Part 3: The canal follows the winding contours of the hills.
Story and Photos by Alan Harper - October 2003
At Chalon we left the Saône, and, in a lock as dark as an Egyptian tomb, were raised 35 feet into the Canal du Centre. Here true Burgundy scenery revealed itself, cultivated and landscaped over thousands of years. Past the dazzling yellow rape fields of the Saône valley—it was late April, and hot—the canal follows the winding contours of the hills and rises ten or 20 feet at a time through a dozen locks to a long, level “pound” (a canal term meaning a level stretch) that starts at Chagny. Here is the fabled Côte d’Or, birthplace of some of the world’s most wonderful wines—the Côte de Beaune on one side of the canal, the Côte Chalonnaise on the other. Wine is more than a business here and much more than mere pleasure. It is, simply, what Burgundy is for.
In the dark cellar of Santenay wine merchant Prosper Maufoux, we finally got around to some degustation—better known as wine-tasting. Outside, the afternoon sun beat down on the eight plane trees in the square and children splashed in the fountain. Inside, a rich, black currant-infused Pinot Noir was offered, from Premier Cru (see “Burgundy, the Wine,” this story) slopes just half a mile away. Then another, quite superb, from higher slopes above the town. “It is not ready—you have to imagine what it will be in five years’ time,” explained the vintner, Sylvain Jacquin. “Try this. There is no obligation.” A luscious Chardonnay, cool and characterful. Another. And then some Cremant de Bourgogne, a real surprise, a fine-textured, lively, sparkling white from Chalonnais, a few miles to the south.
After tasting a wine, you’re supposed to spit it out—it has something to do with keeping your head clear and your judgment unclouded. Did we? I really don’t remember. But we did buy some bottles of wine—some for the boat, ready to drink right away, and some to keep for five years or so until it would be ready. And we didn’t even have to carry the case back up to the canal—Jacquin delivers.
Crown Blue Line Phone: (888) 355-9491. www.crownblueline.com.
This article originally appeared in the September 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.