Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dinner at Restaurant Chateau de la Barge in Creches sur Saone in Burgundy, France

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller at Chateau de la Barge in Creches sur Saone, Bourgogne, France

This was a lovely dinner, with my wife Annette and dog Oscar at the Restaurant of  Hotel Chateau de la Barge in Creches sur Saone, just 10 miles south of Macon. It was the only dinner in the Bourgogne on our recent Tour de France de Vin:

Tour de France de Vin: 6 Days, 7 Regions, 3500 km - In 6 Days through 7 Wine Regions of France

Actually, I am not sure if one can call it a dinner in the Bourgogne. First, the Restaurant and Hotel Chateau de la Barge is located just outside of the Maconnais in the Beaujolais. Well, still Bourgogne. But while the Beaujolais officially is one of the sub-regions of the Bourgogne, many – in particular in the non-Beaujolais Bourgogne - consider Beaujolais as an independent region and not as a part of the Bourgogne.

Pictures: Macon

Anyway, when you drive through the region, it is impossible to say whether you are in the Maconnais (in the Bourgogne) or in the Beaujolais. In fact, some winemakers in the area make both Maconnais and Beaujolais wines. They sell the white Chardonnay as Maconnais and the red Gamey as Beajolais. 

The dinner was nothing fancy, just good, for Euro 44 person, including tax and tip, excluding wine. In US dollar terms, it was US$ 60. Our dog Oscar was under the table and many of the other tables had parents with their kids sitting there.

The Dinner

Amuse Gueule

We both started with

Foie gras de canard prepare selon la saison

I had as main course

Bar et homard font bon ménage et se prennent pas le chou

My wife Annette had as main course

Le charolais a la plancha autour des legumes d’antan aux senteurs de sous-bois

We both had five pieces of cheese

Plateau de fromages affines

Amuse gueule

And finished with the same

Dessert au choix - Souffle a la vanille

The Wines

We started with a Coupe de Cremant de Bourgogne. My wife and I like to start dinner with “une coupe” – a glass of sparkling wine. Of course, in Champagne, we have a glass of Champagne. In other French regions, we always go for a Cremant of the region, if available.

Generally speaking, a Cremant is a sparkler produced using the methode champenoise, but not made in the Champagne. In France, there are 7 appellations for sparkling wine which include the designation Crémant in their name: Crémant d'Alsace, Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Die, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Limoux, Crémant de Loire.

We then had

2008 Pouilly-Fuisse, Climat - En Servy

In the Bourgogne, the term climat is used interchangeably with lieu-dit. In the wine world, lieu-dit is something like a single vineyard, the smallest piece of land which has a traditional vineyard name assigned to it. In some cases, lieux-dits appear on wine labels, in addition to the AOC name. This is most commonly seen for Alsace wine and Burgundy wine.

Some Borugogne grands crus are divided into several lieux-dits. An example is Corton, where it is fairly common to see lieux-dits such as Les Bressandes, Le Clos de Roi and Les Renardes indicated.

The climats of Pouilly-Fuisse are:

•    Chaintré : Les Chevrières, Le Clos Reyssier, les Plantes Vieilles, en Cenan
•    Fuissé : Les Vignes Blanches, Vers Cras, Le Clos, Les Brûlés, Les Perrières, Les Combettes
•    Solutré-Pouilly : En Servy, La Frérie, Aux Chailloux, Aux Morlays, Vers Cras, Au Clos
•    Vergisson : Les Crays, La Maréchaude, En Carmentrant, En Bulland

Famous Pouilly-Fuisse is an AOC in the Maconnais, producing outstanding Chardonnay wines. It is a stone throw away from Beaujolais. The Beaujolais King George Deboeuf grew up in Pouilly-Fuisse. Pouilly-Fume is an AOC further up north in the Loire region, on the opposite side of the Loire from Sancerre.  Only Sauvignon Blanc is made here.

Pictures: Pouilly-Fuisse

We then moved to a (although with should have taken a Beaujolais as our neighbors did, in the spirit of eat and drink local)

Gevrey Chambertin 2007 Lignier et fils

Although Bordeaux produces about four times as much wine every year, Burgundy’s 30,000 hectares of vineyards are considered to be of equal importance, producing some of the most exclusive wines on earth.

Burgundy wines come from several distinct sub-regions. From north to south they are the Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune, Cote Chalonnaise and Maconnais. Chablis, situated in an isolated pocket of limestone hills to the north-west, produces white wines so different in style from those of central Burgundy that it is often considered to be a separate entity.

The two key grape varieties of Burgundy are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Gamay and Aligote are also grown throughout the region, producing more-rustic styles of wine. Gamay is used in the red and rose wines of Macon, while Aligote has its own appellation in the form of Bourgogne Aligote.

Wine production in Burgundy operates in three distinct ways. The first is through negociants, who buy the grapes or wine from several smaller producers and sell it under their own names. The second is via co-operatives – organized groups of grape-growers who pool their resources to establish a winery for collective use. The third method involves wine producers who own both vineyards and a winery.

Burgundy is the most terroir-oriented region in France. Immense attention is paid to the area of origin, as opposed to Bordeaux, where classifications are producer-driven and awarded to individual chateaux. A specific vineyard or region will bear a given classification, regardless of the wine's producer. The main levels in the Burgundy classifications, in descending order of quality, are:

Grand Cru wines are produced from a small number of vineyards in the Côte d'Or and make up 2% of the production at 35 hectoliters per hectare. The origins of Burgundy's Grand Cru vineyards can be found in the work of the Cistercians who, among their vast land holdings, were able to delineate and isolate plots of land that produced wine of distinct character. There are 33 Grand Cru vineyards in the Bourgogne.

Premier Cru wines are produced from specific vineyards that are considered to be of high, but slightly lower quality; they make up 12% of production at 45 hectoliters/hectare.

Village appellation wines are produced from vineyard sites within the boundaries of one of 42 villages. Village wines make up 36% of production at 50 hectoliters/hectare.

Regional appellation wines are wines which are allowed to be produced over the entire region, or over an area significantly larger than that of an individual village. These appellations can be divided into three groups:

AOC Bourgogne, the standard appellation for wines made anywhere throughout the region; these wines may be produced at 55 hectoliters/hectare.

Subregional appellations cover a part of Burgundy larger than a village. Examples are Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune and Mâcon-Villages.

Wines of specific styles or other grape varieties include white Bourgogne Aligoté (which is primarily made with the Aligoté grape), red Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains (which can contain up to two thirds Gamay) and sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne.


Finally, a word on Beaujolais, which we did not have but which we should have had. Beaujolais is generally made of the Gamay grape which has a thin skin and is low in tannins. Beaujolais tends to be a very light-bodied red wine, with relatively high amounts of acidity.

Beaujolais is a large wine producing region. There are over 20,000 ha of vines planted. The only difference between basic Beaujolais and Beaujolais Supérieur is this slight increase in alcohol. A large portion of Beaujolais sold as Beaujolais Nouveau.

Pictures: Beaujolais

Beaujolais-Villages AOC, the intermediate category in terms of classification, covers 39 communes/villages.  Several of the communes in the Beaujolais-Villages AOC also qualify to produce their wines under the Mâconnais and Saint-Véran AOCs. The Beaujolais producers that produce a red wine under the Beaujolais-Villages appellation will often produce their white wine under the more internationally recognized names of Mâcon-Villages or Saint-Véran.

Cru Beaujolais, the highest category of classification in Beaujolais, account for the production within ten villages/areas in the foothills of the Beaujolais mountains: Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly.

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