Burgundy Wine Region, France
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Road Trip Route des Grands Crus, Burgundy Wine Region

08/21/2020

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The Burgundy wine region is a fascinating area to explore, especially if you like wine! The Burgundy wine region is divided into 5 wine regions: Yonne (Chablis and Auxerrois), Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, and Mâconnais.

These Burgundy wine regions are best explored by following one of the Burgundy Wine Routes. In this article we are going to follow the Route des Grands Crus, combining culture, sightseeing, and of course wine.

The Route des Grands Crus

Route des Grands Crus - Burgundy

The Route des Grands Crus is the first wine route in France. Inaugurated in 1937, the Route des Grands Crus invented the wine tourism in France!

The Route des Grands Crus, Burgundy is a narrow strip of land, 60 km long and 2 km wide, that stretches out on a north-south axis, from Dijon to Beaune. Marked with brown background signs showing a white grape cluster, this Burgundy wine trail crosses small wine-growing villages, two cities and it allows us to discover beautiful landmarks in France while tasting some of the best French Burgundy wines.

The Route des Grands Crus is divided into two parts: Côte de Nuits (from Dijon to Corgoloin) contains a string of the greatest red wines in the world, including 24 of Burgundy’s 33 Grands Crus like Romanée-Conti, Clos de Vougeot, or Chambertin; Côte de Beaune (between Corgoloin and Beaune on to Santenay), produces the greatest dry white wines in the world, with Corton Charlemagne, the wines of Meursault, or Montrachet.

The road trip along the Route des Grands Crus is one of the best road trips in France. From Beaune to Dijon, our proposed Route des Grands Crus itinerary takes 4 days and it covers some of the Route des Grands Crus’ main sights in Côte de Nuits with a couple of suggestions of wine tastings. The road distances are short but we have no rush: the Burgundy wine region is a beautiful and relaxing area to explore but also because wine + driving are difficult to combine!

The Burgundy Wine Region

Vineyards of Burgundy - Beaune

La Bourgogne, Burgundy in English, is a historical region today part of the French region Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and located at 1hour from Lyon and 2 hours from Paris. This region has soil and climatic conditions particularly favorable to viticulture and it produces some of the best wines in the world.

The Burgundian vineyard is spread over 3 French departments: Yonne, Côte d’Or, and Saône-et-Loire, with limestone and clay soils and lots of sun. The climate is continental, oceanic, and Mediterranean.

The Burgundian vineyard cannot be extended, and it represents only 3% of the wine regions in France and only 0.3% of the world wine production. That’s one of the reasons why buying a bottle of Burgundy wine is a luxury!

The main grape-varieties are the chardonnay for the whites and the pinot-noir for the reds.

Traditionally, Burgundy winegrowers are known for their modest and traditional spirit. However, the rarity of certain exceptional cuvées arouses a real passion on the international scene.

Burgundy appellation wines are classified on three levels. At each level, the appellations must follow specific production specifications.

  • AOC Grands Crus: 33 AOC, 1% of the volume
  • AOC Villages (Villages Premiers Crus, and Villages): 44 AOC, 46% of the volume
  • AOC Régionales (different sub-classes) : 7 AOC, 53% of the volume

Road Trip Route des Grands Crus Burgundy Overview

  • Start: Beaune
  • Finish: Dijon
  • Duration: 4 days
  • Suggested Route: Beaune – Vougeot – Dijon
  • Total distance: 80 km, 2-3 hours drive in total
  • Regions covered: Bourgogne-Franche-Comté
  • Best for: sightseeing, landscapes, small towns, food, and wine.

PRACTICAL INFO | DRIVING IN FRANCE

Practical Info

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Road Trip Route des Grands Crus Map

Here’s the Route des Grands Crus map. This self-guided Burgundy wine route covers the Côte de Nuits Burgundy wine region and it goes from Beaune to Dijon, but you can also do it the other way around.

Road Trip Route des Grands Crus - Map

Click here to view this Road Trip Route des Grands Crus Map on Google

Road Trip Route des Grands Crus Itinerary

The first stop of this Route des Grands Crus road trip is Beaune, the capital of the wines of Burgundy. We recommend arriving in Beaune the day before and booking accommodation for 2 nights so you can spend a full day in Beaune.

