Surrounded by sun-kissed vineyards from which the Chateaux produces its own award-winning labeled wine, at first blush Savingy les Beaune’s onsite bistro, gift shop, and tasting room seems to offer a lovely if predictable welcome.
Further inspection, however, reveals dozens of World War II fighter jets lined up on an expansive lawn, for starters, while the Soviet helicopter parked in the back of the castle adds a nice if surreal touch to the inventory of identifiable aircraft. The warehouse full of vintage firetrucks, antique motorbikes, and racing cars are all sitting comfortably in retirement, patiently awaiting the visitors who come to admire the world’s largest private collection of 20th century machinery.
Not only is the collection itself astonishing, the sheer number of the jets, cars, and cycles presented for public viewing is extraordinary. Two hundred antique bicycles, evidence of a more analog way of life, fill one of the Chateau’s nine separate museums. Hundreds of motorcycles /motorbikes/ scooters which were manufactured between 1902 and 1960 beckon for admiration. 80 fighter jets — collected from military scrapheaps in France, Russia, and the United States — are lovingly lined up in an area adjacent to the Chateau proper.
The Chateau’s spry and sociable owner, Michel Pont, whom Barge Lady Ellen was lucky enough to meet on a recent visit, took a few minutes to speak about his collections. In between setting up a hosted dinner for wine buyers from Asia, he chatted about his motivations. “I’m first and foremost a wine producer,” he said, but casually added that he used to race some of the cars himself and collected the rest, about 30 in all. This is a man seemingly obsessed with both the beauty of speed and the sheer joy of accumulating.
To experience the insanity and grandeur of Savigny les Beaune is to immerse in the idiosyncratic charm of the French countryside and to discover the eccentricity of Southern Burgundy‘s most notable inhabitants! A tour of the Chateau Savigny les Beaune can be easily added to Burgundy’s bespoke private cruises, while the Family Adventure itinerary on the 6-star, 8 guest barge Prosperite ensures even the tiniest of cruisers will enjoy a scheduled visit.