Cycling the Grands Crus Wine Route: France’s Burgundy Red Wine Region

It’s surreal to cycle through the world’s most prestigious, centuries-old region for producing fine,  expensive red wines and not stop for a tasting.  To atone for this, nearly every evening we often had excellent local red wine for low prices every dinner in this corner of France.

Village of Vosne Romanee, France where we bought a bottle of local wine. 2016 Photo by J.Chong. Vineyards in background.
Village of Vosne Romanee, France where we bought a bottle of local wine. 2016 Photo by J.Chong

Enroute Through World’s Cradle, Centuries and Prestige of Red Winemaking
We were reminded of this grand dame locale and terroir in the panthenon of wine regions in different ways:  road signs declaring “Route des Grands Crus”. 

Cycling Grands Crus Wine Route from Dijon. France. 2016 Photo by J. Becker
Cycling Grands Crus Wine Route from Dijon. France. 2016 Photo by J. Becker

Grands Crus is French for “great growth” and is a designation by the French authorities for a vineyard producing high quality wine.  Other markers, were old stately stone gateways engraved with wine brand name that stood like faithful soldier by its vineyard acreage. In fact, stone fences were built to prevent grape theft.

Old vineyards have these remaining stone fence gates used to formerly protect grape theft. Name of vineyard in centre, with village names on left and right to indicate direction. Bourgenon, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Old vineyards have these remaining stone fence gates used to formerly protect grape theft. Name of vineyard in centre, with village names on left and right to indicate direction. Bourgogne, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong

Thankfully we were spinning in  early October with less tourist car road traffic. More often, we were followed or passed  by local mini farm tractors, grape haulers and mini-vans that dispensed vineyard workers.

Grape harvesters. Bourgogne, France 2016. Photo by J.Becker
Grape harvesters. Bourgogne, France 2016. Photo by J.Becker. Yes, this group looked all black (non-white) to us.

The sun was bright and hot. Luckily, tailwinds pushed us along the flat  terrain most the time, dotted with red tiled mini houses and village church steeples.  Unlike winery regions in Canada –Okanagan Valley in British Columbia,  Vancouver Island or Niagara Ontario region, wine-tasting in this French

Ten kms north of Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Approaching village of Ladoix Serrigny, north of Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong

region,  needs to be planned and more often, you must pay.  Many wine producers  did not offer an on-site retail tasting room where we cycled.  No big deal for us since we had to navigate our loaded bikes.

Bumping Along Cobblestones Through Villages
Our cycling route, took us through tiny ancient villages every 5-10 kms.  where I was not accustomed to cycling on very narrow cobblestone streets

Town Square. Village of Nuits-Saint-Georges. France 2016. Photo by J.Chong.
Town Square. Village of Nuits-Saint-Georges. France 2016. Photo by J.Chong.
Dedicated to hardworking grape harvesters. Near Masronnay de Cote, France 2016. Photo by J.Becker
Dedicated to hardworking grape harvesters. Near Marsonnay la Cote village, France 2016. Photo by J.Becker. Just southwest of Dijon.

with occasional car either patiently waiting for us, or zipping through at any open  opportunity.  These villages had road speed limits at 20-30 km./hr. which truly preserves a peaceful, sedate atmosphere.  Still, I spent more time focusing on blind corners and uneven stony road surfaces.

Many homes and public buildings were well-preserved with air of gracious tradition and quiet pride. And these villages were very quiet. A wailing child would shatter this pastoral ambience like a thunderbolt.

Memorial at Chorey Les Beaune, a village just few km. before town of Beaune. France 2016. Photo by J.Chong. Typical of quiet, ancient villages well preserved along the Grands Crus Wine Route.
Memorial at Chorey Les Beaune, a village just few km. before town of Beaune. France 2016. Photo by J.Chong. Typical of quiet, ancient villages well preserved along the Grands Crus Wine Route.

Museum of Wine – Beaune France
Just a block away from our hotel in the town of Beaune, we ambled through this large museum cradled inside a very old stone thick-walled building and cobblestone courtyard which looked deceptively small from the street.

Museum of Wine. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Museum of Wine. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong

Inside there were exhibits illustrating geohistory of vineyards –from colour-coded, detailed maps on family-owned, named grape-laden, land parcels, their terroir  to grape harvesting, crushing  and cooperage, or making of wine barrels.  I enjoyed artsy wine-inspired accoutrements from archival to contemporary, on grapevine  cultivation and bachannial celebration in paintings, on vessels and even tapestry art of local landscapes, oenephiles, patrons and workers.

