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News and events around the Burgundy region, Bourgogne Franche-Comté
wine's architects of flavour
There are so many components that go into making a superb bottle of wine and the barrel used for maturing it is a vital ingredient. Andrew Jefford writing in Decanter magazine visited Cadus in Ladoix-Serrigny where the very physical and hot work of constructing the barrels takes place in Burgundy and says: ' There is one final difference between winemaking and barrel-making. Wine-making is a natural process which, given the right conditions, could be accomplished autonomously in nature, without human intervention; humans are there to oversee, supervise and refine the process. No tree, by contrast, will ever turn itself into a barrel. This is an exceptionally skilled, difficult and arduous craft, the fruit of a 2,000-year Celtic tradition. Next time you drink a fine...white burgundy, spare a
Low cost travel
Hotels, boutique bed and breakfast establishments, wine domains, museums or maybe a private home - Burgundy has a huge choice of restored, and not so restored, châteaux dotted around the region adding beauty to the landscape. These elegant buildings have captured the imagination of the owners and visitors alike.
From the comfort of your armchair, you can turn the pages of a new interior design book and marvel at
Providing delicious meat, eggs and fertilizer for the land, pigeons were treasured in olden days and given stylish lodgings to attract them to the land. The Connexion magazine highlights the pigeonnier and colombier, both attractive buildings dotted not just throughout Burgundy, but other parts of France too. The photo, right, is of the colombier at the Abbaye de Reigny near Avallon.
'In our age of freezers and online grocery deliveries, it is hard to appreciate just what a boon the pigeonnier must have represented for our ancestors. Indeed, miraculous – for it offered nothing less than the Biblical ‘manna from heaven’: food from the sky. Pigeons entered, nested, and not only laid eggs for the taking but provided fresh meat at the twist of a neck'. So, once highly functional and the preserve of the landowners, today they cast a romantic image across the landscapes. Read more... See also Village Architecture
An early harvest
As holidays come to an end, the action is now in the vineyards. Due to the heat of summer, the grape harvest is early and already in the vineyards of the Saône-et-Loire and Beaujolais, collection has begun for Crémant de Bourgogne.
To be successful in business today, you have got to be adaptable and agile. Christian Holthausen writing on jancisrobinson.com discusses the new relationship between the fine wine consumers and wine professionals. In Germany, 20% of wine drinkers are over 65; in the UK it is 27% and in USA 50% of wine drinkers are over 55. The younger generation he says are the 'experience economy.' 'Wineries are no longer selling wine. They are asking people to visit them either in person or via a virtual space, and pay money to interact with a brand.' This requires a totally different marketing approach. Social media, multi channel and multi device experiences plus all sorts of interesting ideas are discussed from
Samsung's Champs Elysées 'ecosystem' to Air France's customer care - things that relate not just to wine but to what is required to keep
up in 2018. Read more...
Our interest was piqued this week by an article on the Forbes website about the Beaujolais area. This picture of Oingt says it all. It could be Tuscany or the west of Mallorca, but no, it is Beaujolais. The region, partly in Burgundy and partly in the Rhône-Alps is known for its wines, which after years of criticism, now get very favourable reviews. Like so much of Burgundy, there is much more to it than only wine. Beaujolais has beautiful villages, Romanesque churches and expansive walking country. It has a rich heritage and it is less commercialized than its northern counterpart, there are fewer tourists and, reasonably priced wines too. So a great place to explore.
The Beaujolais tourist office suggests a 140km circuit around the wine route. In the north, where the ten Beaujolais crus are produced, there are châteaux, churches and vaulted cellars. In the south, you will find the 39 honey toned villages of the Pierres Dorées (Golden Stones). Oingt, Ternand and its fortifications, Marcy, Charnay, Jarnioux , Pommiers and Bagnols are the names to look out for on the map, where pretty lavoirs, châteaux and old churches are scattered about in the hilly, vine-covered countryside.
If you are travelling with the family, Hameau Duboeuf will keep all ages amused. This is a wine amusement park at Romanèche-Thorins presented in a theatrical way.
To soak up the real atmosphere of Beaujolais, plan a trip in November (14-18) to Les Sarmentelles, a five day party to celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau at Beaujeu. This year marks their 30th anniversary - expect fireworks and more...
