Bourgogne (or Burgundy) is full of riches, from its navigable waterways (cruise on organised day trips or longer), its Romanesque architecture (visit the abbeys at Cluny and Tournus, the cathedral at Autun, the prehistoric archaelogical site at Solutre), not to mention the vineyard scenery stretching from Dijon in the North down to South of Maçon and a total of over 5000 miles of roads and paths which you can cover on horseback, on two wheels or on two feet! But Burgundy is famed above all for its vineyards and its fine wines
Wine and wine related events
La Saint Vincent - Not content with producing some of the world's finest wine, Burgundy also celebrates its scarlet nectar with an annual tasting fair known as the Saint Vincent, which moves from village to village starting in Tonnerre. It takes place in the town during the third week of January from 2pm onwards on Sat, 11pm onwards on Sun.
Named after the patron saint of the winegrowers, the Saint Vincent fair gets its Tournante or "turning" adjective from the tradition of a shifting annual location as opposed to the effect it has on visitors. However, with literally thousands of bottles of fine Burgundy waiting to be sampled in cellars throughout Tonnerre, the betting is on more than a few heads spinning after a day's tasting.
The fair follows the traditional format: visitors purchase the Saint Vincent souvenir glass and can then partake of as many drinks as they wish. Cellars open at 11am on the Sunday after an initial ceremony on the Saturday afternoon.
Held during a month when there is little work for winegrowers, the fair also keeps them occupied with the making of thousands of paper flowers to decorate the streets, giving a premature impression of spring. See the Saint Vincent website for further details
Burgundy Wine Press Festival - Starting on the 2nd Saturday of September, Chenove (South of Dijon) is the first stop on the wine tour through the "Grands Crus" and is home to the Presses of the Dukes of Burgundy. These wine presses were built in 1238, and produced wine uninterruptedly for over 6 centuries, until 1926, when they were claimed as a national monument. One of the presses has now been re-opened in a symbolic gesture, and once a year - at this festival of wine and merrrymaking - it is put into use.
This wonderful event celebrates the town's viticultural and folkloric traditions. You can see the press in action, see demonstrations of traditional arts and crafts, enjoy some New Orleans jazz while you wander around, take in an educational film about the presses, visit the gardens and architectural highlights of the village, including the church, get stuck into some traditional dances, go for a ride on an ox-cart...the attractions are endless.
Do not miss out on the sit-down lunch at 12pm of Sunday - a chance to eat some of the best food on the planet, including "escargots de Bourgogne"!
Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction- The most famous traditional charity auction in the world (Starts 3rd Saturday of every November) sees some of Burgundy's finest wines up for grabs in the covered market across from the Hôtel Dieu, Beaune's masterpiece of medieval architecture. Since 1859 the directors of the Hospices have organised an auction to sell the wines from the surrounding vineyards. Together with admission charges for visiting the Hôtel Dieu, the auction (French vente aux enchères) is a financial mainstay of the charity work. Prices paid provide an early clue as to market conditions for the vintage.
The attractions of the auction include the chance to acquire first-rate wine in the cask, which is then bottled and labelled with the buyer's name and the details of the auction. The atmosphere of the event is hard to beat as well: the setting and the custom of regulating the length of bidding on each lot by the burning of small candles contributes to the air of antiquity and imbues the wine with a special mystique.
The auction is the centre of a constellation of events over three days, including Les Trois Glorieuses de Bourgogne, a high point in the calendar of the wine trade. On Saturday evening the highlight is the banquet, at the Chateau Clos de Vougeot, of the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, the best-known of France's many gourmet and bacchic societies. The auction itself is followed by a grand banquet in the Hôtel Dieu and on Monday afternoon Meursault, home to the finest white wines in Burgundy, hosts the Paulée, the banquet for the vineyard owners and their workers. Each vineyard brings its own wines and the conviviality extends to 12 bottles per square metre!
Chablis wine festival - On the fourth weekend of November, if you are lucky enough to be in the Chablis region then you really ought to make a bee-line for the town with the name symbolises fine white wine. The Saturday is given over to a competition among local winegrowers to see who has produced the finest of the fine this year. Photo copyright D Michael Kerivan Photography. Sunday has a bit more of a street party atmosphere, with food and drink, entertainment and family fun.
Pouilly Fume wine fair - Pouilly Fume is one of the most delicious white burgundies you can drink, and every year on the 2nd Tuesday of August the vintners of the town on the Loire (just North of Nevers) which gives the wine its name organise a wine fair. On the banks of the Loire river, you can sample the production of around 20 local wine producers, including such famous names as Sancerre and Reuilly. If you like fine white wine (who doesn't?), then you can hardly spend a day better than this.
Fete du Roi Chambertin - Gevrey-Chambertin (off the A31 South of Dijon), for wine lovers, needs no introduction - it is quite simply one of the best red burgundies you can drink. Once a year in September in the village of the same name, the "grand monde" of wine assembles, to taste, deliberate and digest, before awarding a prize to the best individual wine grower.
Invitations to the tasting are a must, I'm afraid, but you can participate in the village fair that accompanies the tasting, including a jazz band in the town centre, and you may also attend the banquet in the evening (booking in advance). This promises to be a serious gourmet affair, with gallons of Gevrey-Chambertin on hand to wash it all down.
You may not understand the finer nuances of the after dinner speeches if your French isn't up to much, but after this sort of feast you may not care unduly. No good at all for the waistline and lots of fun.
The Surly Wine Festival - What makes a wine surly, you may ask? This is not a strange piece of wine vernacular, instead it refers to last year's wine, which must be taken out of the cellars and drunk to make way for this year's crop. What better reason to throw a party? And this is not just supermarket plonk we are talking about since Nuits St Georges has a deservedly fine reputation amongst red burgundies.
The tasting takes place over two days in October in Nuits Saint Georges, with musical entertainment on hand. With all the wine free on purchase of an engraved glass for a small charge things could get quite rowdy! A bargain fun day out for wine-lovers.