Burgundy for kings, champagne for duchesses, claret for gentlemen – French Proverb
Beaune ( pronouced “Bone”) is in the middle of the French Bourgogne wine region well known for its Burgundy (Pinot Noir) and Chablis (Chardonnay) wine. The city has a long history of wine making and is surrounded by vineyards, many hundreds of years old. Wineries, large and small, are integrated throughout the new and old parts of the city. It is an oenophile’s paradise for sure.
We must admit, we are not huge fans of Chardonny and Pinot. It is not that we have a “Beaune of contention” with them or that we need to “Beaune up on them” (I could go on if my editor would let me). Oregon which is very close to home in Seattle has allowed us to enjoy many of the new world Pinots (which can be pleasantly very earthy). It is just that we prefer bigger reds, clarets, in fact, so perhaps that makes us better suited as a duchess and gentleman.
We stopped by Beaune and the Bourgogne region for a bit more cycling and a little bit of wine tasting as we made our way to Chamonix to leave our cycling behind and tackle the Tour du Mont Blanc. Beaune is an incredibly beautiful city with a very large old town, a historical hospital and wineries that are older than the U.S.A. There is a ring road that circles old town which decreases car traffic and provides a nice walking and short cycling path. It is a beautiful city but we recommend avoiding in August because of the hordes of tourists that are here and many of the good restaurants which are closed as the locals get out of Dodge for their own holidays.
We stayed for about a week and spent most of our time visiting the surrounding areas via bikes but used Beaune as our base. Not surprisingly, there are grapes everywhere. You hit vineyards in less than 1 km from the city center and it is amazing how integrated some of the vineyards are to the villages surrounding Beaune. Grape growing was in full production so you shared the roads and bike trails with plenty of farmers, tractors, and trimming machines. The vineyards are stunning.
The cycling routes are well mapped out in the region with plenty of signage and routes. Some direction and route guidance helps to put together a full day ride, but for the most part you can pick a village and distance and then follow the routes.
The countryside is scenic. There are a few hills and some elevation but for the most part it is undulating.
The villages are gorgeous and there is one every 5km or so in any direction you choose. There are a number of parks and preserved lands about but for the most part, you cycle through villages and vineyards.
We enjoyed a lot of the villages, including Pommard, Volnay, Puligny-Montrachet, Savigny-les-Beaune, Nuits Saint-Georges, Villars-Fontaine, Bigney-sur-Ouche, and Vavilly-Mandelot. Meursault was one of our favorites. It is only about 10km from Beaune and has a number of great lunch spots so it is a very good ride for casual cyclists but it is also a good stop on the way back from longer rides.
We had a blast riding for a few days in Burgundy; a few of our routes offered some 3-4km climbs that offered some challenges. Wine was very good. When we compare it to our recent trip to The Loire, I think we would rank the Loire higher for value and cycling. Even though the cycling was a bit flatter in The Loire, there are many more routes and options. Wine, restaurants, and hotels are more reasonably priced and the villages are just as stunning. But Burgundy offers more wine, no doubt about that. Wineries and vineyards are older and more renowned. There is no right answer and you can never go wrong with some pedaling through French vineyards!