The past two weeks I’ve been sharing highlights of our recent visits to what are arguably some of the top hospitality establishments in the UK, Jersey Islands, Netherlands and Norway. When Daniela flew back to South Africa on the 14th of October, I headed for Burgundy where for the final leg of my meanders, my travel companions were our winemaker son Glenn, and our long-standing friend, Baptiste Quinard, who is an expert on Burgundian wine, art and culture.

Sunday, 15 October

En route from Strasbourg, Glenn had the pleasure of visiting one of our 2023 harvest interns, Laura Poli, and her boyfriend Frank Roumier at Domaine Laurent Roumier in Chambolle-Musigny.

Later that day Baptiste, Glenn and I met at the Chambers of the Patriarche, with Baptiste all set to introduce Glenn to the magic of Burgundy. We started off with a memorable tasting of a selection of wines from the region, and personal preferences were the Clos de la Roche 2019 and the Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières 2019.

We then headed to Baptiste’s house, where he and his mother treated us to a traditional Burgundian dinner – from snails to duck – and more exceptional Burgundy, including a 2001 Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru by Nicolas Potel. Unless you’re wondering … Of course we watched the quarter final France vs South Africa match with much cheering, jubilation and camaraderie.

Monday, 16 October

On Monday morning, we visited the Hospices de Beaune, where we contemplated the light of life, the architectural aspects, heaven and earth and the very spiritual nature of all the history of Hospices de Beaune, the souls that have ascended and the beautiful love story between Nicolas Rolin and Guigone de Salins who started this project in 1443. The symbolism in every detail of the building is simply astonishing. The Hospices de Beaune was used as a hospital until 1971. A new facility was then built in Beaune and is partly funded by the annual Hospices de Beaune wine auction.

From there it was on to Domaine Lejeune in Pommard which has been in the hands of the Lejeune family for eight generations. Of special interest was learning about the French inheritance system and how it may eventually destroy the great domaines of Burgundy.

Next stop was the Montrachet Vineyards en route to Meersault. It was particularly instructive learning how the variations in micro-climate affect these famous Chardonnays.

Our tasting with Pierre de Benoist from Domaine de Villaine in Bouzeron included a superb Aligoté as well as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Domaine de Villaine Rully vineyards. Pierre’s philosophy on climate change and the deconstruction of wine into skins and water and how you work with these elements to create balance, i.e. the purity of the underground water source, using elements in skin to compensate in warmer years with less acidity by using a hint of bitterness to balance, this was a fascinating discussion of agility and foresight of awareness and truly embracing nature. The wine style is vibrant, elegant and innovative and Pierre lives in the same house that Aubert de Villaine loved to live in for so many years. I noticed the racing pigeon hatches built into this wonderful home and cellar.

We then went back to Meursault where our tasting at Domaine Prieur included a barrel tasting of the 2022 vintage. Experiencing the wines yielded by young and old vines from the same vineyard was quite enlightening, yet to me the most interesting aspect was the influence of the barrel on the five different barrels of Musigny we tasted: the less the impact of the barrel, the more I enjoyed the wine.

What a happy coincidence that our friends Katherine and Didier Denis – owners of  L’Hostellerie Bourguignonne, which incidentally offers three Creation wines on the wine list – were available to join us for dinner, as Didier was preparing for the Fête de la Pôchouse. A perfect ending to a perfect day.

Tuesday, 17 October

Visiting a tonnellerie or cooperage is always exciting and the Cadus Tonnellerie was no exception. As with wine, working with wood is a natural process and there are many potential pitfalls. Experts are therefore required throughout the production process and it is great to see them at work. A highlight of our visit was seeing the barrel ready for the 2023 Hospices de Beaune wine auction which was made from the remaining wood from a 19-metre, 200-year-old oak tree felled to be used in the restoration of the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Also on the itinerary was a visit to Marie France Bravard, a wonderful perfumier who has worked for some of the great perfume houses in France. As the owner of land in Meersault, where Arnaud Ente makes her wine, she has deconstructed three Chardonnay vintages to create a truly beautiful perfume. This of course resonated with me, having developed the Perfume of Wine range inspired by our Creation Art of Pinot Noir. It was rewarding to discover that our methodology was similar. Thank you Josephine, for introducing me to someone who thinks like I do although we have never met. It was such a pleasure to discuss, learn and validate ideas.

The last destination in Baptiste’s ‘magic hat’ was Domaine René Bouvier in Gevrey-Chambertin, where we met Bernard Bouvier. Last year Bernard was lauded as one of the best Pinot Noir producers in Burgundy by magazine Dossier. We had the pleasure of tasting the Echézeaux 2019 and then the Chambolle Musigny Vieilles Vignes 2022 from the barrel, both of which were impressive to say the least.

So much to experience, so little time … Too soon it was time to hop on a train to Paris and back to reality. Which in my case meant the glorious Hemel-en-Aarde with its towering mountains, its fields of pristine fynbos, the whales frolicking in the waves. Where heaven meets earth, indeed!