This summer while doing research for our Eastern France Tour, we were in Burgundy (or “Bourgogne” in French) to finalize the spots we will visit on our tour. We rode past field after field of bright yellow flowers and knobby grapevines as we traveled among the old historic cities and villages. Beaune was an important stop because it is considered the wine capital of Burgundy and home to the only visitable mustard factory in the area; however, we’d been there several times in the past and had always found it too touristy for our tour. Still, it is a beautiful old walled city with a charming city center filled with beautiful historic buildings. So, we wanted to give it another chance and revisit some famous sites to see if it was worth going despite the throngs of tourists. At the top of our list of things to review were the outdoor market, a few prominent historic sites, wine-tasting and the mustard museum. Our trip started in a parking lot bursting with tour buses. In the end, we decided that our initial instinct was right: everything we visited was overpriced and felt contrived for the tourism industry. Beaune didn’t make our final cut.
However, we learned an extremely interesting and shocking fact about mustard during our visit. Many special regional French foods carry a special label (AOC) that indicates that they are an authentic traditional product of a particular place. It is common knowledge that mustard is from Dijon. The mustard recipe used today was developed in Burgundy in the 18th and 19th century and the area developed a lasting reputation for growing mustard seed, so it is a bit of a mystery why it isn’t an AOC product. Mustard often carries the name of the city Dijon on its label, but in this case “Dijon” is used more like a generic term to describe a particular style of mustard rather than an indication of the place of production. During our alleged “tour” at the Edward Fallot Mustard Factory (we never actually got to enter the factory or even view it through a window), we learned that mustard is industrially produced all over France using mustard seeds imported from Canada. The yellow fields of mustard we thought we’d seen were actually full of golden rapeseed flowers. Apparently, mustard growing virtually vanished around the time of WWII. However, Fallot is trying to revive the traditional mustard industry and you may soon see one of his mustards which is made from Burgundy mustard using a stone mill baring an AOC label. We tried it and it is delicious.
In the end, for our Burgundy daytrip on the Eastern France Tour we chose to include two real and extremely prestigious wineries and a market day in Dijon. Dijon is an affluent historic cultural center, where our visitors can see architecture similar to Beaune in a more authentic setting and more grandiose scale: the typical colorful mosaic Burgundy roofs sit alongside impressive cathedrals and medieval buildings. Dijon also has the benefit of offering more authentic shops a genuine market for locals and some truly exceptional places to visit such as one of France’s best art museums.
Get our recipe for French salad dressing using Dijon mustard or our website to see the full itinerary of our French-Swiss Borderland Sojourn and see more pictures.