Thursday 5 March 2020

Below ground in Beaune

After a lovely morning marvelling at the Hospices de Beaune and a delicious lunch (of course!) we were suitably refreshed and ready for the next stage of our Beaune exploration.

This time we were heading underground!

Down into the depths of the largest wine cellars in Burgundy to be precise :)

The Caves Patriarche are made up of around 5 kilometres of tunnels underneath the centre of Beaune and they hold around 3 million bottles of wine!

Our tour was self-guided, which was a bit daunting at first but we were soon in the swing of navigating our way around dimly lit tunnels packed with rows of very dusty bottles. There were plenty of signs warning visitors not to touch the bottles but as you can see not everyone could resist the urge to leave their mark :)

Extra-special bottles were safely tucked away behind bars to keep them out of the reach of the public. These bottles were part of a collection from the 1959 vintage, which the sommelier later told us is considered to be the best vintage of the last and the current centuries.

A number of the bottles from this vintage are due to be opened in special ceremonies in 2020, 2050 and 2094! It is quite something to stand in front of bottles of wine that you know will not be opened until after your lifetime!

Once you have navigated your way around the dusty cellars there is, naturally, an opportunity to taste some of the wines that are languishing in those cellars. In the Patriarche cellar rather than viewing and tasting the wine with a glass, these tastevin, or tasting cups, are used. The silver-coated cups were in use before the advent of electric lights, when merchants needed to assess the quality of wine by candlelight. The shallowness of the tasting cups and the raised patterns on the inside of the cups allowed prospective purchasers to assess a wine for clarity as the dim lighting in the cellars would bounce back from the shiny surfaces and highlight any impurities in the wine. Nowadays the silver tasting cups are more usually given as Christening or Birth presents, but back in the day every Burgundian wine merchant would carry his own tastevin around with him.

I am happy to report that there were no impurities in any of the wines that we tasted and I am sure you will not be surprised to know that our purses were considerably lighter, but our bags were heavier by the time we wandered away from this equally interesting aspect of Beaune :)


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