And yes, according to photos, there was a time in recent 20th century history where workers were sometimes naked when foot-crushing grapes in vats.

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Wine-Making, Sales and Branding for Monastaries and Convent
There is a long centuries history of the Cisterian monks  that tended some vineyards and made some fine wine. Jack tells me in some churches did store their wine underneath the church floor  –at least in Germany.   In  Catholic strongholds, wine was for mass.

Village cemetery abuts vineyards. Approx a few km. south of Dijon, France 2016. Photo by J.Becker
Village cemetery abuts vineyards. Approx a few km. south of Dijon, France 2016. Photo by J.Becker
Contemporary woven tapestry art, celebrating region's winemaking history. Museum of Wine. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Contemporary woven tapestry art, celebrating region’s winemaking history. Museum of Wine. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong

In Strausborg, France we toured a smallish cathedral, St. Thomas.  I went to the tiny church shop where surprisingly there were a few bottles of wine produced by some monk orders.  In Beaune, there was a convent that ran a historic hospital for over 6 centuries.  Historically, the convent also owned some vineyard plots. Over the centuries, nuns’ hospital work, was also supported by funds from local wine producing benefactors.

Wine shop. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Wine shop. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong

Today there is a brand of wine with the name of convent, only to mark its location and affinity to the people and rich history  in this French region of Bourgegnon or Burgundy.

Daily trains shoot through this peaceful vineyard region. Tiny towns are served well by trains. France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Daily trains shoot through this peaceful vineyard region. Tiny towns are served well by trains. France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Village scenery while cycling in rural areas. Bourgegon, France 2016. Distances between towns are short. Photo by J.Chong
Village scenery while cycling in rural areas. Bourgegnon, France 2016. Distances between towns are short. Photo by J.Chong
Passing by village of Ladoix Serrigny, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Passing by village of Ladoix Serrigny, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Looking out through bevelled glass window from Museum of Wine. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Looking out through bevelled glass window from Museum of Wine. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
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30 Comments Add yours

  1. Gorgeous countryside and rich with history – thanks for sharing your experience here-how fun! ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I hope you noticed the German in the previous blog post (“My European Food Shock..) It was fun and we were on our own.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pit says:

    Thanks for that interesting post: now you’ve given me an idea for a European bicycling tour! 😉 I love those pictures. They really convey the beauty of the region. And that hotel in the background picture looks fantastic. Did you stay there?
    Have a wonderful week,
    Pit

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I’m glad to plant some trip dreams/thoughts. We did stay in that hotel in the featured photo. That is the hotel with the breakfast buffet in a stone walled, castle-like serving room with faux heraldry on windows, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. jazzygirl says:

    Wow, what an amazing bicycling tour!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Hi jazzygirl, good to hear from you. The bike tour was also helped with some train travel since we didn’t have much time. I’ll be visiting your blog..looks like some changes.

      Like

  4. Sue Slaght says:

    Jean we have loved all of our cycling tours in Europe but have not been to France. Wonderful to see the countryside and towns through your eyes. I agree the narrow cobblestone streets take some getting used to. I admit I am always concerned a parked car door is going to open up at the moment I pass by.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      For such a world traveller that you’ve been so far, hard to believe that France not yet on that list. Yes, those narrow cobblestone streets at times, really requires alertness. Dooring I worry about here too where I’ve cycled. I know someone who got doored in Calgary –she was bike courier at the time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sue Slaght says:

        Oh dear I hope she wasn’t injured! I have been to France now about 15 years ago but was not into cycling at the time.

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          How we frame things –pre-cycling. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Pit says:

        I must admit, I’m more concerned about being run over by a driver texting. With dooring, I can be alert myself and – to a certain extent – avoid it. But being run over from behind by someone not looking at the road: no chance.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          You’re quite right. It’s just scary. I’ve seen while cycling, driver texting while driving near by.