If you have the budget, go to Château de Challanges, a gorgeous 19th-century country house set in 7 hectares of forest. The château is located at only 2.7 km from the center of Beaune, and has all the commodities for the modern guest, with swimming pool and free private parking inside.

If you prefer to be more central, then the Hostellerie Cèdre & Spa Beaune is an amazing property with a beautiful terrace garden.

TIP: If you are planning to bring a few bottles home (who could resist?!), make sure you pack your wine properly so it arrives safely home!

Day 1 | Beaune

Hotel Dieu, Beaune - Burgundy

Beaune is a pretty medieval town, compact, and very easy to explore on foot. For your day in Beaune be sure to cover Les Hospices de Beaune, one of the most famous landmarks in France and a jewel of the Burgundian architecture. The Hospices remain a place of hospital charity perpetuated since the Middle Ages, which is based on a renowned wine estate.

Hospices de Beaune Inside
Hospices de Beaune - detail

DID YOU KNOW? Below the ground of Beaune, a gigantic network of cellars sheltered the best wines of the Christian world!

Then, head to La Maison des Climats (access through the Tourism Office), the must-place for anyone wanting to understand the climats of the Burgundy winegrowing region, listed UNESCO World Heritage List since 2015.

Wine Hospices de Beaune

By now, it’s wine time and Maison Champy (12 Place de la Halle) is not far. Maison Champy (est. 1720), is the first winery to have settled in Burgundy. Today, it is internationally recognized for the quality of its Grands Crus from the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune, and in particular for its Corton Charlemagne. The Maison organizes tours and tastes with the possibility to buy your favorite wines on-site.

THE CLIMATS OF BURGUNDY are the worldwide birthplace of terroir-based viticulture. Over several centuries local winegrowers have patiently identified each terroir and revealed them through the wine they produced. They collected and used the many stones that were present in the vineyard to build stone huts (known as cabottes) and stone walls to separate the vineyards into more than 1,000 climats. Nowhere else in the world has man shown such determination to precisely link a wine to its place of origin and production in Burgundy. Each climat was given a name, which is now cast in stone in the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system and they reflect both its place of origin and the winemaker skills and savoir-faire. The climats of Burgundy are recognized as a treasure for Humanity, listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015.

Day 2 | Beaune to Vougeot (Côte de Nuits)

After a good breakfast in the garden, this Burgundy wine route leaves Beaune direction to Vougeot, where you will spend one night. For something special, book at Château de Gilly, A 14h-16th century château with moats, French-style gardens, and a dining room with a magnificent vaulted ceiling.

THE CÔTE DE NUITS is a hillside vineyard in the Burgundy wine region in which almost all of the vines are exposed to the south-east, which allows the perfect maturity of its king grape, the pinot noir. With more than 90% of red wine production, this part of Burgundy is particularly praised for its 24 appellations grands crus. The grands crus are the highest vineyards so they are more exposed to the sun. They are also the oldest vineyards on Côte de Nuits, with the best soils. No wonder then that the most expensive wine in the world is a Burgundy wine, and more particularly a Côte de Nuits!

Morning at Nuits-Saint-Georges

Côte-de-Nuits Vineyards

The landscapes of this Burgundy wine trail on the way to Vougeot are beautiful with plenty of photo opportunities and nobody will blame you if you decide to stop a couple of times to get a closer look at the vines. Then, drive to Nuits-Saint-Georges, a small town with a long history of wine-making.

Nuits-Saint-Georges gives its name to the Côte de Nuits, and its patron Saint Georges gives his name to its most famous wine. Most of the wines grown around this village of the Burgundy wine region are pinot noir, but there are some plots planted with chardonnay. The Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, Bourgogne’s most famous wine-brotherhood, was founded in Nuits-Saint-Georges in 1934.

Nuits-Saint-Georges Burgundy

This small but lively town is good for a short visit and perhaps more wine tastings. Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur (15 rue Thurot) is a good place to go, with free tastings, detailed explanations, and wines with a good quality /price ratio.

Take an early lunch at the town’s main square, under the shadow of its intriguing belfry, before heading to Cîteaux.

