CategorySouthern Burgundy | Blog

Discover the Birthplace of Dijon Mustard on Burgundy Barge Cruises

January 4th, 2015

Mustard produced by Burgundy's La Moutardarie FallotFor centuries, many people have been slathering it on roast beef sandwiches, whisking it into sauces and adding dollops to salads without nary a thought to its history. Yes, we are talking about Dijon mustard, one of the world’s most beloved condiments. Its birthplace is one destination travelers will discover as they cruise the canals of Southern Burgundy on a barge. The place that helped give rise to the multi-billion dollar mustard industry is Burgundy’s capital city of Dijon. Located in the Cote-d’Or wine region, it has been inhabited since France’s last Stone Age, which began in 7000 BC.




The origins of Dijon mustard

Mustard plant and flowers by La Moutardarie FallotIts oceanic climate and soil would prove to be ideal for growing mustard plants and grapes for vinegar. During the 1700s, one of the renowned families involved in both agricultural pursuits was headed up by Francois Naigeon. The patriarch had his own successful gourmet food business and often elicited the help of his family members. One of them, Jean Baptiste Naigeon, was the man responsible for combining Francois’ fine verijuices with mustard to create what the world would come to know as Dijon mustard. Travelers interested in learning more about him and the region’s other mustard masters, including the family initially behind the Grey Poupon brand, may want to read Rosamond Man and Robin Weir’s tome, The Mustard Book.

According to Rare Seeds, who provides two recipes for making your own Dijon mustard, “The most famous modern Dijon mustard brand was founded in 1777, when Maurice Grey (who had developed a recipe for a strong mustard made with white wine) formed a partnership with Antione Poupon (who supplied the financial backing to manufacture the product). They revolutionized mustard making by introducing the first machines to automate its production. Their original store still stands at 32 Rue de la Liberte in the heart of Dijon.”

Mustard cultivation in Burgundy today

Because of economic reasons, the French stopped growing mustard seed in Burgundy and were importing seeds from North American to produce their products. Since that time, Dijon mustard has become a generic term with products being made under that name in many countries. To reinstate the history and lore of mustard made in Burgundy, that has since changed thanks to the Burgundy Mustard Association and mustard-makers like La Moutarderie Fallot. Now, there are a few French farmers growing mustard seed, and France has given products made with those crops “Protected Geographical Indication” status under the name of “Moutarde de Bourgogne.”

Bmblem of authenticity and quality by La Moutardarie Fallot

The Indication Geographique Protegee emblem provided by La Moutardarie Fallot

Other culinary delights produced in Dijon

Of course, the city of Dijon has much more to offer travelers in the way of culinary history than just mustard. It’s also home to Kir Royale cocktails, blackcurrant liquor, assorted vinegars, wines and a very special gingerbread made with honey instead of molasses. All five remain popular to this very day and are often available for purchase throughout the region.

To discover more about the capital city of Dijon and cruise the canals of France on a barge in absolute comfort, please contact us today. We offer barge vacations in Southern Burgundy from April through October, all of which include a visit to Dijon.

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Whenever you’re ready to go barging, we’re ready to help. Happy travels,

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988


Explore the Hospices de Beaune on a French Canal Cruise

July 8th, 2014

Europe is full of buildings steeped in history, and France is no exception. The spectacular wine country of Burgundy is home to the world’s most famous charity wine sale, which takes place each November in the Hospices de Beaune. When you come along on one of our southern Burgundy French canal cruises such as Apres Tout, you have the opportunity to visit this famous site and savor the delicious wines of the region.

History of the Hospices

Also called the Hotel-Dieu, the oldest of this extraordinary collection of buildings dates back to 1443, when Duke Philip the Good built a hospital and refuge for the people of Beaune, who were suffering from famine and marauders in the wake of the Hundred Years War. For over five hundred years, this “charity almshouse” has welcomed and treated anyone who came through their doors. Today that first building, with its beautiful tile roof, is a spectacular museum, and modern patients are treated in newer facilities.

Hospices de Beaune, France

Hospices de Beaune, France (Photo courtesy of Hospice du Beaune)

The Hotel-Dieu museum provides an unusual window into healthcare in the 1400s. Patients were housed in a large room like a dormitory, and typically slept two to a bed. The chapel was located nearby, as spiritual care was considered just as important as the primitive medical care available at the time. In fact, visitors can see an amazing 15-panel oak polyptych of The Last Judgment that was commissioned for the chapel by a Flemish artist, Rogier van der Weyden.

Hospices de Beaune polyptych of The Last Judgment

Polyptych of The Last Judgment, Hospice de Beaune, France

The goal of this artwork was to both comfort the patients and warn them of the importance of getting their spiritual lives in order in case they didn’t survive the medical treatment. The museum also hosts treasures such as a medieval automatic rotisserie in the kitchen and a pharmacy stocked with the pewter and pottery vessels used for compounding prescriptions.

Wines of the Hospices

You might ask how the Hospices de Beaune can afford to give away all this free care. Well, over the centuries, Hospices de Beaune has received donations of everything from farms and woodlands to works of art from generous benefactors and grateful families. They have also received a number of vineyards, and it is the sale of the wine produced in those vineyards that has made the charity auction so famous. In addition to the wine auction itself, which is held on the third Sunday of November, there are a number of concerts, gala dinners, and wine tastings which take place during this time.

Hospices de Beaune wine cave

Wine cave of the Hospices de Beaune, France (Photo courtesy of Hospice de Beaune)

If you are intrigued by this type of history, or the chance to sample wines from the region, contact us today to reserve your stateroom on one of our Southern Burgundy barges.

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Whenever you’re ready to go barging, we’re ready to help. Happy travels!

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988