Drive about two and a half hours southeast of Paris and you will find yourself surrounded by vineyards. Beautiful, rolling hill vineyards nestled amongst the quaint little villages that dot the countryside of Bourgogne, or Burgandy as we say in English. It is widely agreed upon that Burgandy's grapes produce the world's best white wines, and some pretty darn good red ones as well. After tastings at two separate wine caves followed by a local wine at dinner followed the next day by another tasting, I couldn't agree more. The reds are feminine and filled with the flavors of red fruits. The whites sometimes taste of minerals, sometimes taste of butter, and are always unbelievably smooth and rich. Needless to say, leaving the region empty handed is impossible. Make space in your trunk for a couple of cases.
I never was a very discerning wine drinker. I didn't know how to properly savor the complexities that can be found in a glass of rouge or blanc or how to tell a good wine from an average one. Midwestern barbecues are generally more heavy on the beer than the vino. But four months in France have given me a new appreciation for the art of enjoying a glass of wine. I've learned to not be afraid to stick my nose all the way into the glass in order to get a good smell. I've learned to let the wine sit in my mouth a bit before swallowing. I've even learned how to discern specific flavors within the wine itself, although my palate's ability is still far behind those of my French friends. Somehow, I don't think I'll mind trying to catch up.