North Burgundy. Vezelay

Vezelay – it’s about history, architecture, religion, and wine.

On the high hill with a nice view, the old Roman villa Vercellus is located from accorded days. In the 8th century, Benedictine monks decided that it is the perfect place for the abbey foundation. And founded. With time, Vercellus transformed into Vezelay. Vezelay stood at the beginning of one of the four major routes through France for pilgrims going to Santiago de Compostela. In the 11th century, the monks of Vezelay claimed that they have a tomb with the relics of Mary Magdalene, which the abbot brought from the Holy Land. Pilgrims flooded the abbey. Vezelay was a meeting place before the second and third crusades. To accommodate all these people, the abbey was rebuilt, and a new monumental and impressive basilic (now named Basilica of Sainte-Marie-Madelein) was erected. On the unfortunate for the abbey site was a story with even more real relics of Mary Magdalene in Provence, Huguenots, French revolution… Pilgrims disappeared, and the buildings start to crumble away. However, in the 19th century, the basilic was restored, new relics of Mary Magdalen were delivered to the church, pilgrims appeared in the town again, and later also tourists start to come. Now the church and the hill of Vezelay are on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

And back to the wine. Vezelay is located almost the south of the Yonna wine region. Grapes have been growing here since Roman times. In the Middle Ages, all surrounding hills were covered with vineyards. The abbey with all the numerous pilgrims required a lot of wine, and Paris also wanted good Vezelay wine. In the 18th century, 500 hectares were used for vineyards. But after phylloxera came, it was over. In 1973 only 2 hectares of vineyards were around Vezelay. It was a year when several winemakers decided to rekindle the former strength of Vezelay wines. They succeeded. In 1985 Vezelay wine got permission to be sold under the Bourgogne AC name, in 1996 – add the village name to AOC, and in 2017 – got its own AOC, recovering the glory of Middle Age times. Now, there are 70 hectares of vineyard around the town, and there is a possibility to expand future.

AOC combines four neighbourhood communes along Cure River, a tributary of the Yonna. The vineyards are in parallel small valleys near the river.

The main variety (and only allowed for AOC) is Chardonnay. Accordingly, Vezelay is a still white wine from Chardonnay.

They also grow a little bit of Melon de Bourgogne, Pinot noir, and Cesar, but wine from these varieties cannot be classified as Vezelay АС.

Vezelay is golden-yellow wine with the aroma of white flowers, citruses, peach, brioche, and almonds. The taste is mineral, and refreshing, with a bright citrus aroma.

Our visit to Vezelay should be the longest bike trip of our Wine and Waters of North Burgundy travel. From Châtel-Censoir to Vezelay is about 15 hilly kilometres. We planned to make a long ride, but the morning was so rainy, that nobody wanted to use the bike. So, we took a taxi. I should say, it is not easy to find a taxi in a small French village in the low season, not for a couple of days ahead. But we won this challenge.

The town visit was also very limited because of the rain. So pity, it is definitely beautiful.

For wine tasting I choose Domaine Martin Barbieux Le Cellier de l’abbaye. The owners are big enthusiasts, they own the winery for only four years, make white Vezelay, and a little bit of red Bourgogne. We tried three different white and one red. Very good wine, but it needs a little bit of ageing yet, the winemakers cannot keep it for now longer (the winery is too young), but honestly accept it (and the price is very reasonable). We had a very nice talk. Very much recommend a visit.

By the way, if you need to buy some good local wine in Vezelay (but not Vezalay itself), go to the Vezelay wine club. They have a very good choice of interesting Burgundy wines. The owner is competent and helpful. I found a couple of good wines here.

So, Vezelay is a place that is worth seeing from all points of view.

Some photos of Vezelay:

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