Feast for the eyes
Not sure if a holiday in Burgundy for you? Take a look at Burgundy on a Plate's new website - it captures the essence of the region in one.
Discover the vineyards of the Auxerrois
In northern Burgundy, Chablis is world renowned. The wines of the nearby villages however have been taking a backseat in the shadows, that is, until now. The tourist office in Auxerre is laying on a minibus every Tuesday to take visitors to six of these pretty wine villages - Escolives-Ste-Camille, Coulanges-la-Vineuse, Irancy, Chitry, St-Bris-le-Vineaux and Bailly, stopping off en route. The journey is free of charge and the minibus leaves the tourist office on the Quai de la République in Auxerre at 10.00, 11.30, 14.30 and 16.00 on Tuesdays throughout the summer until September 11.
Another Auxerre tourist office initiative throughout August is called 'Tasty Thursdays. You can take a boat trip on the Hirondelle along the river Yonne in the company of a local wine maker and a Burgundy food producer, tasting as you cruise. There is a theme each week - cheese, salmon, chocolate etc. and the price is 19 euros per adult, children from 4-12 years, 12 euros. Alcohol free drink is served for people under 18. The trip leaves at 17.00. More details from the tourist office.
Suss out some of the basics of Burgundy's gourmet cuisine on your travels this summer. Here's a food lover's tour.
Bon appétite and happy travels
Following in the footsteps of Vauban
Taking a theme is a good way to explore - in Burgundy it could be wine, cheese, the Resistance or Colette for starters. Kevin Kelly took Marshal Vauban, the military strategist (who had copious other achievements to his name) and writing in the Scottish Sun, he describes his trip from the Château de Bazoches and St. Léger Vauban to the citadels in Besançon and Belfort. The article comes just as France celebrates ten years since UNESCO awarded the 12 Vauban fortresses World Heritage status. Besançon for one is showing a son-et-lumière commemorating the great man's life which you can see each night in town up to and including this Sunday from 22.00 to midnight.
Read Kevin Kelly's article
The region of Burgundy gets in your blood. The place has a special aura through its heritage, beauty and lifestyle and we hope that some of this is conveyed to our readers through the pages. For me it will always be a special place but it is now time to move on after 13 years at the helm of burgundytoday.com and so we are looking for someone who would like to take over the website whether it be for business or leisure purposes. Do get in contact if you would like to talk more, the rankings are good and the potential is endless.
The Vézelay music festival, Rencontres Musicales, has been attracting visitors and locals in growing numbers each August for 19 years and it is one of Burgundy's classical highlights. It has been greatly enhanced by La Cité de la Voix which opened in 2010 in Vézelay. This music centre which is housed in beautifully restored historic buildings is the home of Arsys Bourgogne the professional choir with European renown, and has an artistic residency programme, a concert season and outreach programmes welcoming some two hundred artists over the year.
and the beat goes on
Celebrating summer, Tessa McDaniel took to the streets of Avallon for the Fête de la Musique
Even though some French towns and villages hold their Fête on nights other than June 21, Avallon stays true to the traditional date – and it is known to be one of the busiest nights of the year. This year there were 12 musical groups with a genre for everyone. It always draws a large crowd – not just from Avallon itself but also from the outlying towns and villages. A couple from the UK who have lived in Burgundy near Quarré-les-Tombes for 14 years have attended ten of Avallon’s Fêtes. They commented that they ‘love the friendly, social buzz that the sharing of wonderful music creates’.
Like the regular bustling market on Saturday mornings large parts of the centre of Avallon are blocked off to accommodate the Fête which allows the restaurants and bars to fill the streets with tables, and bands to set up in unusual places. The bar/bistrot Les Maréchaux brings in long tables and benches to support the mass of people who have made reservations to enjoy the special menu they prepare for the Fête. This year there was a tea-time concert by a wind quartet in a shopping aisle for customers in a local supermarket. The Broken Bottle, a band based in nearby Montréal consisting of a brother and sister and friend with "a passion for sharing music” performed nearby.
