Saturday, 16 March 2013

A Day out in Beaune

The Hospice de Beaune
We tell everyone who stays here in one of the gites, that they must visit Beaune. It is not too far from here and it's well worth the visit. So with my brother and sister-in-law staying for a couple of days, there was no doubt in my mind where we would spend one of those days.

The absolute highlight of Beaune is the mediaeval hospital. The view of the roofs when you enter the courtyard, never fails to take my breath away. The quality of the hospital facilities is incredible considering the general conditions people lived in, in those days. The founders were very generous people, they were people with a real social conscience, people who believed in good healthcare for all, no matter what their status in life.

The hospital was roughly split in two, the huge ward for the masses and the smaller rooms for the rich who could pay and it was partly these rich who kept the whole thing going. But the financial endowment from the founders and the fees from the rich, were not enough to keep this very modern hospital running and that is where wine comes in. Of course Burgundy is the home of wine and so an endowment of vineyards is as valuable, if not more so, than mere money.

Every year the wines from the Beaune vineyards are sold at auction and make a fortune for the hospital. This money kept it running, as not only a hospital for the people, but as a cutting-edge medical research establishment and the same is true for today.

Tasting the wine
Obviously the other thing to visit in Beaune when you are there, is one of the wine cellars and this time that is exactly what we did. We went to visit the Marche aux Vins housed in the church of the monastery of the Courdeliers, a most impressive building. You have a choice of an eight or a twelve wine tour. We took the twelve. I had no idea what to expect. We were let loose in the cellars to taste the wine that was at each tasting station. Each wine was described and there was an opportunity to buy each step of the way. There were notices warning about drinking too much and saying that the total time in the wine tasting area was not allowed to exceed an hour, but in fact that was just their get-out clause for drunkards. In total we were in there for more than an hour and a half and lot of that time was in the last, supervised, section where the really good (read expensive) wines were served. The chap there was extremely knowledgeable and had a whole host a stories to tell, whilst we also enjoyed the wine and wondered at the timpanum on the wall, that once graced the entrance to the ancient church.

Where the expensive wines were kept
It was in this section that we got to taste some serious wine. Not the best available (which could be up to a thousand Euros a bottle) but at 45 Euros a bottle, I think that is good enough for the likes of me. Sadly I was the driver, so all my wine was either spat out or poured away... what a waste. So now for my expert opinion of these stunning wines. Yes you can tell a difference, in the smoothness and what I can only describe as the “complexity” of tastes, but really for me, I prefer something simpler - read cheaper.

We didn't but any wine, but I am really pleased that I have at last tasted some real Beaune wine and I must say it was not bad at all !

For information about our gites (holiday home rentals) click here.

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