If you’ve been tasting at Roumier, Mugnier, Comte de Vougue or any of the other great producers in Chambolle-Musigny then I’m sure you have stood outside their cellars and noticed the picturesque cliffs behind the village. Perhaps this has added to your sublime impression of the wines you tasted, however next time you are heading for the small village of Chambolle, take the time to walk through the lush valley that lies behind the town, making your way up the hill to the cliff’s so that you are surrounded by nature.
Saturday mornings are always busy in Beaune, the atmosphere at the open air food markets gives that sleepy weekend mood the energy you need to carry loaves of wood fired bread, cheese, Bresse chicken, saucisson and of course fruit & vegetables back home. Our rendez-vous at Chambolle was set for 10am, so when I returned from the markets I barely had 15 minutes to finish making some fresh hummus, prepare a salad and choose a bottle of wine for the picnic later that day.
Following our drive to the village of Chambolle, we continued along the Rue Basse through the town – heading west for the forest and about 200m on our right after the last house we stopped at a small parking area. From here a 15 minute uphill trail led us to the magnificent cliffs in the Ambin Valley. Surrounded by trees, white limestone cliffs and a peeking view of Chambolle-Musigny in the distance – it is paradise.
After climbing to the top of the white cliffs, using a harness linked through metal hooks drilled into the cliff faces, you are able to see further along the Côte d’Or, with the Chateau of Clos Vougeot in the far distance. The hiking boots I had worn seemed rather heavy on my first climb – as they are actually more suited to vineyard and winery work than rock climbing. I threw away the modern comfort of shoes and gave the old “pièds nus” (bare feet) a go. After such a long cold winter wearing slippers inside and warm boots outside, the soles of my feet were rather tender, though the excitement numbed any pain that could have otherwise been felt. The experience of climbing barefoot was great, there was much more strain on my arms as I lifted myself to the next step with my feet sliding across the limestone face – trying to grasp at any small crevices with my toes.
Energetic is a great way to describe the sport of outdoor rock climbing. It doesn’t compare to a sports centre whereby you turn up, jump in a harness and climb a wall with colour coded hand grips regularly positioned for your ease of use. In nature, it’s a good uphill hike – carrying all your equipment before anyone thinks about putting on a harness and climbing the cliff face to hook on a safety cord. After three different cliff faces were climbed, it was time to sit back in the shade and enjoy the fresh picnic and bottle of wine that we deserved.
At a closer look, this lush valley is actually quite rough terrain. The hard Comblanchien limestone that streches from Dijon to Prémeaux, giving us these beautiful cliffs isn’t anything like the soft white chalk that make up the cliffs of Dover in England. The jaggered rocks and steep incline were certainly the reasons why we still have an uninhabited valley, full of trees, wild flowers and butterflies. So next time you sit down at the table with a bottle of Bourgogne – whether it be an Aligoté or Les Amoureuses, imagine the landscape a little bit beyond your Burgundy maps, to the peaceful calm valleys that remain untouched.