Burgundy (Now Bourgogne France-Comté)
Located between Paris and Dijon, Auxerre is one of the towns with Burgundy oozing out of every building in terms of character. Being located on the Yonne River, this was originally an active port, transferring wine from region to other areas of France. With the building of railways, this town as a commercial centre declined.
The cathedral was built between 1215 and 1233. Final construction was completed many years later, around 1540.
There are remarkable bas-reliefs on the three doorways. They date fromthe 13th Century.
The Abbey of Saint-Germain includes cloisters from the 17th Century.
The character of the old town is marked by the old clock, built into an arch over one of streets.
Also to note, Chablis is about a 15 k drive from Auxerre, and Chablis is considered one of the top white wines of France.
If you want to feel like you are having the "wine experience" go to Beaune. Located about 316 km from Paris, this is a town of wine. It is the wine-trading centre of Burgundy and rightfully does hold the distinction of being one of the "most charming towns" in France.
The Hôtel-Dieu dominates the centre of town, it is a mediaeval infirmary, and has been in continuous use as a hospital from 1443 to 1971. Part of it stills has a healthcare connection, being a home for the aged. There is a wonderful courtyard and the gazed-tile roof just stands out and you will recognize this building as one of the regularly photographed buildings of Burgundy.
We have some great meals are various restaurants on the various times we have stayed here. Beware of the wine tours. They are great, you will get to taste some very good French wine, but it wiped out a day, and even more than that. After one tour, we went back to our hotel passed out, and as we drove out of the town the next day heard ourselves saying: "we will have to come back and see more next time!".
The Côte des Nuits is a noted wine region in the north of theCôte d'Or. This is the area that runs from Nuits-Saint-Georges to Dijon.
One of the more noted wines from this area is Pinot Noir although there are plenty of wines to select, and we enjoyed them all!
Six of the communities in this area prdouce Grand Cru. For touring, scenic views of enless vineyards. Little villages here and there.
On one of our trips through this area we drove from Beaune along the N74 towards Dijon. This was so that we would drive the Côte des Nuits.
But a few words about Burgundy and the wine appellation system as I have never really been able to follow it. But as we have traveled in France, and difference aspects become better known, some sense seems to be emerging!
Within Burgundy are areas for Chablis and Côte d'Or and of course the highest the Grands Crus. But across the Region there are different appellations and this get compounded with the terms Grands and Premiers Crus. Any individual vineyard can market many different wines. Part of this flows from the inheritance law of France. As when the owner of an estate dies, the law requires the estate to be divided between the beneficiaries, rather than passed on to one person. So this results in a number of new different estates all producing wine of different quality, but with a similar producer's name.
For wine from Burgundy the Grands and Premiers Crus make up about 12% of all the wine produced. The Grands Crus vineyards which can make some of the best wines are about forty in number and all are located in Chablis and the Côte d'Or. Only wines from these regions and the Côte Chalonnaise can carry the Premier Cru designation.
So getting on with the Côte de Nuits. The Côte d'Or has two main regions with the Côte de Nuits being in the north just south of Dijon -- ah you knew I was getting to Dijon!
So bring a little knowledge of wine to the area, and bring a camera, as if you are in Region in September, as we were, you will find your self-stopping for photos every fifteen minutes.
The town of the area is Nuits-St-Georges and this is a town know for its red wines. The appellations system for the Côte de Nuits is: Grands Crus are wines not required to bear a village name. For example, the wine from the Grand Cru Chambertin Clos de Bèze would not include the actual village name of Gevrey-Chambertin. A wine blended from several sites will be labeled as Premier Cru (versus Grand Cru). And a wine from an individual vineyard has the vineyard name -- Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Clos Saint-Jacques.
The Dukes of Burgundy kept an estate in this area and the Cuverie des Ducs has two huge wine presses that date from the 13th to 15th Century. The Gevrey Château is open for visits in the morning and afternoon.
The Château Clos de Vougeot is also open for visits in the morning and afternoon. Remember, everything shuts down around noon until after two in the afternoon - that that time for a great lunch with a bottle of wine.