Welcome to the Hospices de Beaune
Whether you love history or wine (or both for that matter) you’re simply going to fall head over heels for the Hospices de Beaune. It’s a charitable Almshouse, also known as the Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune, founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor of the Duchy of Burgundy, as a hospital for the poor. It’s flamboyantly Gothic medieval buildings are like a movie set, where any moment you expect the Four Musketeers to gallop around the corner into the courtyard.
Inside it’s a little bit of living history. The hospital received its first patient on January 1st 1452, from which date the religious order of ‘Les Soeurs (sisters) hospitalières de Beaune’ ministered to the sick, poor and needy up until the 1970’s. Even today, in the main ward, the hospital beds still line the walls, made up with white sheets and red blankets in the most wonderfully organised fashion.
It’s hard to image the world in 1452. The plague was still ravaging Europe. The enduring conflict between France and Britain called ‘The Hundred Years’ War had just ended, but marauding bands of outlaws roamed the lands of central France massacring and robbing rich and poor alike. The Hospice was not simply a place dispensing medicine – it was a haven and retreat for the disabled, the elderly and expectant mothers alike.
It’s a wonderful and incredibly well-preserved place to visit. The apothecary’s room still has its big copper alembic stills, wonderful big jars and all the accoutrements required for making the suppositories the French have long preferred over pills for administering remedies. The Chapel, located next to the main ward so the bedridden could still take Mass, is simply awesome although the wonderful nine-panelled altarpiece by Flemish painter Rogier van de Weyden is now housed in the museum.
Wine is considered pretty much essential for health in France – even today if you are admitted to hospital they will offer you wine with dinner! Not surprisingly the Hospice has had around 150 acres of vineyard from donations and bequests over the last 500years. It also has one of the most famous wine labels, ‘Hospices de Beaune’, in the world.
Goodwill and wine have been a saviour and supporter of the Hospice since 1859, when it’s first charity wine auction was held. Today wines from over 40 cuvées of red and white wine contribute barrels for a sale organised by famous auction house Christie’s. In 2017, 787 barrels were offered for sale, the proceeds of 13.5 million euros, going towards the upkeep of this most distinguished of establishments.
The auction itself is a huge draw of both serious (well you need to be) wine buyers and tourists, and lasts over three days around the third Sunday in November. We’ve stopped cruising by then but if you want to go give us a call – we know a man who can get you in!
So from hospices and hospitals, via wine, to hospitality – which should always start with the offer of a drink. The hospitality on board both Le Papillon in Burgundy, and Nymphea in the Loire Valley, is simply legendary. The food is awesome and the wines match perfectly.
Naturally if you sail with us in Burgundy we will take you to the Hospices de Beaune. Possibly better still we’ll take you across the road for a wine tasting in the Marché des Vins (wine market) located in the ancient church of the Franciscan Cordeliers – well, the monks always did enjoy a drink!
It’s a great visit. When you go in they give you a ‘tasse de vin’ (literally a ‘cup of wine) which is the traditional vessel for tasting. You keep this as a souvenir but stroll through the cellars sampling a wonderful cross section of Burgundy cuvées (which translates as ‘types’ or brands). It’s ever-so self-indulgent – and almost as good a tasting as you get on Le Papillon!
Wine of the week – a tale of two Montagnys Charles Dickens wrote about a tale of two cities. This week we’d like to tell you a tale of two Montagnys, both from the 2015 vintage. From the southern reaches of the Cote Chalonnaise, the wines of Montagny are among the best value in White Burgundy.
With a unique and dusty minerality that many compare to a suave left-bank Chablis, the wines also profit from their southern position, so ripeness and maturity yield seductive and charming Chardonnay. The Premier Cru ‘Les Jardins’ is rich and grassy, with flinty minerality in the nose, and smoky minerality on the fruit. Lemon drop acidity and a touch of fat maturity are carried through the mid-palate onto a long mineral finish.
In this case it is paired with the Premier Cru ‘Les Burnins’ which has a mineral attack with orange blosson floral notes and spicy round fruit. Rich and smoky, with green apple acidity, a touch of butter and a good long finish carried by the minerality.
Don’t forget if you really want a lip-lickingly good taste of Burgundy our introductory 12 bottle case is fantastic value. It’s already heavily discounted but enter FCBC5 at checkout for an extra 5% off.