Monks began making wine in the Burgundy region of
eastern France way back in the days of Charlemagne, so locals have had a long
time to perfect the art. And perfect it they have. Then add this plethora of world-class wineries
to some of France’s most gorgeous countryside and you have the recipe for a
perfect road trip -- providing, that is, you stay under the legal limits.
(winegrowers) only have small vineyards -- rarely more than 10 hectares -- and
they produce small quantities of very good wine. The most famous Burgundy reds
are made with pinot noir grapes, and the best vintages demand 10 to 20 years to
age; whites are made with chardonnay.
The region’s most famous wine route is the
Route des Grands Crus (“road of great wines“), and its often-narrow variants wend
their way between stone-built villages and steeple-topped churches, with the
turrets of a chateau often peeping through the trees. Signposted in brown, the
route is approximately 60km long and runs along the foot of the Côte d'Or escarpment, from the town of Dijon
in the north to Santenay in the south.
Vines cascade down the slopes between hamlets,
whose names roll off the tongue -- Chambertin, Chambolle, Chassagne,
Montrachet. The lower slopes are seas of grapes; on the upper slopes, vines
give way to forests, cliffs and breathtaking views.
Starting in Dijon, the vineyards of the Côte de
Nuits wine region begin in earnest just south of the village of Marsannay-la-Côte,
with most of the area’s grand cru
vineyards lying on the nine kilometre stretch between Gervey-Chambertin and
Vosne-Romanée. In Vougeot, two and a half kilometres before Vosne-Romanée, make
sure you stop at the historic chateau.
Vosne-Romanée itself is famed for its Romanée Conti wines, among Burgundy’s
most prestigious and priciest.
Continuing south just less than two kilometres,
do not miss the Cassissium
(a museum dedicated to the cassis –
blackcurrent) in Nuits-St-Georges.
On the Côte de
Beaune, 44km south of Dijon, the impossibly steep tile
roof of Château
Corton-André is easy to spot, just off the one-lane main street of the town
of Beaune. The commune of Pernand-Vergelesses,
with its excellent red and white wines, is just a short detour from here, nestled
in a little hidden valley on the D18 road.
South of Beaune, Château de Pommard is the largest
private vineyard in Burgundy. It is surrounded by a stone wall and located on the D973 on the northeast edge of
town. Off the main track, turning onto the D17E, St-Romain is a bucolic village
situated right where the vineyards meet pastureland, forests and cliffs.
Hiking trails from here include the spectacular
Roches, a circuit that follows part of the GR7 and the D171 along the top
of the Falaises de Baubigny (Baubigny cliffs), 300m above the Saône river.
Finally, via the hillside hamlet of Orches,
which has breathtaking vineyard views, travel to the fantastic 15th-century Château de La Rochepot.
If you want to educate your palette as you
explore Burgundy, consider taking a wine-tasting course at the École des Vins de
Bourgogne in Beaune, which run from three hours to three days.
The article 'Driving Burgundy’s Route des Grands Crus' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.