Last summer, we were in Burgundy both on our way to and from southern Europe. There we visited Beaune, Burgundy’s undisputed wine capital. But also Dijon, the capital of French mustard. We also explored the picturesque villages on the Côte d’Or where we visited some charming wineries. A Burgundy wine lover yourself? In this blog we suggest a cycling or car route along the most beautiful wine locations on the Côte d’Or.
The Côte d’Or in Burgundy
Burgundy is known worldwide for its rich history and cultural heritage. Think ancient buildings, idyllic castles and Romanesque churches. Yet the region is probably even better known for its prestigious wines and fantastic cuisine. Burgundy also offers beautiful nature with lakes and forests, and plenty of opportunities for hiking for instance.
The Côte d’Or region in the heart of Burgundy is also rich in history and cultural heritage. By the way, the word côte does not refer to coast, as many people think, but to a small slope. The word Or (gold) refers to the colour of the vines during the harvest season. The name was not chosen at random. In this part of Burgundy, you will find countless vineyards on the eastern side of an elongated ridge. And yes: they all turn beautifully golden in autumn.
Wine, wine, wine
Wine is undeniably Burgundy’s most famous product. From north to south, the region’s most famous and recognisable wines grow: Chablis, Côteaux de l’Auxerrois, Côte-de-Nuits, Côte-de-Beaune, Hautes-Côtes, Côtes Chalonnaise et Mâconnais and Pouilly-Fuissé. From both Beaune and Dijon, you can go on numerous tours of the best wineries and picturesque villages. As most tours have a culinary feel, there are many guided cycling tours to choose from.
Cycling through the wine regions of the Côte d’Or on your own is, of course, also possible. The most famous cycling route through this region is the “Voie des Vignes“. It runs from Dijon in the north to Santenay in the south and is over 70 kilometres long. Most of the route runs on particularly quiet roads where you hardly encounter any cars. Apart from the occasional climb, there is very little uphill.
Of course, you also have to return to your original starting point. So, we recommend splitting the trip into three days. On the first day, cycle from Dijon via Nuits-Saint-Georges to Beaune. The next day, go from Beaune to Santenay and back to Beaune. On the last day, cycle back from Beaune to Dijon. For extra variety, you can choose to change the route slightly on the way back. On routeyou.com you will find plenty of examples of routes you can make in the area.
Our wine route
We had set our sights on a guided cycling tour with gourmet food and wine tastings. Unfortunately, that tour was fully booked days in advance. So, in the end, after some searching on the internet, we made a tour by our own car. From Dijon, we first visited the famous wine villages between Dijon and Beaune. We then drove along the D973 past some of the most beautiful wine villages on the so-called Côte de Beaune: the area just south of Beaune. Enjoyment from start to finish.
Here are the sights and villages from north to south that you should definitely not miss on a tour.
The Burgundy castle of Clos-de-Vougeot
A few kilometres from Nuits-Saint-Georges lies the castle of Clos-de-Vougeot. In the 12th century, the castle was still a winery belonging to the monks of the nearby abbey of Cîteaux. Only in the 16th century did a Renaissance-style castle come here. The castle no longer produces wine itself. Nevertheless, a visit is not to be missed, if only for its unique location amidst the vineyards. Inside the castle is a particularly interesting museum that you can visit daily.
Incidentally, the château is also the venue for the Burgundy festivals of the “Chevaliers du Tastevin“: a fraternity created during the Prohibition in the 1930s. As the wines ceased to be sold during that period, the fraternity’s founders decided to drink the wines themselves. To this end, friends and dignitaries were invited. Since then, the Burgundy celebrations have also taken on a more international character. The fraternity’s members no longer come only from the local community: nowadays, international celebrities also join the fraternity.
The most picturesque villages on the Côte de Beaune
The route passes through picturesque villages such as Aloxe Corton, Pommard, Volnay, Meursault, Saint-Aubin and Santenay. According to connoisseurs, the best grand crus come from here. A visit to a winery is therefore the highlight during your drive (or bike ride) through the aforementioned villages.
Even if you don’t care much for wine, the route has a lot to offer. Each (ancient) village you pass through has its own character and attractions. At each village, however, you will find a beautiful castle or an old Romanesque church. And, of course, particularly atmospheric, excellent restaurants with terraces where you have a wonderful view of the rolling vineyards.
The castle of La Rochepot
Near Santenay on the Côte d’Or lies the village of La Rochepot. The absolute eye-catcher of the village is the neo-Gothic Burgundian castle from the late 12th century. The fortified castle was owned by the son of the Duke of Burgundy. Thereafter, the castle changed hands frequently until it became state property during the French Revolution. After a period of decline, the fairy-tale castle was bought up by a wealthy private individual and fully restored. In 2013, some parts of the beautiful castle were recognised as a regional historical monument. In 2014, the outbuildings, vineyards and park were granted national monument status.
There are several walks in the immediate vicinity. It is quite hilly but that gives you plenty of fantastic viewpoints of the castle. Unfortunately, the castle itself is temporarily closed. In recent years, it housed a Ukrainian arms dealer who used for money laundering.
Practicalities for your wine trip through the Côte d’Or
The Burgundy department of Côte d'Or is located west of Besançon and north of Mâcon.
Autumn is a nice season to visit the wineries in Côte d'Or because of the harvest. This is also when the vineyards look their best because of the golden glow. In addition, you have the most wine festivals in autumn, especially in November. We found summer a nice season to be there. Temperatures were not too high but we could sit outside everywhere.
The answer to this question depends on too many wishes and preferences. Do you want authenticity, history, beautiful surroundings or just superior quality? You could first do a wine tasting where you taste wines from many different wineries. Then visit those wineries whose wine (and price) appealed to you the most. Still struggling to choose? In this overview, you will find the wineries that received the best rating from TripAdvisor visitors.
The most obvious location is Beaune. This city is nicely central on the wine route. You can get to Nuits-Saint-George and Dijon in no time. But the pretty villages on the Côte de Beaune are also within cycling distance. An advantage of Dijon, however, is that you have much more choice in accommodation.