A Burgundy diary – 13 February 2022

Beaune: a cold clear day

Market day in Beaune is on Saturday. Yesterday in cold clear weather we drove up the Autun to Beaune road. It passes 200 metres from our front door. It is twenty-five miles (forty kilometres) to Beaune. The Côte d’Or pretty much starts in Nolay, almost exactly half way up the road. The Côte d’Or department starts just above Nolay. Form there it is Grand Cru wine villages all the way: St Aubin and St Romain (just off the road); then Auxey Duresses, Monthelie, Volnay and Pommard; and just to the right, visible most of the last ten kilometres, is the steeple of Meursault. All are part of the Côte de Beaune.

As we passed through the valley towards Beaune we could see the smoke of the half-oil drums – like barrows – burning last years wine twigs, keeping the vines a little warm in the overnight frost.

Beaune is another world from where we are, this side of the hill. Here it is all cows and green fields and forests. Hedges – or what pass for hedges – are everywhere. There it is sloping vineyards, some trees, and limestone villages where the viticulteurs cluster in their comfortable houses. Paths pass between the vineyards, everywhere; and sometimes more substantial tracks. There are no hedges; though one or two wealthier viticulteurs may have erected a wal here or there.

I love Beaune, but yesterday it felt suddenly almost oppressively chic. Well-dressed people were out in the winter sun, shopping. All the shops – often expensive shops – are still open and doing business (where a substantial proportion of businesses in Autun and Arnay-le-Duc are bust and the premises empty: a combination of local supermarkets and more and more people shopping on-line). And, of course, wine-growing can be hard work, I am sure, but – as Lucie pointed out – it is profitable.

Like Autun, the market was busy. Lots of bistros were open. We ate well and came home through the afternoon light, the vineyards – as Lucie said – like a clothing of tweed at this time of year, spread up the gently sloping hills, and later below the cliffs above St Romain.