Waking up in a wine barrel
If admiring the barrels isn’t enough, what about sleeping in one? You can partake in such an adventure at the vineyard Clos de Grand Bois in Lugny, with each barrel cosily sleeping up to four people. Pick your grape (Chardonnay, Aligoté, Muscat, Pinot Noir or Gamay) and get a taste of what it’s like to be one!
I admit I chose the more traditional bed and breakfast type of room in the main building, but the experience was no less ‘vignoble’. Clos du Grand Bois, which literally means area of the big woods, is precisely that, with a huge forest next door, and has been home to vines for at least 300 years. Like pretty much every viticultural area in France, however, it was devastated by the phylloxera crisis in the 1880s, whereby a pesky insect ravaged around 90% of French vines, forcing winemakers to pull them all out.
Some 100 years later, however, the vines were revived by Joseph Lafarge, who came from ten generations of winemaker. The vineyard was carefully tended to by himself and later his son, and now his son…each generation building on the work of the former, with awards in both wine and tourism following.
It’s not too hard to find all this out because the minute I began sniffing around asking about their work I was introduced to the father, the (very young) son, the cat and of course Anthony, the winemaker himself. Every night he offers a full tour of the property followed by a tasting, explaining in detail their winemaking methods, from the planting of the seeds to the bottle.
This vineyard produces mainly still chardonnays, but they also have some Cremant de Bourgogne , the odd rosé and a bit of red from pinot noir and gamay. Macon Blanc, Macon Rosé and Macon-Lugny are their main appellations, with some of their grapes also sent to the Cave Cooperative de Lugny, the first cave cooperative in Burgundy for that matter.
Which makes me think that the Maconnais is surely somewhat underrated, sitting in the shadow of its more prestigious cousins to the north such as those in the côte de Beaune and côte de Nuits, for example. While the Lafarge wines are not in the same league (nor price range), the quality is still quite present. The generations of refinement in their methods and efforts to both align with the environment and stay true to the grape and the terrain shows in the glass. My favourite was the Macon-Lugny ’32’, with its notes of bread and butter, soft on the palate, slightly longer finish than you expect. (I also found that it improved after being open about three days).
If you’re planning to visit, once again, please choose Autumn. Then when you’re there, make sure you stroll down the driveway, turn right, walk about ten minutes through the forest and there you will see UNESCO heritage splendour. A fiesta of oranges and reds and yellows as far as the eyes can see, speckled with charming villages and their spired churches.
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