The Best Pinot Noir from around the world
June 21, 2020
Pinot Noir was put on this earth to frustrate winemakers and excite oenophiles, an exquisite marriage of heavenly perfume and a silky, come-hither fruit quality
February 20, 2018
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Today’s Burgundy is undoubtedly France’s most captivating and idyllic wine region. The tiny vineyards in each of the wine-producing areas of Burgundy, from Chablis in the north to Beaujolais in the south, produce wines that, at their best, are unequaled anywhere on earth. Each year, gourmets and wine lovers flock to these vineyards, village names like Meursault, Volnay, and Chambertin, which are the focal point for Burgundy production. Indeed, when visiting this venerable region, it’s important to remember that the village name is everything; a Pommard will always taste quite different from a Volnay.
Of course, the vineyards behind a village’s reputation are only part of the reason to explore the region’s prettiest hamlets and medieval villages. They contain a wealth of history, often coupled with ancient monuments and pretty squares, perfect for sipping a glass of white Burgundy alfresco in the summer. Moreover, in recent years, a new emphasis on promoting wine tourism has hit Burgundy; many villages now contain chic boutique guest houses, often attached to the wineries themselves. What could be better than a leisurely dinner, sampling your host’s wines before deciding which prized bottles you fancy taking home? Then, in the morning, enjoy a sumptuous breakfast before heading out to the vineyards for a detailed explanation of the magic that lies behind Burgundy’s famous terroir. For the “serious” wine-lover, this truly is an unmissable territory.
So in that spirit, for visitors keen to experience traditional Burgundian rural life, we have prepared a guide to the region’s most idyllic and charming villages below. Medieval cobblestone streets, magnificent Chateau, and delicious wines await you!
Located just a short distance from the famous wine village of Chablis, Irancy definitely merits a visit. Visually, it is one of France’s vineyard gems, as, above the village, a natural amphitheater of vines faces south, capturing that all-important midday sun. Wander down a small road that starts from the forest above, and marvel at the slopes full of cherry trees and wildflowers in the spring. It is quite enchanting to wander around the village, soaking up its timeless and gentle atmosphere.
Wine and culture lovers flock to Vezelay each year, undoubtedly one of France’s and Europe’s prettiest villages. Its star attraction is the Basilique Ste-Madeleine, a glorious abbey that, in the 12th century, claimed to house the relics of Mary Magdalene. The main draw for visitors to this gorgeous Romanesque church is the tympanum sculpture above the main doorway, the carved capitals in the nave, and the immense Gothic spire. Little wonder then that Vezelay was a starting point for the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.
Thankfully, the village, even today, has retained its unspoiled character and is full of buildings from the 15th and 16th centuries, not to mention narrow medieval streets and delightful courtyards. It has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and requires at least half a day to appreciate its unique character fully. After sightseeing, visit one of Vezelay’s inviting cafes and restaurants, where traditional Burgundian dishes, friendly service, and local wines await. And if you can, try and spend the night as Vezelay is at its finest after sunset, particularly after the other tourists leave!
Cluny is one of the most fascinating villages in France. Situated northwest of the famous Chardonnay region of Macon, its reputation drives from the remains of a Benedictine Abbey founded in 910. It was the largest building in the Christian world, the center of a religious order that spanned over 1000 monasteries. Sadly, the French Revolution outbreak ended the church’s magnificence, and in 1810, most of the building was destroyed. Yet, many interesting parts remain, including the ancient granary and parts of the bell tower. But besides the Abbey itself, a relaxed stroll around Cluny’s small medieval center is a major highlight, with its excellent restaurants and atmospheric cafes. Also, don’t miss the nearby Jean de Bourbon Palace, which houses the Art and Archaeology Museum, containing works of medieval sculptors.
The large (by Burgundian standards) village of Meursault may not be the prettiest in the region, but it deserves mention for being one of the most interesting and vibrant places in the largely sleepy Cote d’Or. Its renown as one of the world’s most famous white wine sources draws wine lovers on a pilgrimage all year, especially during the Paulée de Meursault in November. Located in the middle of the Meursault vineyards, it boasts a fine church dating back to the 15th century, whose tall spire can be seen from some distance away. The focal point of activity, particularly on market day, is the medieval fortress in its central square. Surrounding this lovely village are narrow winding streets and alleyways, perfect for a gentle stroll before lunch. Unlike neighboring villages, Meursault has excellent food options, including the charmingly rustic Le Bouchon.
Little more than a tiny hamlet, Blagny is so utterly peaceful that it warrants a place in our guide. Although the village itself is hardly more than a few houses centered around an old manor house, its timeless feel lends Blagny an authentic nostalgic charm. Vineyards stretch in all directions, lined with gorgeous wildflowers in the spring – the ideal place to take a stroll and escape the hustle and bustle of modern life.
Brancion is one of the most delightful villages in Burgundy and a must-visit for history lovers. Situated between Cluny and Tournus, Brancion was once an important administrative center during the reign of the Dukes of Burgundy. Today it is a popular tourist destination, famed for its picture-postcard streets and a medieval castle, the oldest part that dates back to the 10th century. Visitors also love the 15th-century covered market and quaint houses, which have not changed much over the centuries. And then there is the pretty Church of Saint-Pierre, a stunning example of Romanesque architectural flair. Besides the impressive tower, you’ll love the fascinating murals inside the church and the spectacular views across the vineyards of the Maconnais.
This utterly charming and beguiling hilltop village has become one of Cote d’Or’s most famous and visited places. Its headline-grabbing attraction is the majestic 12th-century Chateau, built by Jean de Chaudenay before eventually falling into the hands of the Duke of Burgundy, Philippe le Bon. The Chateau’s turreted towers can be seen for miles around, giving the village a wonderful fairytale quality. Spend a leisurely afternoon strolling around the village’s delightful narrow medieval streets and admire the merchant houses before heading to a terrace cafe for a glass of local wine. Bliss!
One of the lesser-known wine villages of the Cote d’Or, Pernand-Vergelesses is a hidden gem. Its lack of renown has maintained this pretty village’s peaceful character, and even in the high summer season, its streets remain largely the preserve of winemakers and local residents. Strolling around its ancient streets makes you feel like you’ve been transported back in time. There are no major sights but rather a collection of old houses, sharp corners, and steep alleys clinging to the sides of a hill that partly overlooks the famous Chardonnay vineyards of Corton Charlemagne—the ideal place to relax and unwind.
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