If pop music isn’t your thing, you can meander over to the church of Saint-Martin-de-Bourg where the Wind Orchestra of Avallon plays each year. An interview with Lena Gutke, the conductor of two years, proved to be very interesting. The Wind Orchestra, which is a community band, is an historic Avallonnais tradition dating back 138 years, only pausing during the World Wars. Several of the players have been members for over 50 years.
Avallon’s Fête is certainly not to be missed. All over Bourgogne Franche-Comté towns and villages are filling the streets with music each June 21 so make a diary date, order a glass of wine, pick up a crêpe, and enjoy the music.
© Tessa McDaniel
Tessa is an American university student studying Classics and French. She spends her summers in France.
When the heat gets too much
Go for a dip in one of the recommended places where the water is good quality for swimming in the region. The Agence Régionale de Santé (ARS) has a map on pdf and a website link from the pdf with full information on each location.
wine tourism in the cote d'or goes upmarket
Jefferson's Club is a wine bar in Pommard just opened by the Domaine A-F Gros which owns vines on the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. In a departure from the norm, the wine bar will offer Grand Cru wines by the glass (Richebourg, Corton Charlemagne), along with many of the estate’s other iconic wines.
Maison Joseph Drouhin is hosting events around Bourgogne wines throughout the summer. Budgets range between 45 and 250 euros per person and there's an enticing list of ideas from them. (More details on their website and most events need to be reserved in advance.)
pond life at its best
Les Mille Etangs, the thousand ponds, in the Southern Vosges region of Franche-Comté is an area of outstanding natural beauty formed 12,000 years ago when the glaciers vanished. Monks and farmers in the 11thC extracted the peat from the resulting bogs, forming the ponds which stretch from Lure to Faucogney-et-la-Mer. Now this relaxational area attracts hikers and fishermen, cyclists and water sports enthusiasts with its mixture of forests and meadows, lakes and streams. There are many similarities to the Morvan Natural Park - both glorious places to explore, especially during a heatwave when the leaf canopy and water are there to revive body and soul.
As wineries across the globe become attractions in their own right, Maison Faiveley unveiled its new building in Nuits St.Georges. After an investment of eight million euros, Gilles Gauvain the architect came up with a light and impressive vat room, tasting room and client reception rooms which are very 'on trend'.
Semur-en-Auxois is a particularly magical place at night. This is one of Burgundy's most captivating medieval towns with its cobbled streets and turreted buildings. A stylish addition to the accommodation and food scene was featured in FranceToday by Guy Hibbert. La Fontaignotte is a five room boutique hotel with restaurant in the centre of the medieval quarter which sounds enticing. More...
Names to look out for in Beaujolais
Louis-Clément David-Beaupère (right), Mathieu and Camille Lapierre and Claire Chasselay are just four of the rising stars in Beaujolais. The wine, for so long the poor relation to their northern neighbours in Burgundy, is enjoying improved quality and a run of great vintages. James Lawther MW highlights the young winemakers in Decanter Magazine to look out for. More on Beaujolais
le coq, animal et embleme
Will the Gallic cockerel bring the French football team luck in Russia? This unofficial national symbol of France is the subject of a double exhibition 'le coq animal et embleme' which presents a fun look at this brave and courageous bird, loved by the French. Alésia and the Buffon museum in Montbard (see Milestones in Burgundy's Past, below) are hosting the exhibitions which run until November 30.
Autun in search of romance
The New York Times featured an article by Charly Wilder this week which caught our eye. Inspired by the writer James Salter's book 'A Sport and a Pastime' written in 1967, Wilder travelled to Autun. The book describes a love affair between an aimless Yale dropout and an 18 year old local shop girl, Anne-Marie. Wilder says: ' Now widely considered a masterpiece of erotic fiction, the novel did much to cement Salter’s literary reputation, if not his mass appeal, in the years leading up to his death in 2015. The book’s visceral, unvarnished, sometimes disturbing depictions of sex helped set artistic terms for the then-unfurling sexual revolution'.
