The slopes of gold

Burgundy is known as France’s richest province – in history, culture, economics and of course, wines – known as the home of Chablis. It has, with the historic centre of Dijon and the quaint town of Beaune, been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. With good reason. After a direct flight from Cape Town to Paris, a TGV ride to Lyon and a quick local train to Beaune, we alighted to bright skies – heaven having come straight from the Cape storms, heaven to be in the northern hemisphere in June, in a nutshell, wine heaven!

A step to the right of the road for 6km from Beaune, and our bleasure (business combined with pleasure) began at Relais & Châteaux’s five-star property Hostellerie de Levernois. We sat outdoors soaking up the sun at 8pm with our first glass of chilled Chablis. Owners, former CEO of Relais & Châteaux Jean Louis Bottigliero and his wife Susanne, whose sense of style is evident in the décor and attention to detail, have true hospitality beating in their hearts. They uphold the ethos of charm, calm, character, cuisine and courtesy.


They dashed over to welcome us before we took our seats in their 1*Michelin restaurant for a dinner to remember. We opted for the surprise menu. Chef Philippe Auge is truly talented, marrying modernity and tradition with aplomb. I was delighted to be taken into the kitchen to see his skill and witness his passion, with Jean Louis as our translator when needed. One of the highlights of our meal had been the blue lobster dish, the remains of its jus I had unashamedly spooned out of the serving jug. It was a treat to see the stock pot that cooks for many hours to reduce from 12 litres to two to give this opulent flavour. This gastronomic restaurant, Le restaurant l’Hostellierie, is renowned for their selection of cheeses, one of the many reasons why we love France. Whenever I bite into Epoisses I know why my maiden name is Toucher!


Exceptional breakfasts, and our dinner on the next night were at the Le Bistrot du Bord de l’Eau, an ancient kitchen dating back to 1750. After breakfast each day Jean Louis would test my limited French, open a map, write notes on it, make a few calls and voila, we were on our way to private chateau visits and tastings.


We stopped at the Auberge du Marronier for lunch, and trawled the historic site that oozes French charm. As we were checking into our gorgeous suite at Château Sainte Sabine guests arrived in a helicopter, obviously more important than moi, but the staff made us feel like number ones! I could immediately feel the love and care that the Bottiglieros have afforded this property. The views over the lawn to the canal are arresting, and it was enchanting to see the deer seeking shade. In spite of searing afternoon heat we cycled along the canal for a few hours before stopping for some sustenance at a boathouse. Beer has never tasted so good! Back at the beautiful chateau I cooled off and then napped off at the pool.


Prior to the memorable Gourmet menu enjoyed at Le Lassey restaurant at Sainte Sabine we settled on the terrace for drinks and canapes, a Kir Royal for me knowing that the berries are grown nearby. Chef Philippe Auge’s passion was evident in this gastronomic restaurant too, and we dined like a king and queen.


It was hard to leave the gorgeousness of the chateau, but another chapter in our Tour de France beckoned. Champagne, here we come!