After my 86th piece of torn baguette smeared with Époisses and homemade raspberry jam (thanks Les Chambres L’Imprimerie Bed and Breakfast) we decided to venture into the city of Beaune on foot. It was 10:00am and we had a 10:30am appointment at Bouchard Aîné & Fils, a two-hundred-years-old négociant on the ring road just 10-15 mins walk through the city center.
We crossed the ring road and made our way towards the Hospices de Beaune, the iconic museum originally founded in 1443 as a hospital for the poor. Run by monks, we were told it’s a remarkable example of French fifteenth-century architecture with colorful mosaic tiled roof shingles. [Pssssst. Between you and me, the tiles are pretty, but after a few seconds of oohs and aahs you’ll be ready to move on to something else]
As we walked down a narrow cobblestoned road, I noticed how quant the city of Beanue is—almost too quant actually. Like most cities in Europe, Beaune is dead Sunday mornings, only to come alive at night for one last hurrah before some retched Monday. Though ghost-town-esque, it was nice to feel like Beaune belonged to us, like it was ours for the taking.
Besides, if there were ever a better day to start drinking before 10am, the Lord’s Day seemed appropriate…or at least poetic considering it was the Cistercian monks who laid the foundation for what we call the French Wine Industry today.
Frankly I was a little surprised there wasn’t more hustle in the city that morning, because we’d experienced all the rain the day before, and everyone we spoke to at the B&B was concern with “the rot.”
You see, it’s not supposed to rain during the summer in Burgundy and when it does, the entire region is a flutter for fear the grapes will get damaged. The fact that nearly all Burgundian reds are pinot noir grapes, a varietal known for its obnoxiously thin skin, means a majority of the entire region and the economy of France rest in the hands of Oidium, a stubborn fungal spore. If grapes are wet for long periods of time while it’s warm out, this soft film can develop on their surface, which causes rot. And with the major frost spell Burgundy had previously causing the loss of nearly 40% of the 2015 vintage’s yield, the grape growers were even more sensitive to the erratic weather conditions—thanks climate change! Which could have meant they’d been working double time during the week and were sleeping till noon that Sunday morning.
Regardless, we had our appointment at Bouchard Aîné & Fils and were looking forward to our first estate tour and tasting in Beanue.