'This isn’t the Burgundy of sunlit vineyards and joie de vivre, but of haunted blue mornings, the smell of soil, of weathered stone walls behind which life goes on in muffled tones' he continues. ' I can’t tell if it’s the town or the book that does it — probably a combination of both — but walking the streets of Autun, I found myself gripped by a powerful melancholy, a sense of passing time, of my own mortality. There are tacky sports bars now along the Rue de la Grille, where locals sit under the blue glow of televisions, but it was not enough to break my reverie. In the evenings I ate rich Burgundian meals of snails and beef and coq au vin at the restaurants flanking the cathedral'. Rather dolefully he adds that he didn't talk to anyone... he didn't find his Anne-Marie. More...
A week of Celebrations
Jean-Michel Lorain (centre) the owner of Côte St-Jacques restaurant and spa hotel in Joigny was the youngest chef in Burgundy to be granted a Michelin star in 1971. Twenty seven years on, he holds two of the prestigious stars and has just been presented with the nations's Légion d'honneur by his friend and legendary actor Alain Delon.
'Wish you were here'
Despite social media, the old fashioned postcard is still good to receive. The Burgundy Wine Board (BIVB) has created a special postcard listing 84 appellations in the Bourgogne region and it is free. You can request them online from the BIVB and send them to all your friends and family - it would look good framed on the kitchen wall too. Order your cards
A Guinness World Record
Once an aviator, there's no turning back. Ask Michel Pont from Château de Savigny-lès-Beaune who is now listed in the Guinness World Records for his collection of jet fighters including Russian MiGs, British Jaguars and French Mirages.
"I'm ex-military" he explained, "from the Air Force in Dijon, so I had the opportunity to meet pilots and see the planes back then, that's how I caught the bug. In the military bases, when planes were declared unfit for service, they were put on sale. So, 30 years ago, I started buying these planes to save them from being destroyed."
Michel Pont collects many other things too. It is one of the most fascinating days out in the region particularly for the lads. More...
Ring in the new
The business has been in the same family since 1931 in Morteau but this week, a new owner has taken over. Enter, Chheng Tiv, a Cambodian who came to France at the age of nine. She has worked in the metalurgie industry for the last 20 years in Switzerland and her aim is to increase the company's exports from 20% of production to 50%. The Obertino name will live on and surely flourish.
Know your Viticulture
Following on from our paragraph on wine education below at Dijon, in the UK, Plumpton College has announced the equivalent of an A Level in viticulture. Apparently not enough young people are entering the wine trade. Decanter magazine has the story.
for would-be wine pros
The Burgundy School of Wine and Spirits in Dijon is the proud owner of a purpose built home next to the Burgundy Business School indicating its importance in the commerce of the region. The Wine and Spirit section of the school broke away from the Business School in 2013 and welcomes 120 students a year from all over the world. This new building, inaugurated this week, has a cellar, professional tasting rooms and lecture rooms. New in 2018, an MBA course. More... See also: How to Become a Wine Professional
Another snippet from Connexion magazine - it warns that if you are driving in or through Paris this summer in a car eleven years old or more, don't forget that you have to have a Crit'Air sticker. When the scheme was launched last year, the police gave a period of grace but now the full enforcement is underway and the number of fines has shot through the roof. The magazine says: 'Under Crit'Air rules, vehicles registered before 1997, and those bearing a Crit'Air 5 sticker can no longer drive in an area of Paris inside the périphérique between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday. Other vehicles can also be banned from entering the controlled zone depending on air pollution levels at the time.
The stickers are also compulsory in several other French cities, including Paris, Lille, Lyon, Toulouse, and Grenoble - while other cities and departments are expected to adopt the scheme.
Art - fact and fantasy
film - a goodie coming up
Coming from a pastoral background in Burgundy, the writer Colette was thrown into a very different world when she married Willy her wayward publisher in Paris. The film 'Gigi' filmed in 1958 made Colette world renowned and her story has now been told again, 2018 style, in a film by Wash Westmoreland which received highly favourable reviews at the Sundance Film Festival at the start of the year. The film 'Colette' stars Keira Knightley and Dominic West, with Eleanor Tomlinson too, and the critics describe it as 'fun, frothy and unmistakably feminist'.
