With the exceptions of ketchup and mayonnaise, there was perhaps no condiment that we used more than mustard when I was growing up. For many of us, the piquant sauce is a diet staple, and so during my time in Dijon (i.e. the French capital city of moutarde), I knew that I would simply have to sample some of the condiment! Here’s how to go mustard tasting in Dijon, Burgundy, France!
A history of Dijon Mustard
Unlike the wines of Bordeaux, the sparkling drink of champagne, or indeed the Brie de Meaux from the Île de France region, Dijon mustard has no designated/ protected status, and no appellation (protected designation of origin- PDO for short), meaning that the sauce can be made anywhere in the world, sold for profit, and even called ‘Dijon mustard’ as long as a basic recipe is followed.
For those who are wondering how the sauce is made, the product seems pretty simple to make. You simply crush the mustard seed (Brassica Negra) and add acidic juice that’s been extracted from green grapes. As far as history goes, you may well have been thinking where better to produce mustard than surrounded by vineyards?
Well, evidence suggests that the Dukes of Burgundy added mustard to their cookbooks as far back as Medieval times, when even the quality of mustard was likely controlled! With this said, the Romans likely used mustard to flavour their food, with mustard seeds found during excavations of the city of Pompeii.
La Moutarderie Edmond Fallot, 16 Rue de la Chouette, 21000 Dijon
Located in the historic city centre and quite literally overshadowed by Dijon’s imposing cathedral, the Moutarderie Fallot has been family-run since its very beginnings in the 1840s. Still housed in its original premises, mustard tastings are free, though guided tours (advance booking is required) cost €10.
All you need to do is wander into the store, where you can see historic mustard milling equipment, and press on the mustard pots, which you can dispense onto small wooden tasting forks. Flavours you can sample include the usual suspects like honey mustard, as well as basil. Of unusual note is the mustard with the “pain d’épice,” which is a kind of gingerbread produced in the city.
If you’re looking for a little souvenir and don’t want to break the bank (and/ or don’t have any space left in your luggage!), then the mustard factory sells tiny 25g pots for €1 in various flavours. I personally purchased the Moutarde de Dijon au Cassis as both mustard and blackcurrant are so synonymous with the region! While on Rue de la Chouette, look out for the little Dijon owl! This magic ‘hibou’ dates back to the 13th-century and is said to bring good luck to those who rub it with their left hand.
Moutarde Maille Dijon, 32 Rue de la Liberté, 21000 Dijon
With boutique shops dotted around l’Hexagon (and global shipping around the world), including a flagship store right next to the Louvre Museum in Paris, Maille is hardly an experience unique to Dijon. With this being said, the shop is open from Monday through to Saturday and sells a variety of mustards, cornichons, and other condiments.
At any one time, there are dozens of free samples to be tasted, either on a little wooden stick or on a small breadstick. Throughout the year, Maille (now a subsidiary of Unilever) produces a series of ‘limited edition’ mustards. When I was in the shop, I sampled the ‘whisky’ mustard. And, though novel, it definitely wasn’t for me!
Learn about the history of mustard in the Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne
If you want to learn more about the history of mustard in the Burgundy city (or Bourgogne as it is so-called in French), then I highly recommend heading to the Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne (Museum of Burgundian life). Free to visit, this museum is set within the grounds of a former convent. Please note that all of the explanations throughout the museum are solely in French!
And while the ground floor is not much to write home about (there are countless wax dolls!), the upper floor makes the cultural space more than worth visiting. For, head up the wooden stairs and there are replica storefronts and interiors, demonstrating what shops in Dijon would have looked like during the 18th-century.
In addition to this, an expansive exhibition is dedicated to all things mustard-related. Different kinds of mustard pots are on display, as well as a general view on the export of the spicy stuff from the city and beyond. If you have a little more time, then I highly recommend requesting to visit the (also free) Musée d’Art sacré at the front desk of the Burgundian Life Museum.
Further Dijon Mustard Experiences to be had in Burgundy!
If you’re unable to experience mustard in Dijon, then though not quite as famous, the pretty wine city of Beaune also has its own mustard factory! And for those who are staying in Dijon itself (or simply visiting for a day) and wish to get to know the city from a local’s foodie perspective, then this flavours and spices tour lasts for just under over an hour and includes tasting some local products!