By Catherine Down
My next stop on the Route des Grands Crus was another village known for its superlative red wines-- Nuits-Saint-Georges. Although there are no Grand Crus from this commune, there are some great village and Premier Cru level wines. It’s a well-regarded appellation known for red wines that take a bit more time and require a bit more age than some others in the region. There are a small amount of white wines here as well, but it’s less than five percent of the total production.
You get a sense of the importance of Nuits-Saint-Georges to the winemaking trade in the area from the fact that the region itself, Côte de Nuits, takes its name from the town. Nuits does not refer to the French word for night, however, but it is thought that it comes from the Latin word for walnuts-- a reference to the walnut and hazelnut trees of the area. The wine has such historic significance, that King Louis XIV was told to drink it medicinally and had his bottles of Champagne replaced by Nuits-Saint-Georges.
In comparison to the other villages I visited, the lively town felt like a veritable metropolis... with a population of 5,400 inhabitants. So while still fairly small, it was the largest of the towns we visited on this particular trip and felt bustling with more shops, restaurants, caves, and activity overall.
Nuits-Saint-Georges has enormous importance for its role in promoting Burgundy wines globally as it is where the Chevaliers du Tastevin were founded in 1934. The Chevaliers are an international brotherhood of Burgundy wine connoisseurs. Originally intended to revive interest in the Burgundian wine industry during the Great Depression, the organization now celebrates the magic and conviviality of Burgundy wines worldwide in over 120 countries. Their headquarters have been based at the Château Clos de Vougeot since 1944, but walking around Nuits-Saint-Georges, you can see a small unobtrusive plaque highlighting their humble origins at the Caveau Nuiton.
There is a walking trail that highlights many of the major sights in the town-- you need only to look for small metal triangles with a buccaneer standing atop a wine barrel. One major site to visit would be the Cassissium which is an entire interactive museum and factory tour devoted to the blackcurrant. Grapes are not the only famous fruit export from Burgundy, after all. Crème de cassis, the local liqueur made from blackcurrants, is commonly used as a syrup to flavor white wine for a sweet aperitif called kir, or, when paired with Champagne, a kir royale. It can be nice to break up all the wine tasting along the Route des Grands Crus with a different kind of tasting.
The belfry, along a slightly touristy strip in the commercial center of town, is an architectural jewel. Built in the early 1600s, the Flemish style belfry covered in vines was a watchtower and served as the town hall until 1833. There’s a monument to the local sculptor Paul Cabet on one side of the facade as well. The clock chimes were restored in the 1980s so visitors today still benefit from the local song punctuating the day’s events. A short stroll away is the Église Saint-Denis which has a distinctive tiled roof and sits next to the banks of the Meuzin. Just a small trickle of water now, the river used to supply drinking troughs, communal washhouses, mills and tanneries. Inside the church, there is an organ by “celebrity” organ maker Aristide Cavaillé-Coll who famously made the organ inside Notre-Dame de Paris.
Although technically not in Nuits-Saint-Georges, it’s worth a small detour to the Cîteaux Abbey just east of the town. Famous today for their Cîteaux cheese, which you can and definitely should stock up on in their wonderful small store, the abbey has been around since the 12th century and the Cisterician monks were instrumental in the wine-growing success of the entire region. The history of the climats and terroirs of Burgundy cannot be separated from the history of the monks of Cîteaux who built their own winegrowing estate, acquired land across Burgundy, and systematically increased and improved winemaking and production in the area. There are guided visits of the abbey, a silent walking path laying out the long scope of history there, and the small shop filled with monastic made goods.
For Château de Pommard aficionados, perhaps the most interesting site in Nuits-Saint-Georges is the Saint-Symphorien church which features historic wooden pews including one by the entrance inscribed with the name Marey-Monge. It belonged to Ernest Marey-Monge and his wife Sophie, one of the eight children of Nicolas-Joseph Marey et Emilie Monge who purchased the Château de Pommard premises from the founding Micault family.
Taste the terroir of this unique appellation with our Nuits-Saint-Georges 2019. Also available in our La Route des Grands Crus Collection and Côte de Nuits Red Trio.