Watch out for it in cinemas later in the year. The Colette Museum and the writer's birthplace are in St-Sauveur-en-Puisaye.
the mega rich list
In the April edition of Decanter magazine, Andrew Jefford laments the beginning of the 'era of billionaire ownership' in the Burgundy vineyards. He is talking about the Grand Cru domaines which have been bought up by the luxury brands such as Groupe Artémis which owns Christie's auction house, Stade Rennais Football Club and has controlling shares in Gucci for example. LVMH luxury goods, have also purchased as has Stan Kroenke, Arsenal football club owner. The sums of money we are talking about are eye-watering and local families will not be able to compete. Probably Jefford thinks, the quality of the wine will improve which will have a knock on effect of improving Burgundy wine as a whole but Grand Crus will be out of reach to all but the mega rich. More...
I love this sort of book. It was my constant companion while searching for a new home in France last year. If social media is to be believed, then there are many people from anglophone countries wanting to get their feet under the french ‘residency’ table before whatever deal the Brexit negotiations finally come up with by March 2019. Consequently lots of practical questions are under discussion as well as those preferential ‘tick boxes’ that people come up with on those “Escape to . .“ TV programmes. But for me the most important house purchase ‘box’ is often invisible and yet affects many people – sometimes so deeply that all previous criteria are thrown out of the window.
Broadly speaking it is the ‘feel’ of the house, impossible to define but you know when it’s there, and many people wouldn’t think about buying a new home without it. It encompasses that disgreeable cliché ‘the wow factor’, and concerns ambiance, and includes all the humanities: history, mythology, geography, literature, religion, the arts and cultural society, and contributes in no small measure to the intangible, dream-making factors that really inspire and influence decision-making. No-one can define another person’s ‘wow’. No-one can predict when or why those back-of-the-neck hairs stand up. But Nick Inman’s book, “Mystical France – Secrets, Mysteries, Sacred Sites ” grasps the intangible, and sets out before us fascinating esoteric facts about France; the context and meaning of your chosen location, and its relationship to the broader European heritage. Whatever your personal interests, aspects of this book can’t fail to grab your attention and imagination, and enhance your experiences of France, both present and future.
People have many reasons for wanting to move permanently to France. There are plenty of books that will guide you through wine regions, sport and leisure activities, historic battlegrounds, gastronomic centres, and political influences and trends. Everyone is probably now aware of the reasonableness of house prices and the consequent opportunity to acquire the kind of property which would be beyond their means in the UK. France is still the number one European holiday destination, and those seeking a new way of working life often see themselves as being able to develop new businesses within travel and tourism. All of these contemporary concerns are underpinned and enhanced by the contents of “Mystical France”.
“Mystical France” is visually very pleasing. There are full colour photographs on every page and side bars containing connected information. (Right, we show the pilgrims' boots at St Jean Pied de Port) End Notes provide additional practical guidance and bibliographic and other sources. The Index of Places is particularly useful. The book covers a time line from prehistory to modern day and within the Travel Guide section is grouped into geographical regions. There are also thematic sections linking aspects of mysticism to people, locations and their modern influences such as for example the impact of the Knights Templar on the modern day revival of the apprenticeship system of Compagnonnage.
This eclectic approach makes it a thoroughly appropriate reference book to dip into when travelling around France as a tourist, or a potential resident, or just researching particular topics of interest. Caves and cave art are to be found in many places, as are standing stones and megalithic monuments. France has many historic references to the Romans. Imagine, as I did years ago, finding out that the little road outside your house in Burgundy was in fact the route of the Via Agrippa – an ancient road of great importance stretching from Lyon to Boulogne. Then, through browsing Nick Inman’s book, tracing other important routes exposing the links to the modern landscape, buildings and places of worship, and the connections between art, design and modern mysticism (Millau viaduct; Créteil Cathedral).
Other topics include pilgrimage routes and shrines; sacred springs and ancient religions, monsters and gods; saints and sinners; alchemy, astrology and UFOs. (Did you know, for example that “France is the only country in the world with a state-funded, civil organisation tasked with collecting and investigating reports of unidentified aerial phenomena.”?) There may be some people who would dismiss such themes as far-fetched, but it is important to stress that “Mystical France” is an accessible and broad-based guide which neither promotes nor judges its content. Much of it forms a back story to the identity of France itself; the reason why so many people love the country. It’s certainly a book that everyone contemplating a permanent move should own; one that provides a sense of the overall depth of history and myth, the context and reason why living in France has remained in many peoples’ dreams for decades.