          My regular destinations for work, shopping and even for general local recreation/fitness rides, I tend to create and use regularily bike routes where over 80% or more of the route is on separated bike lanes or parks related MUPs –for pedestrians/joggers and cyclists only. This has been my habit for 3 Canadian cities where I’ve lived over past 25 years. Yes, I’ve been cycling that long.. https://thirdwavecyclingblog.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/30-car-free-years-cycling-pumps-money-into-my-wallet/ It’s only a bike tour/out town ride or seldom visited destination, then the route is on a lot of road with cars.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Pit says:

            Here in Fredericksburg we don’t have any bike lanes in town. 😦 And generally here in Texas, bicyclists are not protected enough by law, I think. Normally no driver is accused of being at fault even if he admits to negligence. It’s called an “accicdent” and that, to my mind, has the meaning of something unavoidable, not regarding the fact that accidents don’t just happen but are caused.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Jean says:

              Pit, cyclists aren’t protected either in the Canadian provinces where I’ve lived, Ontario, B.C. and Alberta. Same situation. There have been a few horrific deaths, where a car ran straight into a cyclist or more on a near empty road that was flat! It’s in the Netherlands, the car driver is guilty unless proven otherwise. I heard a speaker from the Netherlands at a forum session on cycling safety.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Pit says:

              In my native Germany it’s the same as in the Netherlands, I believe: a driver hitting a bicyclist [or a pedestrian, for that matter] is supposed to be the guilty party until definitely cleared. And – contrary to here in the US – the driver is always taken to the courts if there’s a personal ionjury, let alone a death. The reasoning is that, driving a “machine” that is potentially/inherently dangerous you have to be extra careful. I wish we had this kind of reasoning here.

              Liked by 1 person

            3. Jean says:

              I didn’t know Germany had the same legal requirement as Netherlands. Interesting. It allows them to have things like the autobahn and keep cyclists off (probably) because of the high speeds or it’s a mechanism to control very fast drivers in Germany.

              Liked by 1 person

            4. Pit says:

              Well, off course cyclists are not allowed on the Autobahn. But waht, in addition to the legal regulations, also helps is that there are thousands and thousands of Kilometers of dedicated bicycle lanes and paths.

              Like

  5. Peter Klopp says:

    I am delighted to get this amazing wine tour for free at your well written and documented post. I can see why you can only enjoy the French wine in the evening after you are done with your daily biking. I am looking forward to reading your next post. Greetings from Canada!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Which part of Canada do you hail from, Peter?

      Like

  6. Looks like a great ride and places to visit!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      You would enjoy the area as well and villages / towns are closer to one another.

      Like

  7. Pit says:

    Now you make me all the more wanting to go there! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Mabel Kwong says:

    Beautiful countryside scenery, Jean. Also what a treat to be able to zip by small towns every few kilometres. Certainly a lot to see on the way. Very interesting to hear back in the day some crushed grapes naked…I suppose it is a job that is quite physically demanding that gets one hot and sweaty after a while. Hope you got to taste a bit of tipple along the way…it did look like very vast vineyards you passed and as you said, how can you not stop for a bit of a sample. I don’t drink, not a drop, but I would love to visit vineyards just for the scenery.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Are you sensitive to wine, Mabel? After all these years or decades, I can only drink up to less than half a glass of wine, before my face/ears get red. It’s annoying but then, wine has calories. Aussieland has vineyards somewhere.. I don’t I really want to think about the sweat into the crushed grapes..but there were photos from only the 1930’s or so.

      Like

      1. Mabel Kwong says:

        I actually do not like the taste of wine or smell at all. A strong wiff of it and I feel a bit…woozy. I’ve had a couple of sips of red wine in my teens and immediately my head started spinning. That said, I am sure it is fine stuff for those who take a liking to it.

        Sweat in crushed grapes…I never thought of that but now that you mentioned it, lol 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          I believe you must allergic to wine. I seem to know personally a number of Asian descent folks who are like myself. But you’re the first I’ve known to be very sensitive! Something to ask your doctor one day. For now, this could be another blog post idea topic for your blog, Mabel. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  9. livelytwist says:

    Lovely photos Jean.
    “… workers were sometimes naked when foot-crushing grapes in vats.” Why?

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Um..I can only guess it was hot. It was men doing the crushing… Seriously there was a black and white photo in the museum. Somehow it must have been half true-joke in the 1930-1940’s. Probably truer in centuries ago.. still. I agree with your doubt too.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. thedumplingmama says:

    This experience is amazing! Pictures are gorgeous! The weather looked perfect. I want to travel to Boudreaux next year.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Thx for the fulsome compliments. We were very lucky with the weather. Only 1 rainy afternoon for a few hrs., during the 16 days we were in Europe.

      Like

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