Tasting my way through France

Recapping two French wine events visited in the last month 

If you’re looking for a place to gather with like-minded fellow wine geeks, France is the place for you. When I lived in California, we of course had the occasional wine fair or exposition. However, here in Paris and in the surrounding wine regions there is a giant wine event happening almost every weekend. Wine is such a deep-rooted part of the culture that it’s not surprising they celebrate the good juice so often. The best part is, every event is packed with attendees – press, sommeliers, winemakers, administrators and managers, and people who just love wine. 

In the two short months that I’ve been here, I’ve had the opportunity to attend two amazing major wine tasting events. There have been at least two other events that I wanted to visit as well! The availability of these types of events is incredible to me. Here is a recap of the two events, one in Burgundy and one in Paris. 

The first event I went to was the Fête des Grands Vins wine tasting during the Vente des Vins des Hospices de Beaune festival weekend (a mouthful I know!). This festival always takes place during the third Sunday of November and has been a tradition for 162 years. The Vente des Vins is a wine auction that benefits the conservation of heritage and hospital structures in Beaune and Burgundy. This year marked the 162nd festival weekend and the 149th Grands Vins tasting. 

“Every year, professionals, connoisseurs and simple wine lovers meet on the weekend of the third Sunday in November for festivities in the purest Burgundian tradition.”

Beaune-Tourism.Fr

I visited the festival with my good friend who had just finished working harvest for a domaine in Burgundy. The Grand Vins tasting took place in a huge indoor convention space and featured the appellations of Burgundy as well as Beaujolais. They even had vendors for winemaking and bottling equipment as well. The hall was massive – you could spend hours just wandering around going from booth to booth (which we did). Oftentimes, the winemaker himself poured the wine and spoke about it. My favorite winemaker and wine were Jean-Baptise Lebreuil, of Domaine Lebreuil, and his Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru-Aux Serpentières. Jean-Baptise’s family has ran the domaine for three generations and he was so engaging and energetic to talk to. Even though the wine was a 2022, it still had great complexity and was not overly fruit-forward like other 2022s we had tasted earlier in the day. It was light, had hints of earthiness and was very elegantly balanced, three of my favorite elements of Burgundy. He also poured us a delicious 2019 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru by Comtesse de Chérisey. 

After the tasting salon we went back to the heart of Beaune where the festivities were continuing. This annual festival, which has happened 162 years, is basically the biggest event in Beaune each year. Hotels get booked out a year in advance and you have to come prepared with an empty stomach, good walking shoes and a wallet full of cash. The streets in the town centre were blocked off to cars and full of people of all ages walzing through the brisk autumn air. Tents with oeufs en meurette, vin chaud, crêpes and boeuf bourguigon graced every corner. The restaurants and shops were open as well, and most had tables set up outside their storefronts shucking oysters and pouring wine. It was truly a magical experience.

The second event I’ve been to was Le Grand Tasting Paris at the Carrousel du Louvre on Friday, November 25. Yes, this event was literally underneath the Louvre. This is one of the biggest wine tastings in Paris and features some of the biggest names from all over France, and even some international ones too. This event was truly massive and featured over 300 producers. The regions included Bourgogne, Bordeaux, Champagne, Loire, Provence, Languedoc, Rhône, Alscace and even Italy and Chile. You could literally spend all day at this event and maybe still miss a couple of producers. My favorite experiences were getting to taste Château de Beaucastel and the amazingly unique Chenin Blancs from father-and-sons operation Domaine des Baumard, Vallée de la Loire. 

I also had the opportunity to attend one of the Master Classes at the event. The Master Classes feature different producers and dive into the details of a certain cuvée or bottle. I attended the Veuve Clicquot Master Class hosted by Chef de Caves Didier Mariotti. Didier described the intricate crafting of La Grande Dame, the maison’s most iconic production. He explained the tasting and blending process, and went in-depth into one of the Pinot Noir plots that lend its grapes to La Grande Dame Rosé. We tasted La Grande Dame 2012, 2012 Rosé, and the 1990 vintage. It’s always an inspiring experience to be surrounded by people who are so passionate about wine, and hearing about this passion directly from the people who make the wine.

Stay tuned for more French wine event recaps to come! À bientôt ~

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