Seat of the Dukes of Burgundy for nearly 600 years, the town of Dijon in Eastern France is a bustling centre of commerce and culture, full of grand buildings and old palaces.
As one of the principle towns of the Burgundy wine region, Dijon is sometimes overshadowed by Beaune, slightly further south, surrounded by the famous vineyards. Known the world over for its fiery mustard, the town is a fabulous cultural centre, full of many other delights, with surprises around every corner.
At the Northern end of the Côte d’Or, the world class wine producers of the Côte de Nuits are a stone’s throw from Dijon, a sophisticated centre for visiting Nuits Saint Georges, Vosne Romanée or Fixin (pronounced ‘feesan’ by those in the know). Among the myriad vineyards of the Golden Hill, is an Appellation which is making something of a come-back in the past few years. This is Marsannay and the Chateau de Marsannay is the ideal rendezvous to discover the wines of this sub-region. This impressive Chateau with its cavernous underground cellars filled with gently maturing barrels of red Burgundy, is a local centre for wine tourism, with fascinating explanations of everything to do with Burgundy wine production, from the soils to fermentation and maturation.
A vineyard area on the very outskirts of Dijon, which had fallen into disrepair through a combination of Wars and economics, is the Cotes de Dijon. During the past ten years, a local government initiative has instigated a programme of replanting with a consortium of top producers from the Cotes de Nuits. Planted with some top clones of Pinot Noir, 100 acres are planned initially, with further areas under consideration for the future.
Back in the town of Dijon itself, a wander through the cobbled streets will reveal a thousand treats, from chic boutiques to irresistible chocolate shops. Buying some mustard just has to be done and the Mustard shop of Edmond Fallot is the place to go. With the main production taking place in the sister town of Beaune, the shop in Dijon has an incomparable range of more than 30 different flavoured mustards, with such flavours as Pinot Noir, Chablis, Cassis and my favourite of all – Meursault. There is even a Mustard Jam, fabulous with goose liver pate.
The independent company of Moutarderie Fallot, was established in 1840 and now grows all its mustard seed in Burgundy. On your walking voyage of discovery through the streets of Dijon, two other speciality shops are not to be missed. These are the Pain d’epices shop of Mulot and Petitjean, on Place Bossuet and the truffle boutique,Boutique de la Truffe on Rue Chaudronnerie.
Two more epicurean temples where these great local specialties can be sampled and purchased. The family run company of Mulot and Petitjean was established over 200 years ago in 1796 and has been supplying top quality Pain d’Epices to the wealthy population of Dijon ever since. More of a cake than a bread, there are several variations on offer, all of which are delicious on their own or as accompaniments to such delights as foie gras, washed down perhaps, with a glass of chilled Marsannay Blanc.
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. Follow him on Twitter @richardwje.
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