Saturday, March 3, 2012

Macconais into Cote Chalonnaise (Southern Burgundy)

Having hit 2000 km on the banks of the Soane,  I decided that I would aim for Le Relais d'Ozenay at Ozenay, and reward myself with a gastronomique lunch.  So, I pedaled my way along the river, enoying the scenery and the occasional bonjour to/from every cyclist or pedestrian that I met.  In France, even the guys in lycra say hello.  There's no bike-snobbishness where the road cyclists look down on the trekker.  If you're on a bike - you're one of the good guys.  Drivers will give you a good two meters when passing you, and if they cannot safely pass, they slow down and wait until they can.  

The voie bleue ends abruptly 16 km north of Macon.  At that point I had a choice - take the short way along the route national or head into the back country and take the scenic route.  Bouyed by my good progress, I decided to take the country roads and cruise through Chardonnay.  Yes, THE Chardonnay, where the grape hails from.

Big mistake.

Suffering is part of cycling.  We thrive on it.  It's part of the sport.  We describe rides as being great in relation to the suffering we've endured.  We tell our legs to shut up, and we revel in the pain caused by us climbing.  It's always better in retrospect...

I suffered.

After climbing and descending a countless number of times, having run out of water in the bidons (it was about 32 degrees celsius and blazing sun) , I was NOT enjoying this trip anymore.  The worst part came when I stopped at the top of the last hill before my lunch destination and realized that it was a 4 km downhill into the Ozenay valley from which I would have to climb out of after lunch.  

The freewheeling into the valley did not refresh me.  I made it to the restaurant, sat down at a roadside table, and let the bonk  take me - I hit the wall.  When the waitress came, and asked what I would like, I croaked "du vin, s'il vous plait".  She was an understanding soul and brought me a pichet  rather than just a glass.  Oh, blissful doping

 tranquillité  viande biologique  Bourgogne  terroir restaurant  sud  Tournus  frais  Sennecey-le-grand  légumes
The Place of Bonk
After the shakes and wheezing subsided to a manageable level, I changed into a dry shirt and went to the other side of the building where I found a charming patio dining area.  The Relais d'Ozenay does not have a Michelin star, but I think it ought to.  I ordered the market tasting menu (i.e. the chef is making whatever he found to his liking at the market that day).  It was amazing.  I don't recall exactly what I ate (I wasn't taking notes), but I do remember that it was the first time that I ate something with a foam, which was all the rage on some season of Top Chef.  It was a scallop-stuffed tomato with a sea-salt tomato water foam. 

After a fantastic two hour meal, with my pain receptors suitably doped with the accompanying wine, I got back on the bike and resigned myself to climbing out of the valley - thinking that I'd planned my return trip well - that my road would lead through a cleft in the Burgundian hills/mountains back to Cormatin.

I was wrong.

The intial 3 km climb out was bearable, but when I got to the top, the wine had already worn off and I saw a more climbs in the distance.  This is NOT what I had signed up for.  One could say I'm a Spring Classics rider - I like short climbs - they make me feel good when they are over, and short climbs are over quickly.  These were not short climbs.  I later found out that this road had been used for the Tour de France.

I huffed and puffed for what seemed like hours, sometimes walking the bike in the especially steep bits.  It was so hot that I was leaving a trail of sweat behind me.  Life was sucking.

I passed several intersections, none of which seemed to bring me any closer to my final destination.  One of them pointed to Lugny, a village with a cooperative winery (quite popular in this area).  Here's a wine from that coooperative:
2009 Macon-Peronne
L'Aurore Chardonnay 4.65 Euro 

A bright straw color with a nose of drying hay.  Light, easy to drink with a slightly bitter aftertaste and very short finish. High alcohol - 13% and not many recognizable flavors - totally not complex. Nothing special but not overly bad.  Probably not worth even its low price, though.  If it was 2 Euro, I'd say it would be worth it.

The deathmarch up the mountains was never-ending.  My eyes were stinging from the flood of sweat pouring down my face.  I was going to die.  Seriously.

The Chateau Brancion marked the last summit before I would return to the Grosne valley via a long freewheeling downhill.  The road flattened out in the cool of a leafy oak forest and a road sign read 1 km to Chapaize.  That meant I as only 5 km from my campsite.  Strength poured into my legs. I'm lying.  

I stopped at a small winemaker who grew and made Aligote, the very local grape that makes an unremarkable wine, but without which a true Kir (Aligote and blackcurrant syrup) cannot be made.  I figured that when I get back to the campsite, a bottle's worth of Kirs would make the pain stop.

It did.  I slept 14 hours.  I had cycled 98 kilometers and climbed more than 1500 total meters.  I would be very proud of myself the next day.



  1. So you drink shitty cheap wine to power through the hills? Sounds healthy.

    When do you actually find quality wine that costs more than 5 euro? You aren't some poor studeny at university and you can certainly afford it.

    1. This isn't a winesnob or health blog :) I do like to look for wines with a strong price/value ratio. Sometimes that means mediocre wine, sometimes bad, but every once in a while, you find a real gem.

      Actually, 5 Euro for a Macconais or a Cotes Challonaise is rather average. The wines of Southern Burgundy are a LOT less expensive than those of Chablis, for example. I'd say I got pretty unlucky in buying the two wines that I reviewed from the Macconais - the ones I drank during the actual trip were much better. The wines that were paired to the meal at the Relais were exquisite.