Afternoon at the Abbey of Cîteaux

The next stop of this Route des Grands Crus is Cîteaux. Visit the Abbey of Cîteaux and learn the history of this fascinating and so important place for the wines of Burgundy. Founded in 1098, the Abbey of Notre Dame de Cîteaux was the cradle of the Cistercian order in France and a model for numerous monasteries that were placed under its control.

The first vineyards in Burgundy date back to the Celtics, and later the Romans. However, it was the Abbot of Molesmes, founder of Cîteaux, who spotted the best kind of soils and selected certain grape varieties, improving like this the quality of the Burgundy wines. Cîteaux’s wine estate was huge until the French Revolution.

After the visit, head to Château de Gilly for a regional gourmet dinner and some great wines.

Day 3 | Vougeot to Dijon

Morning at Château Clos de Vougeot

Clos de Vougeot - Burgundy

After a good breakfast in the châteaux’s relaxing terrace drive to the Château Clos de Vougeot, one of the musts of the Route des Grands Crus.

In the Middle Ages, wine-growing developed under the impetus of Benedictine and Cistercian abbeys. In 1336 the monks of the Abbey of Cîteaux established the principles of wine-mating and built the first walls separating vineyards, known as clos, contributing like this to the promotion of the wines of the region. This first clos, Clos de Vougeot, is today the most iconic château of the Burgundy wine region.

Wander around the château’s different rooms and halls, the visit reveals the winemaking genius of the monks in the Middle Ages. It was the monks of Cîteaux who built in the 12th century the magnificent cellar and winery which currently houses two monumental presses.

Clos de Vougeot Inside

It is in Clos de Vougeot where the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin meets 16 times a year to celebrate the Burgundy wine (and good food!) and knight new Chevaliers du Tastevin. The visit of the Clos de Vougeot is very beautiful and interesting, we recommend it!

For lunch, head to Gevrey-Chambertin for good food and wine.

Afternoon at Gevrey-Chambertin

Gevrey-Chambertin is another small wine-growing village on the Route des Grands Crus that enjoys a worldwide reputation: Gevrey-Chambertin is home to 9 grands crus, the most famous of which is Chambertin.

Beginners like us may be interested in paying a visit to La Halle Chambertin, in the heart of the village. The former covered market hosts since May 2020 a space for tasting some of the grands crus, villages, and régionales of Gevrey. For 15 euros, there is a wine tasting session of 4 Gevrey wines (régionales) where you learn the basics of wine tasting.

Halle Chambertin - Gevrey-Chambertin

More experienced wine lovers can go directly to Domaine Trapet Rochelandet (9 bis et 12 rue de Chambertin) for wine tasting and good shopping.

After the visit, it’s time to head to Dijon, the last stop of this Route des Grands Crus Burgundy wine trail. In Dijon, the Grand Hotel La Cloche Dijon is a good option, conveniently located close to all the main attractions. Book for 1 night.

Day 4 | Dijon

Dijon - Bourgogne

Dijon is one of the most beautiful cities in France and the capital of the historical region of Burgundy. It was home to the Dukes of Burgundy and as such, it has an interesting cultural and architectural heritage.

After the monks, the powerful Dukes of Burgundy dominated art and taste across Europe. With their help, the Burgundy and its wines gained considerable economic and cultural standing. Burgundy wines were shipped all over Europe and wine growers began ranking their wines according to their provenance and quality in a precise hierarchy.

DID YOU KNOW? In 1935, Duke Philippe le Hardi uprooted all the plants of the garnay grape, which he described as “very harmful to human beings”. He ordered that pinot noir be the only authorized grape for producing Burgundy wine.

Follow the owl! In Dijon, the ground plates engraved with owls lead visitors to the main sights of Dijon. Don’t miss the Hôtel des Ducs de Bourgogne, an elegant palace built in the 14th-15h centuries with a beautiful art collection about the history and know-how of the vine and wine, from Antiquity to the present day.

Parcours de la Chouette - Dijon

When it gets dark, this city tour in English and French takes you to see all the highlights of Dijon at night and it can be a good way to finish this Burgundy wine route, perhaps with a last glass of wine.

So, what are you waiting for? Book your road trip Route des Grands Crus, Burgundy today!

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