This post, by Music and Markets team member Sunshine Woodyard, who with her partner Gabriel Chapman has participated in several of our tours in recent years, offers a deeper look at the fascinating culture of vineyards and vignerons (wine-growers) in the Burgundy region of France. Sunshine and Gabriel are enthusiastically developing tours for wine-lovers in this and other renowned wine regions.
As we prepared for our November 2021 trip to France, I was doing my usual pre- trip immersion in French language studies. On an episode of Coffee Break French, I learned the phrase ‘Profitez en Max’ which means to take full advantage of, to get the most enjoyment of an experience. I shared it with Gabriel and it became the theme of our month in France. After such a long break from travel due to Covid, we were determined to have the best possible French adventure this time.
And we did exactly that during our visit to Burgundy for the Vente Des Vins. It was our first trip to Burgundy and we knew very little about the wines of the region. Our goal was to learn, to explore and to taste the best the region has to offer. Beaune’s annual Vente Des Vins, also called “Les Trois Glorieuses,” is a feast for the senses with a myriad of opportunities, and I feel we made the absolute best of it. I’d like to share our five tips for how YOU too can Profitez en Max if you get a chance to be at the Vente Des Vins weekend.
1. Stay in the city center. This is absolutely key to a good weekend, since all the roads are closed in the city and parking is impossible. Also, you will be drinking wine all day and night so the last thing you’ll want to think about is driving. We stayed in an Airbnb on the Place Madeline, and it was perfect. We were able to walk to every tasting and event in Beaune, since it’s quite a small town. You’ll definitely want to stay right in the center of the action.
2. Get there early. We arrived Thursday afternoon as all the shops and booths were setting up. It was a good way to get our bearings and we also were able to be the first to partake of some of the special tastings offered by legendary wineries like Maison Champy and Joseph Drouhin. Most of the houses start special tastings before the weekend, so it’s nice to beat the crowds.
3. Be ready to party on Friday night. Friday night is for locals, and the streets of Beaune turn into a rollicking street festival. It’s a time of celebration for young local winemakers, and they are warm and welcoming. We were invited to join a group of winemakers for dancing and drinks at a popup rum bar, and they were a blast to hang out with. Everyone was singing and dancing, and it’s just pure fun.
4. Eat all the street food. The Vente Des Vins turns the streets of Beaune into one huge food and wine festival. Famed restauranteurs and local food artisans sell delicacies like ouefs meurette, which are eggs poached in wine sauce, escargot, oysters and tartiflette, which is a warm, melty potato and cheese galette. Every dish was incredible and we loved trying it all. The star of the show this year was Alambic Bourguignon, a local distillery who use their distillation machines to cook meats and potatoes in spirits called Lambic. They put on quite a show and had a line of eager diners all weekend long.
5. Book some special tastings. The Vente Des Vins draws wine afficionados from around the world, and it’s an opportunity for the famed wine houses of Burgundy to open up some library wines. We booked tastings at Patriarche, Bouchard Pere et Fils and Domaine Chanson and were able to taste Grand Crus from as early as 1981. They also brought out some of their top Grand Crus and Hospice de Beaune wines for the occasion.
6. Participate in the Hospice de Beaune wine auction festivities. This legendary wine auction is the centerpiece of the Vente des Vins. The Hospice auctions off barrels of their wine, all in new oak barrels, and the event serves as a bell weather of Burgundy wine pricing. Anyone can see the auction in the market hall, and it’s also on a big television in the main square. It’s a lot of fun to watch.
7. Attend a Gala Dinner. After the Hospice de Beaune auction, several of the wine houses hold gala dinners, and tickets are available for purchase. People dress up, the finest food and wine is served, and it’s a glorious occasion. Because of our work as tour guides, we were able to get tickets to the official Diner aux Chandelles, held each year inside the Hotel Dieu Hospice de Beaune building.
The Diner aux Chandelles surprised and delighted us from beginning to end. We were seated with a group of Russian wine merchants and an enchanting French family. At the beginning of the five-hour feast, it reminded us of the ‘Be Our Guest’ scene in Beauty and the Beast, with elegant waiters parading in to present wine and food. But as the evening developed and the Burgundian musicians played festive tunes, it became a convivial celebration like I’ve never seen before. The guests were joyously twirling napkins, clapping, and dancing on tables. There was even a conga line! I think we were the only Americans present, and it was a true honor to be a part of this cultural touchpoint of Burgundy wine society. Tears of joy filled my eyes at the end of the night as everyone sang ‘Hallelujah.’ Pure magic.
We had the most incredible experience at the Vente Des Vins weekend and I think we did indeed Profitez en Max. For lovers of fine wine and French cuisine, there’s truly nothing better. I hope these tips will help you plan your own ultimate Burgundy wine experience.
|The best way to describe us (Kirk and Anne Woodyard) is that we’re interested in the stories that make the places we visit come alive.|
We’ve visited Europe more times than we can count, learned some entertaining stories there, and met some warm and helpful people who also enjoy the wonders of music and life in Europe. We look forward to sharing these stories and friends and experiences with our Music and Markets guests.
Since 2003 we’ve hosted Music and Markets tours in France, Italy, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, England and Spain, and in 2019 added Wonder Tours with a more intentional concentration on art and architecture, local culture, food and wine, and less time dedicated to concert-going.We also design and host custom private tours – previous locations include many French, Spanish, British and Italian regions.
Between our music-related travels, we enjoy our home in the south of France. While both of us have experience in organizing travel and music groups, Kirk’s background is in project management and competitive writing, and Anne is an accomplished pianist with over forty years of teaching and performance experience.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.