Sunday, 15 March 2009

Cycling and wine tasting in Burgundy

I've always had a vision of cycling through vineyards and stopping in little wine villages to go wine-tasting. Well that's exactly what I did last week in the wonderful region of Burgundy in France with my boyfriend. Burgundy, the region known for wine, mustard, Cassis, and meat was an easy sell, and the fact that it was only 2 hours from Paris made it all the more attractive.

We took the Eurostar from Kings Cross St Pancras in London and 2 hours later we were having an (expensive) coffee at a typical french cafe across from Gare du Nord in Paris. We spent a couple of days exploring Paris before heading east to Beaune, a picturesque town in the middle of Burgundy. You can catch the TGV from Gare de Lyon to Beaune via Dijon which takes about 2 and a half hours in total.

Where we stayed...
A lovely bed & breakfast about 20km from Beaune and right near a famous wine village called Nuits-Saint-Georges. Val de Vergy is a massive old country house build of stone, that has 4 unique bedrooms, a swimming pool and breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside and neighbouring horses. It meets all the criteria that I listed in my previous post about unique places to stay. The house was built in 1680 by a wine-maker. The current owners, Brigitte and Dominique, have been living there for 40 years, having bought it as young newlyweds when it was just a ruin without running water or electricity. You can read all about their inspiring story in the memory book they made for all the guests to read in the breakfast room.

Our room was absolutely lovely, with wooden beams and a huge bathroom with free-standing bath. Brigitte laid out a yummy breakfast of farmhouse baguette, homemade jams and honey and fromage frais every morning in the common room where all the guests eat together.

The cycling bit...
On the first day, I was determined to fulfill my vision of cycling through the vineyards and that's just what we did. We headed into Beaune and rented bikes across from the train station (watch out, EVERYTHING is closed between 12 and 2!) and off we went on the 'velo-route' through the vineyards. The bike route was 22km there and 22km back, on special roads through the vines and going through the famous wine villages of Pommard, Volnay, Meursault. It was stunning scenery and we kept thinking it would be even better at the height of spring or during harvest season. I would recommend bringing a picnic and stopping off for a bite amidst the vines.

The wine bit...
So now on to the wonders of wine-tasting. We decided not to combine wine-tasting with cycling as we may never have gotten back to Beaune! We did a wine course at Sensation Vin in Beaune which was really eye-opening. I've loved red wine for a while now but I have to admit I don't know much about it: the different grapes, regions, appellations, etc. In an hour, the teacher managed to cram in all the basics and had us try ('deguster') 6 different wines. By the end, we understood the different 'Appellation d'origine controllees' (AOCs) which ranged from Grand Cru to more regional appellations. We could also distinguish between the different tastes, smells, and colours and start to understand the reasons behind them.

This gave us a good basis for our real wine-tasting experience at the oldest wine cellars in Beaune 'Patriarche' which span for 5km underground. Just imagine 5km of wine bottles ranging from 1904 to today. We wandered through the dark corridors lined with thousands of perfectly arranged bottles to find the tasting area where we sampled all of 13 wines. I had to learn the art of 'deguster' (spitting out the wine after you taste it), otherwise I don't think I would have come back up.

The last night we went to eat at a real local restaurant in Villars-Fontaine 'L'auberge du Coteau' and had an amazingly tender Cote de Boeuf and of course some local wine. It was quite hilarious because we bumped into everyone that night: our hosts at the b&b, 2 of the restaurant owners where we ate on the other nights and the other guests in our b&b. That's when we knew we were eating at the right place.



  1. wow, i have always wanted to make this trip! Will definitely call you up for some tips when I get back to Europe...

    Looks like a great time.

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