Burgundy's music festival

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  • Wednesday 20 April 2011

Burgundy boasts three classic music festivals in and around many of the region's most famed sites

International Festival of Baroque Opera

For wine enthusiasts who love music, Burgundy is a fabulous place to be in the summer.

Three music festivals are held in the heart of the Côte d’Or at a time when the famous vineyards look their best. Hollyhocks bloom and roses climb over stone walls in the quiet villages whose names feature on wine lists all over the world; for exercise you can walk or bike past vineyards and into quiet pastures and woods with hawks wheeling overhead and swathes of wild flowers beside the small roads.

In the warm evenings there are concerts given by renowned musicians in some of the area’s architectural gems.

The venue for Musique et Vin, at the end of June, is the historic Clos de Vougeot (see map and fact file, right). The beautiful old château, home to the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, whose banquets take place here, sits in the middle of its walled vineyard between the communes of Vosne-Romanée and Chambolle-Musigny on the Côte de Nuits.

Now in its fourth year, the festival is the brainchild of David Chan, concertmaster at the New York Metropolitan Opera. His regular visits to taste in growers’ cellars led to collaboration with two music-loving Burgundians, Bernard Hervet of Domaine Faiveley, and Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

When music-loving winemakers and wine-loving musicians interact, there is a real buzz.

There are pre-concert tastings in the old cuverie, with wine from some of the best domaines poured by their makers, before performances by Chan and his colleagues in the stone-pillared cellars where Cistercian monks once aged their barrels.

Audiences have flocked to hear top musicians in this lovely setting; growers have been pleasantly surprised at the level of interest shown by tasters. There’s no doubt that Musique et Vin concerts have a special atmosphere which is fun to be part of.

The musicians from the Met – all soloists in their own right – and other international guest stars, are there because they all love wine; they may be used to great venues, but here they are very close to their audience, creating an extra level of intimacy.

In the interval, people stroll in the courtyard, or admire the collection of old wine presses. After the final concert, there is a gala dinner in the ceremonial apartments for those wishing to prolong the enjoyment.

It’s an atmosphere of typical Burgundian conviviality, with the relaxed musicians joining in.

An auction, with lots given by generous local growers and merchants (in 2010 there were bottles and magnums from de Montille, Leflaive, Coche-Dury, Roulot, Bruno Clair, Lafon, Raveneau, Grivot, Maison Drouhin, DRC and many others) raises money for bursaries for young musicians.

In Beaune, the long established and much respected International Festival of Baroque Opera takes place over four weekends in July.

Weather permitting, you can sit in the beautiful courtyard of the Hospices de Beaune, built in 1443 – the brilliantly coloured roof tiles shining in the dusk – as you listen to operas by composers ranging from Lully to Handel and Mozart, given in concert performances.

A few cobbled streets away, the Basilica, which has an extraordinary collection of early tapestries, provides the venue for a series of concerts and recitals.

The festival is known for its interesting programming, which attracts a loyal local audience, continuing a tradition of music appreciation that began in the 15th century at the court of the Dukes of Burgundy.

In 1986, a group of Meursault winemakers met to organise another event bringing together music and wine. De Bach à Bacchus is now a regular July fixture in this large, pretty village famous for its white wines.

The four-day festival opens with a sort of magical mystery tour around the centre of Meursault. Glass in hand, participants walk to five concerts, interposed with tastings, given in beautiful spaces not normally open to the public.

Growers who regularly take part include Pierre Morey, Jean-Baptiste Bouzereau, François & Sylvie Gerbeaut, Emile Jobard-Morey and Coche-Bizouard et Fils.

This year, on the second evening, there will be a crossover concert of Bach and jazz in the church. The great Romantic composer and pianist Franz Liszt is always at the heart of the festival. An ‘amateur de grands vins’ through his friend the poet Lamartine (who was also a vigneron born in nearby Mâcon), he will be celebrated in an evening of literature and music in the Château de Meursault, followed by a dinner in 14th century cellars under the town hall.

Beaune, the centre of the area’s wine trade, is the perfect base for all three festivals. With its steep roofs, hidden courtyards, historic buildings (all easy walking distance within the old walls) a wine museum, wonderful Saturday produce market and plenty of restaurants, bars and food shops, it is just the place to pass the time between concerts.

Decanter Events Pictures

Decanter Events picture galleries: still photos by Decanter's professional wine photographers of Decanter Events. Decanter runs more than 6 wine events a year, including our three yearly Fine Wine Encounters, now in their 14th year. Other events inlude our series of hugely popular 'Taste of...' events, and regular trade and consumer tastings