RICHARD ESLING: Discover a different part of Burgundy

Chateau Saint Michel, Rully
Chateau Saint Michel, Rully

Summer’s here and holidays are around the corner.

If you’ve not yet booked, or are off on one of those ‘take pot luck’ driving holidays in Europe, and you enjoy a glass of wine or two, head for the hills of Burgundy.

An inland area in Eastern France, the Bourgogne region is a beautiful land of rolling hills, with forests and farmland and a massive number of vineyards.

Some of the best wines in the world are made here, with the reds being made from Pinot Noir and the whites from Chardonnay.

There is plenty to explore, starting with Chablis in the North of the region, near the town of Auxerre, down to the Maconnais area in the south.

The best-known part of the region is in the middle, called the Côte d’Or centred around the city of Beaune, producing world renowned wines such as Gevrey Chambertin or Puligny Montrachet. One of the most expensive wines in the world comes from here, called Domaine de la Romanée Conti and a case of the 1988 vintage can be snapped-up at Bonham’s auction in London on July 13, for between £130,000 and £180,000! A real bargain?

For those of us with less demanding palates and possibly more sense, there are great value and great quality wines to be found with a much more affordable price tag. Some of these can be found in the far lesser known areas – but still in burgundy – such as Mercurey, Givry and Rully.

The latter produces some brilliant reds and whites, the best of which are labelled Premier Cru.

Rully is a small, picturesque town of stone buildings, about 30 minutes’ drive from Beaune and surrounded by vineyards to which it lends its name for the Appellation Controlée.

This whole region has been ravaged by the weather in the past two years, with massive losses to wine production through a combination of late spring frosts and autumn hail storms. Such that wine stocks are getting perilously low for the producers and future prices may inevitably rise.

However, a very good Rully Blanc Premier Cru 2013 from Chateau de Rully, can be found at Tesco for a reasonable £16 per bottle (when buying six). A more upmarket wine, from the stable of one of Burgundy’s top producers, Olivier Leflaive, Rully Premier Cru 2013, is available from Majestic at £36 per bottle and Waitrose have an excellent red Rully 2012, from the top Burgundy house of Joseph Drouin – a steal at £16.99 a bottle.

This part of France is a lovely area for a relaxing holiday for gourmets and budding wine buffs, visiting wine cellars, picnicking in the vineyards or chilling in one of the many fine restaurants. An idyllic place to stay is the nineteenth century Chateau Saint Michel in the heart of Rully, one of the Relais de Silence Hotels.

Originally constructed as a country residence for Napoleon III, the four-star Hotel is owned and run by a Dutch couple Mark and Metha DeVries who have spent the past two years refurbishing the chateau with care and flair.

Set in a seven-acre park, yet in the centre of the town, each of the spacious eleven bedrooms has stunning views over the surrounding vineyards and woodlands and the chateau even boasts its own private chapel.

Superbly comfortable bedding (a prime requisite certainly when I travel) and large, modern bath and shower rooms, are furnished and decorated with refined simplicity. More rooms will be available soon, as the refurbishment project continues this winter.

As if this was not enough, there is also the possibility of eating and drinking chateau-style, by pre-ordering a five-course Table d’Hote menu, with a different glass of locally produced Burgundy paired with each course.

At a price of €99 per person, the meal represents great value, considering the Premier Cru wines and Crémant de Bourgogne sparkling, which are included.

All in all, an eclectic, stylish and peaceful place to spend a night or three, exploring one of the greatest wine regions in the world.

Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.

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