Burgundy explores

Two years ago on a trip to the “other” Burgundy – the one in France – we explored the tradition of wine tasting. We were in the wine centre of the world and were going to enjoy and learn as much as possible from the traditions, history and processes employed that makes French wines so sought after.
As all South Africans we were used to ordering a specific cultivar when making our choice of wine. With a carpaccio starter perhaps a softer merlot will do and then with the fillet a Cabernet Sauvignon would be a perfect match.
It only took one dinner in France to realise that the same procedure did not apply. We received blank stares when we enquired about the varietals on the wine list and only figured out a little later that all the red wines on a listing in Burgundy would be Pinot noir, in Bordeaux it would be Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends and in the Rhône Valley it would be Syrah/Grenache/Mourvèdre/Viognier blends.
When you are from Burgundy you drink Pinot noir and Pinot noir only. Should you feel a little adventurous you order a Rhône blend or a Cabernet Sauvignon. This was enlightening as at our Burgundy in Hermanus we also focus on the local wines of the area and give visitors a taste of what they can drink when visiting any of the surrounding wine farms from Elgin, Bot River, Hermanus, Stanford or Elim. Our clients want to know where their food and wine come from and we want to narrow the distance from the source to our tables while serving only the best.
Another discovery in Burgundy, France, was the “tastevin” – an ancient wine tasting cup made from silver.

Tastevin helped with quality control in medieval days.

Tastevin helped with quality control in medieval days.

This cup was developed more than two hundred years ago by cellar masters in Burgundy to sample wine in the cellars where it was dark with only a slight glow of the only source of light they had – candlelight. The tastevin cup has angular corners and dents that are designed to reflect light and make it easier to check the color and clarity of the wine. These days we have enough electricity despite the recent power outages in Hermanus and the tastevin is redundant apart from the ceremonial use by sommeliers.
Visiting Burgundy, France, and getting to know some wine traditions enriched us and made us look at our Burgundy with different eyes. Here, almost at the Southern tip of Africa, we are also making history. The Burgundy has been going since 1928 and what has started out as the Cyprus Tree Tea Garden has developed into the first wine tasting experience in Hermanus when Tim Hamilton Russell took over and changed the name to the “Burgundy Restaurant” in 1987. We look forward to making more history with our loyal clients and local suppliers.


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