What if, in Burgundy, we let ourselves be tempted by the side roads? For once, let's leave aside Beaune, the Morvan, Cluny, the cellars of Gevrey-Chambertin, and head for the Yonne, which conceals some nuggets as unusual as they are little known, from Guédelon to the Champ-Retard cave.
Guédelon: strong, the castle!
By entering the medieval construction site of Guédelon (photo), not far from the village of Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye (south-west of the Yonne), don't be surprised to see quarrymen in period clothes sprawl on large blocks of ferruginous sandstone, weight in hand.
Here, since 1997, the somewhat crazy dream of a band of enthusiasts has taken shape: the construction of a Filipino-style fortified castle (2025th century)! And this in the pure rules of the art, under the control of a scientific committee. The goal? Reproduce the techniques of yesteryear and understand how such a site worked in the Middle Ages. The castle - a work in progress unique in the world - should be completed in XNUMX.
After having visited the castle, meet the "workers" and artisans, who will be happy to explain their know-how to you. You will learn all about the making of clay or wood tiles, lime walls, making wicker baskets, braiding linen or hemp ropes, or even the use of natural pigments.
Finally, don't forget to have a good feast at the Tavern, which serves many bowls with a high medieval flavor.
Saint-Bris-le-Vineux: under the cobblestones, the cellars
One hour from Guédelon and 10 minutes from Auxerre, a stopover is essential at Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, whose name is not usurped since it is the first wine-growing town of Yonne. At first glance, nothing suggests that, under its stone houses, hide medieval cellars, linked together by a formidable network of underground passages.
To get an overview, visit those of domain Bersan, which date back to the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries. The opportunity to taste the most original of the Burgundian appellations: Saint-Bris, which has just celebrated its tenth anniversary of AOC classification. It is the only white wine from the region to be made from Sauvignon grape, not Chardonnay or Aligoté.
Not far from there, the Bailly cellars definitely worth a visit. The stone from this old quarry spread over 4 hectares was used in particular to build the Panthéon and Notre-Dame -de Paris. Today, eight million bottles of Crémant de Bourgogne are stored here, 50 meters underground. Impressive.
Irancy: in the footsteps of Bacchus
To continue on the wine route, join Irancy, 5 km to the south. A sea of vines covers the hillsides which dominate the village, nestled in the hollow of a valley. Here, we grow Pinot Noir and a traditional grape variety with an intriguing name: the cease. Legend has it that it was brought to northern Burgundy by the Roman legions.
Sensitive to frost and very rich in tannin, it has almost disappeared and is only found in Auxerrois, where it is planted on less than 10 hectares. Caesar can be used in the composition of Irancy up to a maximum of 10%, the majority grape remaining Pinot Noir.
For a tasting of this wine of character, which is also the only red AOC of Yonne, go to the winemaker Christophe Ferrari, at the Saint-Germain estate. Spring is a good time to visit Irancy: it is when the cherry trees bloom on the hillsides.
Champ-Retard cave: after the bunch, climb it!
Notice to thrill seekers: less than an hour from Irancy, the Champ-Retard cave promises you a good dose of adrenaline. In this old quarry (one more!), We used to extract the white stone of Massangis, used in particular to build the pillars of the basilica of Vézelay.
Abandoned in the 1930s, it was bought in 2003 by François Maure, who turned it into a leisure site. Today, the cave houses three acrobatic courses, 90% covered, as well as a climbing wall. If you have vertigo, forget it! But if not, climb without hesitation on the rocks, 15 m above the ground, along the walls, cross the monkey bridges, and end with a long slide along a zip line.
After that, you will have well deserved a little snack by the fireside, your eye irresistibly drawn to the play of light and shadow of this singular and spectacular place.
To prepare your stay, consult our Burgundy online guide
Burgundy Regional Tourism Committee
Yonne Tourist Office
How to get there ?
Train: Paris-Auxerre (approx. 1 hour 40 minutes), then rent a car to explore the region.
Car: Paris-Guédelon (2 h).
Medieval construction site of Guédelon, D955, Treigny. Phone. : 03 86 45 66 66 ,. Open from March 18 to November 5, 2013. Adult: € 10, child (5 to 17): € 8,50. Guided tour (€ 2,50 in addition).
Domaine Pierre-Louis and Jean-François Bersan, 5, rue du Docteur Tardieux, 89530, Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, tel. : 03 86 53 07 22 ,.
Christophe Ferrari, Domaine Saint-Germain, 7, Chemin des Fossés, 89290 Irancy, tel. : 03 86 42 33 43 ,.
Bailly Lapierre cellars, hamlet of Bailly. Phone. : 03 86 53 77 77 ,.
Grotte de Champ-Retard, 89440 Coutarnoux, tel. : 03 86 33 94 31 ,. Open from March 30 to November 9, 2013. Reservations recommended. Adult: 24 €, child: 11 to 18 €.
To bring back:
-Burgundy, a ganache truffled with grapes, rolled in purple sugar.
- Amber beer from Yonne.