“Certain places have an effect on us at crucial times of our lives. They can, if we let them, wake us up".
© Marilyn Floyde, Author “King Arthur’s French Odyssey – Avallon in Burgundy”, BSF Publishing
Three important buildings in Burgundy's history will be celebrating anniversaries this year, the Abbaye de Fontenay, 900 years; Château de Bussy-Rabutin, 400 years since the founder's birth; and La Grande Forge de Buffon, 250 years. Under the heading 'Epiques Epoques' the Côte d'Or Tourist Office will be announcing a variety of events over the summer to celebrate these monument's coming of age.
You could not get three more different men who first established these properties:
Bernard, the Cisterian monk who founded the abbey; the philandering Roger Bussy-Rabutin, expelled from the court of Louis and the naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Count de Buffon. This week we look at the Forge de Buffon in Montbard.
Head for the fairway
It's an important year for golf in France with the Ryder Cup in Paris in September, only the second time that the championship has been played on continental Europe. If you are coming to watch the champions, extend your trip and try your hand on Burgundy's excellent golf courses, all within easy reach of the vineyards.
At Golf Hotel Château de Chailly (above) near Pouilly en Auxois, you can step out of bed and onto the golf course. The hotel is now under the new management of Tobias and Marco who built up a very successful business at Les Roches boutique bed and breakfast nearby. They have turned this into a holiday home for rental, available on HomeAway. With 45 rooms to manage at the château, two restaurants, the spa, tennis court and pool, plus the golf facilities, it's a new challenge. Check out the offers on the website - a golf and lunch package, for example, costs 79 euros per person when booked direct.
Stars shine in Burgundy
Hotly awaited this week has been the announcement of the 2018 Michelin Restaurant Guide for France. Top of the list comes Masafumi Hamano (left) from the 'Au 14 Février' in St.-Amour-Bellevue in Saône-et-Loire. Michelin has granted him a prestigious second star in the guide. Japonese chef Takashi Kinoshita (centre) wins his first star at the Château de Courban, as does Sébastian Chambru at l'O des Vignes in Fuissé. Le Charlemagne in the Côte d'Or and Château de Germigny in Franche-Comté have both lost their star.
In a surprising turn of events, Jérôme Brochot who said that he wanted to renounce his Michelin honour last autumn because his customers in Montceau-les-Mines could no longer afford the prices required to adhere to the Michelin standards, has retained his star in his restaurant 'Le France'. Brochet reduced the prices dramatically to about 30 US dollars a head and describes this as the first 'populist' Michelin star (in France) says the Robb Report.
say it with flowers
Château d'Ancy-le-Franc has been glorifying the gardens around the château with spectacular results. The garden on the east side was inspired by the Chambre des Fleurs in the château. Taking four of the pictures from the room, the images have been enlarged one hundred times in the garden and these have been translated into planting with pathways leading to a
There will be plenty more news of events at the château over the following months, starting now with the programme of classical concerts by Musicancy over the summer. At the concerts there is a chance to visit the house and the gardens and see the new additions.
In France, if you want to use your mobile while in the car, drive to a designated parking area, proper car park or private driveway reports Connexion magazine. The Court of Appeal has ruled that a stopped car is still considered to be 'in circulation' even if it is pulled over at the side of the road with its engine off and hazard lights on. This doesn't apply to cars fitted with hands-free sets.
Each year as the St. Vincent Festival concludes, the venue for the next year is announced. Dates for your calendar are January 26 and 27, 2019 and the chosen location is Vézelay, granted AOC status in 2017. Following in the footsteps of Chablis in1976 and 1999, and Irancy in 2016, Vézelay will be the third village in the Yonne to welcome the festival.
There have been vines at Vézelay since Gallo-Roman times at the end of the first century. In the 18thC, the vineyards covered 500 hectares but the arrival of phylloxera in 1884 almost wiped out the vines entirely. By the end of the 1960s, only one or two meagre hectares remained.
More than two decades have passed since a group of twenty or so winegrowers began cultivating vines again on the hills dominated by the famous basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Vinified exclusively in white, the appellation’s one hundred hectares are planted between 190 and 330 metres on steep slopes facing south- south east.
