockbuster, action-packed wine trip as this one. So for future participants here are 5 items to keep in mind so you have an incredible trip.
Wear comfortable walking shoes
Comfortable shoes may seem kind of obvious. We had one gal who brought her super plush, comfortable Hokas, to wear for the afternoon that we walked through the beautiful Grand Crus of Romanee Conti, La Romanee and La Grande Rue. It was a glorious autumn afternoon when we visited and we really saw the “Or” of the Cote d’Or. I think the whole group could have stayed in those vineyards for hours if we had the time. Claude Geoffray who is retiring this year from Chateau Thivin was almost running up and down the steep hills of his vineyard in the Cote De Brouilly. Geraldine Godot took us on a tour of the gourgeous grounds of Domaine del’Arlot. For me one of the best parts of the trip was walking through the vineyard and seeing the plants. Most of our hosts at the Domaines took us through their vineyards to talk about viticulture. Staying in such a lively town full of so many shops and restaurants as Beaune, it can be tempting to put on more fashionable shoes or boots. You’ll be able to walk through the dirt of the vineyards at a moments notice, meander down the tiny stone steps of the cellars or walk through the wet floors of the winery, if you keep your footwear in mind.
2. Wear Layers
At Domaine Philippe Colin
This may seem like another obvious point. But as you can see in the picture above, Andrew Jefford above has on a vest, and Philippe Colin has on a jacket, the temperatures inside the wineries can get pretty chilly. The action-packed schedule had us outside, inside, upstairs, down in a cellar . The visit to Domaine Philippe Colin was the first stop on a day that included Domaine Jean Chartron in Montrachet, lunch at Le Montrachet, a visit to Domaine Michel LaFarge in Volnay and a brief vineyard stop. You are coming in and out of rooms, carrying notebooks and cameras so it is tempting to be as minimalist as possible when it comes to outerwear. We all found out immediately that temperatures can change dramatically depending on what part of the winery you are in, whether you are standing in the wind or not. I came to understand why scarfs can seem so ubiquitous around wine people.
3. Writing System that Works for You.
Frederic LaFarge at Domaine Lafarge
The Immersion trip had many moments where I thought to myself “I am really here”. For me, one of the coolest things was going down into these ancient cellars. On our visit to Domaine LaFarge we saw the mold growing on the bottles and I had that “aha” realizing how unique the yeast must be and no wonder MLF can just start spontaneously. Visiting Clos de Tart that has had only 4 owners since the nuns founded it in 1125AD, I felt like I was being teleported back in time.
In these ancient cellars we had the opportunity to taste the wines from the barrels. I tried to take notes furiously but at the same time either find a place for my glass or manage holding my glass at the same time. We all didn’t want to miss remembering a word that was said. Being a relative newcomer to wine studying, I am still managing what writing system works best for me. A lot of the group used notebooks and pens, Andrew used an Ipad and keyboard and one gal had an iPad and an application called Notability. I have not fully explored it yet but from the looks of it, she was able to capture pictures and words all at the same time, which seemed pretty cool to me and the Ipad route looks possibly as the way to go. But there is one thing I can attest to is that you are exposed to a ton of wine information on this trip. I did use a portable WIFI system called HippocketWifi that I used and loved. Many times the hotel wifi was very slow and as long as I made sure to see that it was charged, Hippowifi worked really well!
4. A Mini-Spitty, Personal Crachoir, A Spit-Cup
If there is one thing, among many, that the trip lived up to, is that we tried a lot of wine. From first thing in the morning, tasting wine for breakfast practically, at a producer, having delicious wines with lunch, like the ones above, that we had at Chez Guy in Gevrey-Chambertin, more tasting at a producer in the afternoon and then more incredible wines chosen by Andrew Jefford for dinner. I had never been on a trip before where I tasted so much wine over the course of a day. Yet again, the more experienced pros in the groups brought their own cups and I prefer the British word, “mini-spitty”. I will acknowledge and am happy that I did perfect my spitting skills into the larger crachoirs at producers but there were times where I wish I had had my own cup to use. One gal, who was taking notes on every single wine including dinner, brought her’s to dinner as well. I still have not found in Chicago, a covered little cup that I think will work but I continue my search for one.
5. Pace Yourself in Eating and Drinking
One of the many reasons, that I went on the Bourgogne Immersion trip is that I love French wine and food, and in particular, those from Bourgogne. One of the things that I really liked studying for the French Wine Scholar exam is that although you are not tested, information on local cheeses and foods is included in the back of each chapter. Another highlight of this trip was to have incredible dinners with wines selected by an expert and like-minded company to dine with. For me, conviviality, food paired with wine, the pleasure of being at the table with interesting people is one of the simple joys of life.
Living in the US, it is really hard to find raw milk cheeses because of the all the food laws and the flavor gets lost in cheese when the milk has to be pasteurized. I was thrilled with dinner our first night in Burgundy where we had “real” gougeres, and incredible cheeses and beef from Charolais cattle, I was in food and wine heaven. However, the next day when I went out to dinner in the Beaujolais area on a “free night” I had a mini, as Andrew described it “crise de foie” literally meaning crisis of the liver. It wasn’t a crisis from too much wine (I had been spitting) but it was too much of all this great food all at once, I really needed to pace myself.
On this trip, I had some of the best epoise cheese I have ever had and I had forgotten what real epoise really tastes like and then pairing it with a beautiful Burgundy wine, it was absolutely incredible. I love good ingredients and to be around so many authentically produced, local foods with so much history was really fun, that my enthusiasm for where I was got the best of me.
For my next trip, I will definitely come armed with a better information capturing system, my own mini-spitty and perhaps for a study trip, get to the meeting town a few days early to reach a food and wine equilibrium before I start the study trip and then a few days afterwords to be able to explore on my own. I am continuing studying for the incredibly comprehensive Bourgogne Master Level . Another trip to Burgundy may be in the future for me because this trip really showed me how complex, fascinating, fun, interesting, visiting Burgundy is!!
BY Jeannie Boutelle
Lives in Chicago, writer and blogger at Traveling By The Glass, Currently pursuing the BML, FWS, WSET Advanced, CSW
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