By Patrick Farrell (Class of 2011)
Little did I know that when I received the Louis Latour Prize at my Graduation Ceremony in March that I was going to be put up with the true warmth and hospitality in the traditional French Spirit of ‘Mon Hôte’. The experience, to say the least, exceeded my expectations greatly.
The trip started off with my arrival in Beaune in France, loacated between Paris and Geneva in the Burgundy region. See the map below for a better understanding of its location.
Beaune is known as the wine capital of France. This is obvious throughout the town with the beautiful floral arrangements most of which signify grapes of some sort, a lovely example below:
Upon being greeted by our Taxi driver (a French man driving a Mercedes E Class – very different from the regular Dubai taxis), he introduced himself and brought us to the Hotel; Hostellerie Le Cèdre. To say this Hotel was a treat would be an understatement. From the moment the taxi driver left us at the door, we soaked up the atmosphere; with its wood burning smell and candles alit everywhere – it was pure bliss, especially coming from a city such as Dubai. The bedroom even had the traditional French window shutters, adding to the authenticity of the place.
It was not long before we had to make our dinner which was reserved for us in the petite restaurant Caveau des Arches, located on the ‘other’ side of the town, about 10 minute walk from the Hotel. It was a perfect walk from the Hotel to the restaurant. We had an extensive menu to choose from and the wines had been previously selected by Louis Latour, so we were guaranteed a complimented culinary journey! Check out the Restaurant’s website to get a good feeling of the place, the surroundings give you the feeling you are in a wine cave hence the name of the eloquently decorated restaurant. Pictures of the starter, main course and dessert are below.
The wines were perfectly paired and served promptly during the courses. After the satisfying meal we strolled back through the village to enjoy a night-cap in front of the open wood fire, very traditional!
The next day (Thursday) required us to start early so the wake up was set for 7am. We enjoyed a quiet breakfast in the Hotel’s breakfast room before being collected by the lovely Anne Charpin who provided a huge insight into the running of Louis Latour. First we visited the modern cooperage, where everything from the bottling to the labeling & printing to the barreling of the wines is carried out. The art of barrel making really amazed me, you can see this from the video below.
We then went on through the Cote d’Or valley passing acres of various vineyards owned my many different wines companies. While there are many companies producing in this region, they all hold a friendly relationship amongst each other, healthy competition as such.
After a somewhat short yet enjoyable trip through the valley we arrived at another village (the name has escaped my mind), with narrow, windy paths and plenty of wine tasting outlets; home to the original Maison Louis Latour (1797). The property used to be home to the Latour family many years ago but now is home to storage of their finest wines, some dating back as early as 1870!
The caves for storage are located 20m underground and are completely covered with mould and all sorts, ideal storage for wines. A couple of images of the maison can be seen below:
After our tour of the maison, we went to head office, located in the town on Beaune, another former home of the family, where we tasted 18 magnificent wines. Just like college, we had the opportunity to take notes and as wine is so subjective, we regularly had different opinions. For me, I enjoyed the Meursault 1er Cru (Goutte d’Or) 2009 and the Château Corton Grancey Grand Cru 2008.
After our two-hour long tasting session, Florian Migeon brought us to the former dining room of the Latour family where we enjoyed an exquisite lunch, prepared by the in-house cook and served by the house waitress, typical French style. The menu had the traditional French items; langoustines; fillet of beef; cheese; crème brûlée and espresso. We met briefly with Mark Allen, Asia Export Director over our Espresso before Florian continued our journey through Cote d’Or valley, before returning to the town of Beaune to visit the Hospices de Beaune. The Hospices is quite a significant part of the wine business in Beaune; many wine companies, such as Louis Latour, donate plots of their vineyards to the hospice:
Following that, it was time to make it back to the Hotel to ‘freshen up’ for our dinner with Mark Allen, which was enjoyed at Bistrot de l’Hotel. This petite restaurant gave the illusion of being inside a castle with its cold stone walls throuhgout and again with typical French service. We enjoyed two Grand Cru’s vintage 2005 which went excellently with the truffle and steak we ate. I skipped the cheese course at this dinner to ensure I had room for the simple yet delicious selection of home-made sorbets and ice cream. We then had a brisk walk back to the Hotel enjoying another night-cap in front of the open fire!
The next morning marked our last one in Beaune. Wake up was set for 7am so we could enjoy the last few hours in the town, starting off with a walk into one of the many wine stores. Walking through parks with leaves falling off trees was a real treat coming from a city full of sand, so that added greatly to the trip.
We were dropped back to the train station in time for us to catch the train for Paris which went smoothly for two hours, when we then arrived back to the normal hustle and bustle of a big city. Again, it was great being around such culture in a city. We spent the night there before returning to Ireland, to the freezing cold, dark, wet days – nothing better!
This trip would not have been possible without Shannon College of Hotel Management, so a big thank you to all there! To Anne, Florian and Mark at Louis Latour, for providing such insight into the business, their passion for their work really is inspiring and helps prove the success of Louis Latour wines.
I made a brief video of my time there, please excuse the wobbly hand and the amateur footage, hopefully it will bring a better understanding to you!