The winegrowers and villagers of Vézelay have secretly been preparing for the festival for several months now. In this wonderful setting, picture the stately procession of magnificent banners and statues making its way through the vines to the summit of “la colline éternelle”, the eternal hill.
2018 wine directory
The Absinthe Trail
The Lonely Planet Guide highlights the rise in the number of small distilleries in Franche-Comté and Switzerland which have sprung up in recent years. The Absinthe Trail has been developed to encourage tourists to explore the drink, its history and unique production process.
Absinthe is an anise flavoured spirit, high in alcohol, which turns white and cloudy when cold water is added. It is not to be confused with Pastis , also anise based, which is a liqueur and always bottled with sugar. Pontalier is the town in the Franche-Comté famous for the manufacture of Absinthe, a drink which has seen a great rise and fall in its chequered history.
The place was chosen in 1890 for the existence of an underground water source used for the distillation process. Then a stroke a good fortune occurred - the soldiers at the nearby Pareuses military camp were given Absinthe to combat malaria on their tour in the Colonies and when they returned, they had developed the taste for the drink. News of this highly alcoholic drink soon spread across France.
Popular in all strata of society, by 1910, the French were drinking 36 million litres of absinthe per year, as compared to their annual consumption of almost 5 billion litres of wine. It became the fashionable drink of artists and writers in Paris until in 1915 disaster struck - a huge furore broke out - it was thought that the spirit was hallucinogenic with the properties of an addictive drug. In that year it was banned in the USA and much of Europe, including France. It was illegal to distil any anise based products until 1921.
Absinthe has been made in Pontalier by the Guy family since 1890 (with the exception of the banned years). Made from botanicals, the flowers and leaves of grand wormwood, together with green anise, sweet fennel and other herbs are used and it can be green in colour or colourless, with a high alcoholic content.
Visit the Distillery
At the Guy factory the beautiful 100 year old copper stills and the huge oak casks are still in use and you can make a free visit and tasting from Tuesday to Friday and on Saturday morning at the Rue des Lavaux distillery.
The Oscars of the food world, the Michelin star ratings, are only weeks away and as always, they are a closely guarded secret. The Bib Gourmand however, the Michelin guide to good quality and good value meals has already been published. The criteria of the guide is that a three course meal should cost less than 37 euros a head in Paris and 33 euros per person in the rest of France.
In Burgundy seven new establishments have been added to the list, shown below ** for Burgundy as published by France 3 TV:
Le Chastellux, Chastellux-sur-Cure (89)
See the Michelin starred restaurants
Here's a new website for visitors to Burgundy or Beaujolais who would like to visit a cellar for a tasting along the famous wine routes in the region but are not looking for a full blown guided tour. In Burgundy the wine grower may be a one man band or a family affair and as Jancis Robinson points out in her article on visiting Burgundy's wineries, it is not easy to find them in their cellars to pay them a visit, often they are out in the vineyard tending their plants. In Beaune and Chablis the tourist is well provided for with tastings on offer but drive out to Gevrey-Chambertin or Aloxe-Corton and where do you start? Now help is at hand. Rue des Vignerons is a website which tells you of the user-friendly winegrowers offering tastings and cellar visits. There is no fee for their services, book online, preferably ahead of time but a minimum of 30 minutes before you want to go. Some of the tastings are free of charge, and the website gives full details of tours on offer and the prices plus a map and directions. The domaines' wines are often available at a reduced rate too. This certainly simplifies life and assures you of a warm welcome. Above, Domaine Famille Picard, Chassagne-Montrachet.
Burgundy Today Cryptic Crossword Solutions
1. Nevers, 4. Tenant, 9. Noël, 10. Prodigious, 11. Bateau, 12&23 down Burgundy Today, 13. Kilometer, 15. Père, 16. Acts, 17. Reveillon, 21. Exported, 22. Petite, 24. A Rare Error, 25. Dope, 26. Events, 27. Troyes
1. Neo Nazi, 2. Valse, 3. Rupture, 5. Emigré, 6 .Adieu Nell, 7. Trundle, 8. Double headers, 14. Outsource, 16. Auxerre, 18. Emperor, 19. Octopus, 20. Street. 23. See 12 across