Anyway back to our journey, we were heading to my wine heaven of Burgundy (wine heaven closely followed by the west coast of America, but I won’t offend anyone here by talking about the virtues of Californian chardonnay).
We stopped off at Colmar, the capital of the Alsace region. A really pretty town with a river and canals running through it. It is nice to walk around or you can take rowing boat rides or, even better a tourist train going around the town, of which there are many!
The Alsace region is really interesting as it has changed nationalities so many times, being Austria, German and French over the last couple hundred years. During the first world war there were villages along the border that saw constant fighting between the French and German armies, how strange a time that must have been. The changes in nationality means that it Colmar has quite a unique feel, not quite French, not quite German. There were road signs for so many places that looked distinctly German rather than French, but sadly still no currywurst crisps.
Greg and I thought that the tourist train was quite funny, it looked like a children’s train but with adults packed onto it who looked really bored! It appears that the Spanish like Colmar a lot as it was absolutely full of Spanish tourists. We stopped for a taste of the local cuisine, Tarte Flambee, which is like a pizza, but with a base / crust so thin it is almost not there at all. The tartes also have crème fraiche instead of tomato sauce.
We spent nearly 3 hours in the town, which isn’t bad considering all the shops were shut (and I need replacement flip flops) – we later discovered that it was a Saint’s day in France so everywhere is shut. We don’t have the greatest timing (or research)!
After Colmar, we started to head towards Chablis. Yes, I confess, we have only chosen this stop off on our journey due to wine. I absolutely love Burgundy chardonnay of all sorts and after our great experience in Barolo I wanted to repeat it with white wine!
We drove until we couldn’t drive any more so stopped at Pesmes, one of France’s most beautiful villages, and the campsite of Le Colombiere. Pesmes is built into a hillside, originally as a medieval fort. There is a beautiful river running through it where you can fish, swim or just chill out. The weather has certainly changed, 31 degrees at 5pm.
The campsite was pretty cheap, on the river and almost empty so we were pretty happy as we set off into town to have a look around and get a cold drink. There were numerous steps to climb to get to the main street. It was very pretty with lovely views but on arrival at the top we discovered that nothing was open (we still hadn’t realised that it was a Saints day) – silly us for not bringing water up.
We started the walk back down and came across a hotel that was open (yay!) so stopped for a couple drinks before retiring to Knigel. This has been the first night that we have sat outside Knigel since Lake Garda, which was really nice, only upset by our fellow campers who had three dogs chained up day and night who were crying all the time. I was quite upset – what’s the point of having a dog if you just tie it up, and in the sun! Although, Juno and I did get told off in Germany for not having her on a lead, but she is a hippy dog and loves to run free!
The next morning, we had a leisurely drive to Chablis, deciding on the way that we wanted to spend the night in a winery. We found one, just west of Chablis, Domain Alain Geoffroy that lets motorhomes stay for free. There is a scheme called France Passion, which gives details of small wineries or farms across France that let motorhomes stay for free, hopeful that they will spend some money on their produce. Unfortunately, we didn’t join prior to leaving and you can only get details via a book that is posted to you – France Passion, if you read this, you really should have an app or something that allows people to get the information whilst on the road. Anyway, we found this one ourselves, so goodie!!! On arrival we were met with a large empty camping place with electricity, water and all services for free – amazing! It wasn’t quite in the vines as we’d expected, but we were happy enough with the peace and quiet. We booked in (using my awful French) for a wine tasting and museum visit as there is a museum here to all things wine!
The museum was fascinating, with corkscrews of every description, including one of Edward VII’s, lots of rude ones, and all sorts of wine making paraphernalia.
Juno starting barking at a mannequin dressed in the Chablis outfit, which was really funny. She was very scared of it!
We then sat down for the tasting, sampling 10 wines in total and learning a lot about Chablis wine. To be called a Chablis the Bourgogne chardonnay must be produced within a region of 8,000 hectares, Domain Alain Geoffroy has 40 hectares and produces 800 bottles of wine a year. A fourth generation vineyard, which we understood from Sophie our guide is always the case in France, the children inherit the vineyard rather than new ones being set up.
Sophie explained the difference between the left and right hand side of the river, with vineyards on the left hand side producing more mineral tasting wines. As with Barolo, we were surprised at the difference a year makes, in terms of taste due to differing weather. We tasted oaked and unoaked wines, definitely preferring the oaked. Sophie said this was a new process introduced due to customer demand as usually French wine makers would only oak red wines. We started with the Petit Chablis, which is the lowest quality Chablis to be produced, then onto 2012 Chablis, moving on up to the Premier Cru and Grand Cru. All were delicious but we definitely preferred a Premier Cru from the right hand side of the river, that had been oaked. It was a lovely visit, nice to see the museum, Juno was made to feel very welcome and we have some nice wine to enjoy tonight.
Back at Knigel, we were joined by one more motorhome containing a friendly French couple. We sat outside watching the sunset enjoying some beautiful wines. All in all a great introduction to wine heaven.