Beginning July, the Restaurant Mosaic team departed on a month-long wine tour to France. For our 2023 Cellar Tour, we focussed on Champagne, Burgundy and Alsace.
As it was my first time traveling, I was filled with mixed emotions, from excitement and joy to restlessness and anxiety. When I was finally seated on the plane, patiently awaiting lift-off, the rollercoaster of emotions was again sped up by the fact that our flight to Paris was cancelled and we had to disembark. This was not how I thought my first international trip would go. Nevertheless, in time, I made it to Paris and with only excitement left, I was more than ready for the wine tour to begin.
“Wine is a passport to the world.”
– Thom Elkjer
In Champagne, we started in Reims before moving to Épernay. We visited a vast selection of exceptional producers during our stay in this region as we have a large collection of Champagne already in the Restaurant Mosaic Cellar. We estimate that 20% of our wine list at Château des Tesnières will once again consist of Champagne as we found that it pairs exceptionally well with Chef Chantel’s Botanical Cuisine. We had extraordinary visits in this region, tasting through the Champagnes and walking through their crayères, surrounded by the whitest chalky walls and vintage Champagnes from decades ago. I could have happily gotten lost in there!
After our fair share of Champagne, we were off to Burgundy. We started in the beautiful small town of Chablis where we stayed for a few days to explore everything they had to offer. We were warmly welcomed by the producers who passionately shared their love of the area with its special limestone soil and Chardonnay as a variety. During our time in Beaune, and Puligny-Montrachet that followed, we of course looked at some more Chardonnay and it was fascinating to taste and compare all these different styles – showcasing the different communes, different soil types and different aspects. All through the same variety and in the same region. Add to that all the Pinot Noir that we tasted in Burgundy as well and having in depth discussions about the uniqueness of each Grand Cru vineyard. Trust me, a wine student’s heaven! But more on that later.
We ended our tour in a quaint town named Riquewihr, in Alsace. It was truly a storybook village where we were surrounded by colourful buildings, fresh flowers, and stunning views of the steep hillside vineyards. While in Alsace, it was all about Riesling and Gewürztraminer, including some lovely examples of sweet noble rot styles. Here we also spent extensive time in the vineyards, visiting different sites such as the Grand Cru Schlossberg vineyard. As a Riesling lover, I enjoyed every minute of it, but I must make special mention of how touched I was by all our hosts’ generosity and hospitality, as we were welcomed into their homes where we were treated to delicious homecooked meals, served alongside older vintages in the glass. They made me feel at home, in a foreign country, on my first international trip, and our tour could honestly not have ended on a better note.
Looking back, I still have this overwhelming emotion of amazement. Truly a ‘pinch yourself’ moment. Thinking about all the top-end producers that we visited, where we were not only privileged enough to taste current vintages but also older vintages and some even out of the barrels. Again, heaven for a wine student.
And getting back to that point, there were an overwhelming number of experiences to be thankful for during our Cellar Tour 2023. From the magnificent wines that we tasted, to the talented winemakers that we met, not to mention the Michelin Restaurants that we dined in, spending Bastille Day on one of the most prestigious rooftops in Paris overlooking the Eifel Tower fireworks, and finally, enjoying a fun night out watching Guns n Roses in concert at La Défense Arena Paris. What more could you ask for!
But at the risk of sounding like a wine geek, honestly, my highlight of this tour was the knowledge that I gained. Invaluable. I have been studying these wine regions for years! Trying to memorise everything, thinking that I know, and understood, the intricacies of it all. But there is nothing quite like being right there, in the heart of it all. Touching the soil, seeing the slopes, learning directly from the winemaker, and getting a sense of the Domaine and their philosophy. It was as if everything I learnt from the books, all the maps and theory, just suddenly clicked into place. It just made sense.
I believe that knowledge only enhances your enjoyment of what is in the glass and once that wine bug bites, you are a wine student for life in one way or another. Some might go the formal study route and turn wine into a career, while others choose to discover wine at their own pace and out of interest. The passion for wine is shared amongst both. I have also been told by many wine colleagues, and now I experience it myself, that traveling to wine regions will only enrich your wine journey. It is the ultimate hands-on education. So, I invite you to come on this traveling wine student’s journey with us as I will be sharing my experiences of these wine regions and producers visited in more detail in the coming months.
Wine is surely best when shared!
-René, Restaurant Mosaic Sommelier