Legendary Burgundies and Great Food in Beaune Slideshow

Wine is made to be drunk with food, and Beaune has plenty of both. I started my visit on Thursday with lunch at a well-known restaurant in town called LEcusson, revitalized by owner/chef Thomas Compagnon.

His juicy porc noir de Bigorre confit, topped by calamari rings and savored with a simple Beaune village red, was to dine for.

Rising winemaker Thibault Marion of Maison Seguin Manuel brought his own bottles, including an exceptional 2008 La Garenne Puligny-Montracher Ier cru minerally, well-structured, and pleasantly aggressive with him to dinner at downtown one-star landmark Loiseau des Vignes.

The wine balanced perfectly with tart wild salmon in a velvety lentil cream.

At Christophe Quéant’s newly opened Restaurant at Château de Pommard, I enjoyed a partridge that seemed to fly off the menu and onto the tableside carving table.

Another Burgundy favorite, jambon persillé, was a marvel of flavors, textures and tones – the juicy ham, the crunchy cornichons – at Cheval Blanc in Beaune's Hôtel Central.

During the day, I tasted 2012 barrel samples with Pascal Arnoux, whose 20 hectares produced about 40 percent less wine this year. But the vintage is producing lovely wines, such as the 2012 Domaine Arnoux Beaune “En Geniet” Ier Cru.

At Domaine Alex Gambal, enologist Geraldine Godot has been making lovely wines since she came on board in 2009. She says that the reds this vintage have been easier to make than the whites.

On Saturday afternoon, at the Hospices, I tasted a large sampling of the new reds and whites that would be auctioned the next day.  Some of the reds are amazingly bold and rich in flavors, while the whites are very fruity while still developing needed structure in barrel.

As Sunday, the day of the auction conducted by Christies approached, thousands of people from around the world flocked into town for major public tastings of the just-bottled 2011 vintages and for the street festivities.

The variety of street foods was amazing. I kept warm with a 2 € cup of rich onion soup.

Hours before the auction started, the town was filled with activities, including strolling bands and folk-dancing troops. As the 2:30 start time drew near, I battled my way through the crowds to the auction door.

One inside, I saw the barons of Burgundy and wine collectors and merchants from around the world assemble on the floor below, while others got ready to electronically transmit bids from clients as far away as China and Japan. Outside curious crowds pressed against the windows to gain a glimpse.

Once underway, bidding was fast and furious for the 512 barrels of 2012 wines, each 228-liter barrel producing a minimum of 24 cases after they have finished aging and are ready for bottling.

Having explained that most of the 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages have been sold or allocated, Christies auctioneer Anthony Hanson worked the crowd to get maximum prices for the charities that will profit from the wines including Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy's until his hammering gavel came down for the last time.