Sipping The Real Chablis on a Boat in Auxerre

I arrived at Montbard and met my driver–he knew the train schedule so I wasn’t stranded–and we began our trip to Auxerre. This town of about 45,000 is rich with architectural history; there are three hills and two famous cathedrals here. We toured the cool dark world of the crypts in the St-Germaine Abbey, where a cat lives among the ninth century paintings depicting the lives of saints.

The hills on the way to Auxerre were verdant; green rolling waves of grass, and then yellow topped plants called Colza in French, which are used to make salad oils. The season here is way ahead of us, people’s gardens are already tilled and trees show their buds, unlike in New England where we are still ensconced in depressing brown.

Lunch was atop a barge on the Yonne river, served by the chipper Quillan David, who first brought me a glass of Chablis. Yes Chablis, that wine we know as a crappy jug wine by Gallo. Here it is crisp and dry, the village with this name is just ten miles away. As Quillan brought me my petite filet with gratin potatoes, I tried to clear the table, and I bobbled my tiny tape recorder and watched it topple in slow motion, over the side and into the river. No worries. The chef stripped down to his skivvies and jumped in to rescue the soggy device!

This boat is called Le Coche D’O, meaning the coach of the water, and at night it’s a cool funky water bar–they have waters from all over the world, including Glenlivet, in addition to the Burgundian wines.

Touring the local roads you could see the stones that litter the soil. Limestone too, is in this soil and it was once barged down the Yonne to build Paris long ago. It is this tough soil that makes the wines here so memorable–the harder it is for the vines the better the end result, a geologist once told me.