I am in love with wine country – any wine country really. There is something special about the environment, the people, and the attitudes that I find simply alluring and intoxicating. And did I forget to mention the food? You’ll generally find fabulous food around winemakers – and indeed I found that recently in Burgundy France.This blog post will be my “little black book” for the region – where to stay, what to eat, and how to taste wine. I have a lot to share, so I’ll break this up into sections for you for easier reference.
Where to Stay
Beaune is the perfect city to make your home during your days of visiting the Burgundy region, and specifically, we loved staying at the L’Hôtel de Beaune. Sure, there are cheaper places, but the rooms and the service here – including a spot to park your car and the location smack in the center of town – make this ideal.Beaune is in the middle of the Burgundy region, right between the Côte de Beaune, where most of the chardonnay, or white Burgundy, is grown, and the Côte de Nuits, where most of the pinot noir, or red Burgundy, is grown. If you had more time, you could also fit in tastings in the Côte Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais regions of Burgundy, which are further south, but we decided to focus our time on what’s known as the Côte d’Or. Not all wineries in Burgundy are open without an appointment like the Napa Valley in the US, so plan your visit if there is somewhere special you want to go. The Wine Folly website has great general information about the Burgundy wine region and you’ll find a bevy of information on sites like burgundy eye.com and bourgogne-wines.com.
Wine Tasting in the Côte de Beaune
From Beaune it is a very short drive to the southern end of the Côte de Beaune and I suggest starting your tasting in the southernmost town of Santenay. All of the small towns in Burgundy are charming, and within each town you will find 1 or 2 places that are open for tasting without an appointment. Realistically, you’ll only be able to go to 2 or 3 at most during 1 day anyway. We found the larger chateaus are nice places to visit, and the Chateau de Santenay is worth devoting some time to so that you can taste wines, but also explore the lovely grounds around the estate. They offer tastings free of charge, and while we didn’t know what was customary, felt it was appropriate to purchase something after our tasting.Other towns in the Côte de Beaune to consider stopping in for tastings and/or lunch include, from south to north, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, Mersault, Volnay, and Pommard. We participated in another short tasting (for a fee) in Chassagne-Montrachet, had lunch in Puligny-Montrachet (there is an expensive, Michelin-starred, restaurant, Le Montrachet, in the center of town, but we opted for the more casual and affordable L’Estaminet des Meix, before heading north to Pommard, just south of the town of Beaune.Château de Pommard is simply gorgeous, and once a year hosts a large art exhibit called Pomm’Art. For a fee you can tour the old Château de Pommard (including the ancient kitchen), see the exhibits (this year’s included Dali and Picasso), wander in the vineyards, visit the glorious gardens of the estate, and taste wine, all in one stop – plan on 1-2 hours for your visit.
Wine Tasting in the Côte de Nuits
On our second day of tasting we went the opposite direction, north of Beaune to the Côte de Nuits, home to some of the best pinot noir in the world, including iconic labels like Domaine Romanee-Conti. You won’t be able to even get close to them for a tasting…… but fortunately, the lovely Château de Marsannay is open to the public for a cellar visit and tasting. There is a fee for tasting, and I would suggest splurging on the slightly more extensive tasting as it includes one of the more rare grand crus that Burgundy is famous for.Other towns in the Côte de Nuits include Nuits-St. Georges, Vosne-Romanee, Chambolle-Musigny, Morey St. Denise, and Gevrey-Chambertin. Our morning at Château de Marsannay left us hungry, so we ventured into Nuits-St. Georges for lunch and another tasting before heading back to enjoy some tastings within the town of Beaune itself.
Wine Tasting in Chablis
If you come to Burgundy, you’ll most likely plan on spending some time in Paris as well since that’s likely where you will fly in and out of. We found it best to fly to Paris, drive straight to Beaune, and visit the wine country before heading back to Paris. If you take this approach, Chablis will be on your way back to Paris, making it a perfect spot to stop on the way for a tasting and lunch before heading to Paris.The town of Chablis itself is a little larger than some of the other more southern towns, so arrive in the mid to later morning for a bit of shopping before deciding on lunch or a tasting.Albert Bichot is a large wine producer who owns many estates in Burgundy, including the Domaine Long-Depaquit in Chablis that is open to the public for tasting without a fee. We found some of the Chablis wines we tasted, ranging from Chablis, to Premier Cru, to Grand Cru, to be some of the very best of what Burgundy has to offer. We were even given a chance to taste an older vintage to learn how white Burgundy wines age, although we preferred the brightness of the younger wines.
The Food of Burgundy
Burgundy, in the very heart of France, has in my mind some of the very best food in all of France too. Iconic dishes that are so satisfying that you’ll find yourself ordering them over and over during your stay like we did. (See Restaurant Links at the bottom of this post.)Whether very simply prepared, or elaborately, you can’t go wrong ordering a Salade au Chèvre Chaud, unless of course you don’t like goat cheese. I love it, and especially love it served hot on a crouton in a salad. It often comes with bacon lardons, and usually has a bit of a balsamic drizzle over it.Escargot are on every menu here – sometimes served in the shell, sometimes already removed, occasionally with a small crouton over the top, but always slathered in decadent garlic-parsley butter that you’ll want to soak up with that great French bread.Beef Bourgogne, perhaps made famous by Julia Child and perhaps the best known dish from this part of France, is classic comfort food – a rich beef stew simmered with vegetables in the Burgundy pinot noir of this region until tender and irresistible. My husband had this as many times as I had the salad.Oeufs en Meurette, eggs poached in red wine with mushrooms and croutons, is something I actually learned in culinary school when I took advanced French technique classes, but I had forgotten about it until I saw it appear on the menus around Beaune. It’s a country type of dish, somewhere between light and filling, and always served with perfectly runny eggs.Cheese, glorious cheese. Don’t you just live for this when you visit places like France? Époisses de Bourgogne, that heavenly creamy stinky cheese from Époisses in Burgundy, is one of the best things they make here, although we tasted about 15 others we also loved. In fact, the town of Beaune happened to have a small tasting event going on when we were there are for only 10 euros we got to taste about 50 cheeses, a bunch of breads, and a lineup of wines.A little foie gras goes a long way for me, but not for my friend who ordered this as much as her husband did the escargot. It’s usually served simply with some sort of fruit compote and bread or toast. Get one to share as an appetizer, or make a meal of this if you love it.And unless for some reason you just cannot eat bread, leave your low-carb, gluten-free diet at home while here and indulge in what is arguably some of the very best bread in the world. Burgundy considered by many to produce some of the best wine in the world, with the most subtle differences between the very small, defined regions. It’s also a lovely place to visit, filled with charming towns and offering classic French country cuisine. Consider making this your next wine trip and you won’t regret it!