Thursday, September 10, 2015

Slopes of Gold

Slopes of Gold - that's the name for the wine-growing area around Dijon. One guide book says it's because of the light of the sun on grape leaves, one says it's because of the golden colour of the earth. Whatever, it's beautiful.

We left Dijon first thing to take a tour mentioned in the "Back Roads of France" book. Great advice ase passed through kilometers of vineyards lining the road 

- the reason it's called the Route des Grands Crus.

There were signs for each separate area such as this one for Nuits-Saint-Georges.

There seemed to be countless chateaux offering tastings in their 'caves' or cellars and pretty villages nestled in the hillside.

The grapes were ripe:

The vineyards were dotted with white vans serving clusters of pickers. This is a cluster near a pretty chateau, with an uncharacteristic green van in the mix.  

Some workers were in charge of delivering plastic containers to the pickers, with others picking them up when finished.

We saw some modern vehicles sitting high on big wheels, which we assumed could be automated pickers, but we weren't sure. It was a magnificent journey through sun-drenched countryside. (Later in the trip in Bordeaux we learned that some grapes must be picked to get a particular designation. For instance, if the bottle is labeled St. Emilion, the grapes were picked by hand.)

We arrived in Beaune and toured the famous hospital there. It's hard to believe that somone founded such a hospital to treat the poor back in 1443. The space per patient was way more than expected in the area that treated people for free, with even more in the space for the paying patients. The nuns looked after the sick, and the founder created a farm to provide food. But the mainstay of support was a vineyard which produced the wine they sold. To this day there is a major wine auction in the fall, which helps support the local hospital which has replaced the old hospice. There were patients being treated there as late as the 1960s.

The hospital is famous for its distinctive Burgundian roofs, and it was sparkling in the sunshine when we were there.

We  lucked out in hitting the town while the market was on. We bought some tapenade and olives from this lady and added a baguette to have a feast for lunch.

We had a lovely lunch perched on a rock overlooking more beautiful vineyards.

Thus endeth the part of our day that went spectacularly well.  We tried to continue the trail laid out in the Back Roads book. Well, the cassis factory we wanted to tour had JUST closed for lunch.  Rather than wait an hour for it to reopen, we opted to keep following the Back Roads path. Well, that didn't go so well, as we drove over several roads more than once! The destination town of Flavigny sur Ozerain turned out to be a disappointment. They announce themselves as one of the Prettiest Villages in France (an official designation) but I think somebody must have been on the committee to get that label! It's the town where the film Chocolat was filmed - here's the store:

We did see lots of farming country (much of it more than once) and the white Charolais cattle munching in the fields. I had an excellent hamburger Charolais the second night in Dijon.

More on that when I write about Dijon. (I don't think I'm ever going to catch up!)

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