For fans of French cocktails, the drink ‘kir’ is a tipple you’ve likely sipped on before. Created by mixing white wine (or sometimes sparkling champagne) with Crème de cassis, Kir is said to have originated in the Burgundy region. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that there’s no shortage of Crème de Cassis manufacturers in Bourgogne, including that of Le Cassissium in Nuits-Saint-Georges.
A brief history of Le Cassissium in Burgundy
As you may well already know, Cassis is the French word for ‘blackcurrant’. Well, Le Cassissium of Bourgogne is, by any account, all about the world of blackcurrants. From the plants growing within the visitor area to the aromas that are ever-wafting from the factory floor, what started out as a production plant has since also developed into a side tourist business that draws everyone in from the passerby to the liqueur connoisseur.
There’s been a factory on site since 1923, and ever since its beginnings, Cassisum has produced a variety of products. Mind you, they’ve all been in liquid form! Though Crème de Cassis is the reigning speciality, cordials and other liqueurs are also on the menu. Some of the more interesting facts we learned about during the tour included that there are a staggering 50+ varieties of blackcurrant!
Furthermore, Cassis related products are produced in the factory throughout the year thanks to the berries being cooled to -35 degrees Celsius almost as soon as they’ve been picked. Then, no part of the fruit is wasted, with various byproducts going on to be used as fertiliser, animal feed, and even in beauty products.
In 2001, a museum was established by the company Védrenne for the purpose of educating the public all about this tiny berry, among other things. Today, the museum and interactive tour explores many aspects of Cassis, including botanical, medicinal, and gastronomic aspects of the fruit.
How to Visit Le Cassissium of Nuits-Saint-Georges
Nuits Saint Georges is a pretty town populated by cobbled lanes, several churches, and surrounded by vineyards. Best-known as being a major stop-off on the Route des Grands Crus, this French settlement is an easy day trip from the nearby wine city of Beaune or the mustard city of Dijon and lies somewhere on the train line, approximately midway between the two.
Le Cassissium itself is just a five-minute walk from the train station, in the opposite way to the centre of town, meaning that the factory is a good few kilometres away from the endless vineyards that are so synonymous with the Burgundy region. Nevertheless, the factory/ museum/ tasting site is easy to reach on foot and the site is open to visitors from Tuesday through to Saturday.
Tours of Le Cassissium are suitable for all ages and on the tour I went on, plenty of young families came along with their children (who were more than happy to sample all of the non-alcoholic syrups at the end!) A full price ticket is around €10, though concession rates are less.
I personally found this price to be quite fair as a ticket included a museum visit, guided tour of the factory, movie screening, and countless (not to mention, generous) tastings at the end of the tour. While the movie is a set length of around twenty minutes, the factory tour took around half an hour.
Meanwhile, the museum section is self-guided, and you’re free to leave the tastings prior to everyone finishing their drinks (the tastings are very laid back). In total, you’ll need to set aside at least two hours of your time to visit the museum, though I spent closer to three!
Truth be told, with the exception of the guided tour of the factory by our knowledgeable guide, the tastings were the best part of Le Cassissium! As well as traditional drinks such as Crème de Cassis and the ever-so-smooth Super Cassis, other modern variants of the drink included rose, orange, and even mint flavoured Creme de Cassis.
During our mini class, we soon grew to learn that to tell if a Crème de Cassis is good or not, you have to swirl the glass and see if the liquid sticks to the sides. The more the amount of pectin from the blackcurrant in the final alcoholic beverage, the better. SuperCassis (an extra special Crème de Cassis) actually has double the amount of blackcurrants than the regular drink.
As you can probably imagine, there’s a shop selling all the different kinds of liqueurs and cordials at the end of the visit. Though the prices seemed a little more than I’ve seen them elsewhere, had it not been for my already stuffed luggage, I would have totally been tempted to purchase a bottle of the Super Cassis (it was just that delicious!)…