Newcomers to wine, moderate drinkers, and connoisseurs alike can all agree on one thing : When it comes to wine, Burgundy is king. Whether you’re looking for a simple bottle of wine to bring to a dinner party or searching for that special anniversary bottle to share with your spouse, Burgundy has it all. To drink a bottle of Burgundy is to experience some of the greatest terroir that France has to offer; to actually go to Burgundy and see these terroirs is an all-encompassing experience. Accessible via fast-train from Paris and Lyon, spending a day in Burgundy has never been easier. Here’s what it looks like to spend a day in this grape-growing paradise.
By Train or By Car
While bus trips and tour groups do exist, the best way to experience Burgundy is at your own pace by car. Flying into one of the bigger cities like Paris or Lyon will provide easier car-rental opportunities. Most Americans’ first instinct is Paris, but a trip to Burgundy without a stop in the gastronomical capital of the world, Lyon, would be a crime. Start your mini-trip with a night in Lyon, dining at a traditional bouchon restaurant and sipping some local Beaujolais. Rest up in an affordable hotel (Ibis provides great economic accommodations) and experience Burgundy from the south up the next day.
Morning in Mâcon
After a quick baguette-croissant breakfast (you’ll need those carbs for your Burgundian wine day), load up your rental car and head north on the A6 to Mâcon; in a short 50 minutes you’ll be in the Burgundian capital of affordable white wine. Over 70 percent of wine production in the Mâcon is white, made exclusively from Chardonnay. Compare and contrast the entry-level wines of Mâcon-Villages with the stronger appellations of Mâcon-Fuissé and Saint-Véran, rounding out the tasting with the reputable wines of Pouilly-Fuissé. Be sure to pay a visit to Domaine Daniel Pollier, one of the greatest producers in the Mâcon region. Daniel Pollier is a fifth-generation winemaker, producing some of the highest quality bottles in the village. The domaine’s 13 hectares of vines are in the appellations of Saint-Véran, Mâcon-Fuissé, and Pouilly-Fuissé. The single-vineyard Pouilly-Fuissé Les Perrieres is a must-drink when in the area. Natives to the region, Christine and Daniel Pollier welcome visitors to their tasting room with open arms; a bed and breakfast is also available should you decide to skip Lyon and spend the night village-side instead. Their youngest son, Alexis Pollier, has just begun his own winemaking adventure at age of 21 and will produce his first vintage this year. Stay tuned.
Visit to Rock of Solutré
A short eight kilometers west of Mâcon sits the Rock of Solutré, a prehistoric site that has been occupied by humans for over 50,000 years. For those seeking a bit of physical activity in their wine-filled day, park your rental at the bottom and take a hike up to the summit. Former President Francois Mitterand began making annual climbs to the top back in the 1980s, a tradition carried on by many French citizens in the modern day. Stop for a modest lunch at the gift shop/food counter next to the Musée de Préhistoire, where the quiches are homemade, local goat cheeses are served with crusty baguettes, and a glass of Pouilly-Fuissé will run you just a couple of euros. Savor your glass in the outdoor garden overlooking the rows of vines.
To maximize your sightseeings in Burgundy, digest your lunch and take a one-hour wine pause on the route to Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy. Located in the Côte d’Or department of France, Beaune is surrounded by renowned villages and appellations, with producers of all sizes and winemaking styles. Drive leisurely up the Route des Grand Crus through the vine-studded hills, passing through world-famous appellations such as Nuits-Saint-Georges and Vosne-Romanée. On your descent back toward Beaune, take a 15-minute detour off the beaten path to Domaine Thévenot-Le Brun et Fils, a great place to survey the wines of the surrounding villages (and purchase bottles to take home at an incredible value). Nicolas Thévenot, third-generation winemaker, cultivates 28 hectares of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and other, non-traditional varietals throughout the Hautes Côtes de Beaune and Hautes Côtes de Nuits. His Hautes Côtes de Nuits Rouge is heavenly — light and earthy with a bit of spice, presenting solid structure and aging potential. For super-wine geeks, his rare, 100 percent Pinot Beurot, the local name of Pinot Gris, is not to be missed. Practically invisible in Burgundy, this Pinot Beurot cuvée shows fresh and floral aromas and presents a round palate of white fruit and oak nuances. The domaine also offers a small variety of Eaux de Vie and Liqueurs; we recommend the Cassis or Framboise.
City of Beaune
Spend the evening in the village center of Beaune, brimming with specialty wine shops and family owned restaurants serving local cuisine. A major food market is held every Saturday (a smaller version is on Wednesdays), where local artisans gather and sell their cheeses, chicken dishes, and spices. Be sure to visit Les Hospices de Beaune-Musée de l’Hôtel-Dieu for a breathtaking view of traditional Burgundian glazed tile roofs. Load your cheese-filled bellies and bottle-filled bags into your rental back to the City of Light. Whether that’s Paris or Lyon — locals will tell you it’s the latter — is up to you.