What started as a Louis Jadot employee brainwave has now grown into a major international event. Bike to Care en Bourgogne has just successfully wrapped with €230k raised for hospitality charities with Château Haut-Bailly agreeing to stage the event next year in Bordeaux. Our drinks editor Peter Dean went along for the (long) ride.
“The chance to mix with the region’s winemakers at various dinners was a reaffirmation of how unique and generous the Burgundian spirit truly is,” writes Dean.
It was an event that inspired world renowned sommeliers, chefs, restaurateurs, hoteliers and winemakers to come together from all across the world for two days raising money for charities that are aimed at helping those currently in the hospitality industry… but also helping those following their dream into the sector. The €200k target of Bike to Care en Bourgogne was reached before any of the 100 bicycles hit the vineyards for a 200km ride across the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits and increased by a further €30k over those days, and is still open for donations (click here).
At a dinner held in the 800-year-old cellars of Clos de Vougeot, where Burgundy first started, Pierre Henry Gagey, president of Maison Louis Jadot, the company that instigated Bike to Care, told the exhausted participants that it was not just the amount that had been raised but the amount of people who had donated that was such cause for celebration. So many sponsors donating often small amounts proved that Bike to Care had touched a nerve in the hospitality community that has suffered so much in the past two years.
The aim is for Bike to Care to become an annual event with the baton being passed to other wine regions – next year Bordeaux – where Château Haut-Bailly will play a leading role.
This year’s beneficiaries are varied and differ according to the country of each team. An 18-strong UK team helmed by Hatch Mansfield raised money for Hospitality Action UK which specialises in helping those working in hospitality who have mental, physical and financial difficulties. The Canadian team which raised the most money from the event is supporting Femmes de Vin which, as the name suggests, helps women into the sector.
It’s not the winning that counts
As a participant this did indeed feel like being part of the birth of an exciting and meaningful new charity event. To be riding alongside iconic winemakers such as Dominique Lafon, Bertrand de Villaine and 80 year-old Jacques Seysses from Domaine Dujac through the entire length of Burgundy over two days was very special. To then try and hang onto the back of the Harlan Estate team, find yourself amongst a group of madly pedalling Danish chefs, dodge a MasterChef winner and so on was enormous fun, taking the mind off the attendant pain.
As keen cyclists know, touring a wine region is the most time-effective and insightful way to cover a wine region – topography, aspect, altitude and bio-diversity become so abundantly clear, and how they combine to affect the growing of grapes. I have been to Burgundy before but never has it all made such perfect sense with the different appellations, villages and climats all slotting together in a way no map or masterclass can quite illustrate. The region all felt so compact and in the South of the region so biodiverse… and let me tell you the Hauts Côte de Beaune really did feel quite high!
The investment in converting old railway lines to voie vertes for ramblers, runners and cyclists and creating this network of traffic-free byways across the region is really paying off (and well promoted by Bourgogne wine body the BIVB) and a key part of oenotourism here.
For those taking part the event was also a good way to catch up with Burgundians. This is a region that feels to have genuine camaraderie – as those who live and work here genuinely know how special the place is. The issues are still there of course – the shortfall in the 2020 harvest, constant weather events (no frost in 2022, but there has been hail), the fear of pricing wine lovers out of the market and so on. While the charity event had smacked of a wider international community of hospitality, the chance to mix with the region’s winemakers at various dinners was a reaffirmation of how unique and generous the Burgundian spirit truly is.
Thanks to everyone who made it happen and to everyone who has donated to so many deserving causes. Next stop Bordeaux!
And somehow the clever team at Jadot managed to squeeze the entire ride into two minutes. Rumours that you can only see me during the feed stop sequences are entirely false 😉