Not far from Auxerre France, alongside the River Yonne, is a cave that houses Bailly-Lapierre, a large cooperative producer of Crémant de Bourgogne. Crémant de Bourgogne is Burgundy’s sparkling wine, a competitor to nearby Champagne’s bubbles.
Producing sparkling wine using the méthode champenoise involves an extended period of cellaring to allow sediment to form. As a consequence producers need large cool places to house wine held during production. Champagne-style wine producers often find ideal conditions inside large caves dug centuries earlier for other purposes. This is the case at Bailly-Lapierre. Bailly’s massive cave, the upshot of generations of stone production that contributed to the construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Hotel de Ville in Paris, is well suited for the production of crémant.
Just upriver from Champs-sur-Yonne, Bailly-Lapierre’s repurposed hillside cavern is used for large-scale wine production. Tours and the tastings are possible. From what we saw during our visit, visiting, tasting, and purchasing wine are very popular activities amongst the French on rainy Sundays. At least when we visited on a rainy Sunday in November, Bailly-Lapierre was busy.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the visit was the entrance and the parking lot. To reach Bailly-Lapierre, you split off of a riverside road onto a narrow lane that climbs the hillside. At the top, the lane turns directly into the hill and you enter the deep cavern. Some distance inside the cool, damp cave is the parking lot. Nearby, separated by low barriers, is the tasting room. It’s perfectly convenient, especially if you have a cart full of bottles and it is raining outside.