The AWE 30th Anniversary Celebratory Trip to Beaune, Burgundy

Wednesday 10th of May saw 22 members of the AWE congregating in Beaune, for the start of its 30th Anniversary trip. Some arriving from the Jura trip led by Wink Lorch (see Heather Dougherty’s post), some by air via Lyon, others by train – all with the one commonality – attending the AGM and very keen to learn more about Burgundy and their wines.

Following a few glasses of Crémant at a local hostelry (well, rude not to), we ventured to Le Caveau des Arches and were treated to a sumptuous dinner with choices, where the “braver” amongst us had snails – a delicacy I had not ventured into before. I tasted one, courtesy of Marie – I have been there and done that now. Wines were selected from their extensive range and thoroughly enjoyed by all.

The following morning, a quick bus ride (or a slightly longer walk for the health-conscious members) to the magnificent Maison Albert Bichot. A few more members, including our President, Charles Metcalfe, joined us on Zoom, for the formal Annual General Meeting. Minutes now available to all members. The 100 AWEsome wines curated by Heather and Laura was praised and emphasised as an invaluable tool for our clients.

Next up – on the coach to Bichot’s Domaine du Clos Frantin in Nuits-St-Georges with Richard Bampfield MW, our excellent tour guide (full time – if ever he decides to pack up this wine ‘malarky’), who knowledgeably pointed out landmarks, domaines, villages and the general topography of the land. At the Domaine we were met by Christophe Chauvel, who has been with Bichot for over 30  years. Amongst the immense amount of interesting information on Bichot, he revealed that in Chablis, they had their earliest ever harvest in 2020, even earlier than 2003, and this was being reflected across the region. Climate change was the biggest problem facing the Burgundians.

In the cellar, where it got colder and colder as we tasted, he explained several wine making techniques they used, including the use of stems, riper stems giving riper tannins in the wines and the using natural yeasts. The 4 whites tasted included the lovely Chablis from their Domaine Long-Depacquit, a Mercurey, a Mersault and a Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru. Then on to reds, starting with a Beaujolais with discussion on how Gamay is vinified, a Bourgogne Cote d’Or, a Pommard and finally a Nuits-St-Georges 1ER Cru. We were then treated to a barrel sampling of the 2022 vintage which Christophe was extremely happy with.

A fabulous buffet lunch was laid on, including white asparagus, salads and a wonderful array of cheeses and charcuterie and of course, more wine.

Happy and sated, we then headed to Maison Joseph Drouhin, to their beautiful tasting room, where we were met by Christophe Thomas, a very self-deprecating and funny man. A lovely walk through the streets of Beaune, he then took us through a range of their wines, including a Saint-Aubin and a Savigny-lès-Beaune, finishing with their Clos de Vougeot 2018 – my tasting notes just say “WOW”! The visit ended with an eerie narrow walk through the cellars of underground Drouhin back to where we started.

Dinner that evening was at La Table du Square, where we had more food than I thought possible to eat (I managed!) and some more delicious wines. We then retired to the hotel for our beds. Well, most of us….!!!

Day 3 started at the CITVB, where we had a more formal tasting session, led by Jean-Pierre Renard, covering how Burgundy is made up, from an appellation point of view. My, it’s complicated. Just when you thought you had a basic idea…. There are rules but there are always exceptions, a mantra that was used more than once and not just from Jean-Pierre. He covered Beaujolais and Chablis as well as the more ‘traditional’ regions and also discussed how the word minerality can cover so many things. We tasted 6 wines and left with our brains somewhat overloaded.

Some free time to rest our brains and drink more wine, we went in search of vegetables. So far, a definite significant lack thereof, in the meals. (I’m not sure pizza is a vegetable, but my lunch was lovely!) Next up was the fabulous Clos de Vougeot, for a private tour of the Chateau and outhouses. I think the photos here show more than words.  One of those visits that I can now tick off my wine bucket list.

The Closing Dinner that evening was another gourmet delight at Le Conty, where Keith Grainger and Wink Lorch both reminisced about the beginnings of the AWE and how it has progressed over the years. A presentation of a “little thank you” to both Heather and Linda, who both selflessly put this complicated trip together, concluded the evening.

Day 4 (departure day) saw big hugs, goodbyes and comaraderie with some leaving first thing, others having a chance to wander around the market in Beaune and for me to visit the Hospice. Another bucket list item checked, it was a wonderful place, although, whilst informative, the audio guide was a little irritating as it took the form of two actors pretending to be the original owners. I think I prefer the facts, just the facts (ancient cop show reference!).

This was a wonderful trip, the first overseas one I have done with the AWE. Thanks go to Heather and Linda for their tireless efforts in organising the whole thing, keeping us on schedule and heading off to check venues before we arrived. Thank you, too, to Richard Bampfield for his insights on the area and choosing of wines. And a big personal thanks to everyone who went, for making it a great experience with some good laughs along the way. I learnt a great deal and tasted some wonderful wines. I just wish I had deeper pockets.

My thanks to Marie for editing and inserting most of  the photos, the quality of which doesn’t look too great here – they looked better before adding!!


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