March 25-27, 2022
One of the most exciting parts about moving to London is getting first-time visitors and at the end of March, I finally got to experience my mom’s first trip to Europe. After spending a few days in London with Andy, the two of us took the Eurostar to Paris and spent a full day seeing some of its highlights before making our way to the real reason we were in France — the Burgundy wine region.
We stayed in Beaune, which is about 25 miles south of Dijon along the famous Route de Grande Crus, and it couldn’t have been lovelier. Beaune is a simply charming medieval town that is considered the capital of Bourgogne (Burgundy) wine production and commerce, and is set in the midst of some of the region’s most important vineyards within the Côte de Beaune subregion. Because of its historical importance in wine production and the region’s unique climats system, Beaune was included as part of the ‘Climats, Terroirs of Burgundy’ site when it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015.
I’ve been to several winemaking regions across Europe, but the viticulture practices in Burgundy were particularly fascinating. Soils in the region primarily contain a mix of clay and limestone, but the extreme variance in soil composition, microclimate, and geography has led to a wide diversity of wines produced in a comparatively tiny area. Burgundy’s climats refer to the extremely small parcels of land that differ from each other in microclimate, geography, soil, and type of grape — more than 1,200 climats exist today, each with their own particular definition and unique appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) certification. Each of the wineries we visited had examples of soil from each of their climats, and it is crazy how different even the climats within the same square mile could be from each other.
We stayed at the amazing Hotel Abbaye de Maizières in the heart of Beaune, and had an absolutely delightful weekend eating classic French dishes, shopping, and touring and having tastings at the incomparable wineries in Côte de Beaune. We also spent an afternoon in Chablis, the northernmost wine district of Burgundy that produces an extremely dry (and delicious) white wine from Chardonnay grapes. The weather was simply perfect, and we truly didn’t have a glass of wine that wasn’t anything short of incredible. I can’t imagine a lovelier way to introduce my mother to one of my favorite countries, and it’s definitely a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.
If you’re planning a trip to Burgundy, click here to access my Google Maps list of saved locations in France. Bon voyage!
- Château de Pommard (Côte de Beaune): Our first tasting was arguably the best experience, thanks to our incredible expert guide, Stéphanie. Despite being in the middle of extensive renovations, the 300-year-old château located on the outskirts of Beaune was simply gorgeous and the tasting room had a wonderful view of the vineyards. We booked La Route des Grands Crus Tasting, which was surprisingly inexpensive (€18 per person) for a very thorough overview of the Burgundy climats and a customized tasting of five fantastic wines.
- Château de Meursault (Côte de Beaune): After Château de Pommard, we drove a few minutes down the road to the equally historic and charming Château de Meursault. The Tour & Tasting Grands Terroirs was a bit more expensive (€49 per person), but it was well worth the price for a guided visit of the ancient cellars, dating from the 12th to the 18th centuries, and a tasting of eight wines.
- Domaine Long-Depaquit (Chablis): Château Long-Depaquit is a stunning property located at the heart of Chablis and part of the Domaines Albert Bichot, which has been owned and operated by a local Burgundian family since 1831. We had a really nice walk-in tasting in the orangerie featuring five levels of Chablis appellations for just €12 per person, and also bought several bottles of their extremely affordable wines.
- La Chablisienne (Chablis): In 1923, a number of prominent winegrowers in Chablis created a cooperative winery to market their wines. 30 or so years later, the winegrowers began delivering their harvest in the form of musts (unfermented juice) so that La Chablisienne could have full control over the winemaking process, a particularity that became the house’s trademark. We stopped in at Le Caveau on our way into town, and it is by far the best place to buy a wide variety of outstanding Chablis appellations at incredibly approachable price points. They also had a lot of really cute Chablis-related merchandise, which was a fun bonus.
- Maison Champy (Côte de Beaune): The oldest winery in Beaune is located in the heart of town, facing the Hospices de Beaune. Although we didn’t do a full tour or tasting at the boutique, we met the house’s technical director and oenologist at a Côte de Beaune tasting at the Musée du Vin de Bourgogne and had a delightful time talking to him about his career and the winemaking process. Their Côte de Beaune was fantastic, and we bought a few bottles to bring back with us.
Other Food & Drink
- Caves Madeleine: Just outside the town center, this Michelin Green Star-winning wine bistro is the definition of a local gem. The menu features hyper-local ingredients and a modern twist to classic French dishes, and everything we ate and drank was outstanding. Most notably, the staff were incredibly warm, friendly, and unpretentious — it was one of the loveliest service experiences I’ve had in France recently.
- Ma Cuisine: This somewhat tucked-away restaurant has been a Beaune standout for nearly 30 years, and was the first wine bistro in France to offer a wine list featuring more than 20,000 bottles. The traditional Burgundian menu featured dishes that were simple but very well done, and we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner here.
- Bistrot des Halles – Le Baltard: A busy café in the town center with a large terrace and a surprisingly decent menu. We both had fantastic salads here during our first lunch in Beaune, and we ended up coming back to get them again the next day because they were so fresh and filling.
- Chablis Wine Not: A bright, spacious wine bar and bistro in the heart of Chablis. The incredibly extensive wine list included quite a few options from other regions of France in addition to local wines.
Activities & Attractions
- Marche de Beaune: On Saturday mornings, 100+ local artisans, farmers, and other vendors set up stalls around the Place de la Halle for an absolutely incredible indoor and outdoor market. It was truly one of the best traditional markets I’ve ever been to, and we spent a wonderful morning walking around and buying all kinds of cool (and inexpensive) souvenirs and snacks.
- Musée du Vin de Bourgogne: Housed in the beautiful Hôtel des Ducs de Bourgogne in the center of Beaune, this charming museum is dedicated to the history of Burgundy winemaking. We didn’t really see much of the actual museum, though, because we coincidentally walked by during a lovely festival and tasting of Côte de Beaune AOC varietals from ~20 of the top local winemakers. It was only €5 (!!) and so much fun to meet with so many different winemakers and hear about their approaches to making this regional appellation.
- Hospices de Beaune – Musée de l’Hôtel-Dieu: The 15th-century Hospices de Beaune was founded as a hospital for the poor, and today is one of the best-preserved renaissance buildings in Europe. It’s located in the center of town and the beautiful Gothic architecture, polychrome roofs, and an extremely long line of visitors make it hard to miss. There’s a nice museum located in the building today, but it’s probably most notable for its association with Burgundy wine, which began in 1457 with the first gift of vineyards to the Hospices de Beaune. Today, the 60-hectare wine estate is entrusted to 22 winemakers who produce some of the best premiers crus and grands crus in the region, and since 1859 has hosted what is arguably the most important charity wine auction in the world on the third Sunday in November.
- Basilique Notre-Dame de Beaune: One of the last great Romanesque churches of Burgundy is hidden away in the heart of Beaune. The relatively small church was built between the 12th and 15th centuries and doesn’t compare to the more notable cathedrals in much larger cities, but it’s still really lovely for such a tiny town.