From historic estates cradling fabled chateaux to emerald hills draped in vineyards venerated by passionate wine lovers the world over, the  region of Burgundy (Bourgogne in French) offers tantalizing food and wine, lyrical landscapes and unrivalled cultural heritage. The Côte d’Or (literally "Golden Hillside") stretches from Dijon, bursting with cultural riches, south to the wine town of Beaune and beyond, with many big name wine villages such as Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambol-Mussigny, Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet en route. This is one of France's most famous wine regions, and following the Route des Grands Crus is the perfect way to get to know it.

A man surveys a large bunch of purple grapes that hang on a vine
Harvest in Burgundy is usually in September © fotoluk1983 / Getty Images

Burgundian wines

Monks began making wine in Burgundy way back in the medieval period, so the locals have had a long time to perfect the art. Burgundy’s vignerons (winegrowers) only have small vineyards, rarely more than 10 hectares, and they produce small quantities of very good wine. Burgundy reds are made with pinot noir grapes and whites are made with chardonnay. Some vintages should be left to age 10 to 20 years; others are ready to drink within a year or two.

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A narrow road weaves through vineyards with golden yellow leaves
Drive or cycle the Route des Grands Crus to learn more about Burgundy's world-famous wines © javarman3 / Getty Images

The Route des Grands Crus

The region’s most famous wine route, the 34-mile-long (55km) Route des Grands Crus, winds its way between stone-built villages and steeple-topped churches with the turrets of chateaux peeping above the trees. The Route generally follows tertiary roads west of the D974 – look out for brown signposts with a bunch of grapes on them.

Starting at the edge of Côte de Nuits in the northern Côte d’Or and heading south, you're entering Grand Cru country. Some of France’s smallest, most sought-after appellations are crafted from the vineyards between Gevrey-Chambertin and Vosne-Romanée. In Vougeot, stop at the historic chateau, a 16th-century country castle where you can learn all about the winemaking process. Vosne-Romanée is famed for its Romanée Conti wines, among Burgundy’s most prestigious and priciest. Continuing south, visit the Cassissium in Nuits-St-Georges to learn about how the blackcurrant liqueur crème de Cassis is made. As you continue south to the Côte de Beaune, look for the impossibly steep colored-tile roof of Château Corton-André in Aloxe-Corton. The beautiful village of Pernand-Vergelesses is nestled in a little hidden valley from the D974.

The interior courtyard of an historic building, with yellow, red and black tiles on the steep roofs
Learn how Hôtel-Dieu des Hospices de Beaune has supported local people since the 15th century © Andrea Pistolesi / Getty Images

You could pass several pleasant days in Beaune, a lovely medieval city and unofficial capital of the Côte d’Or, where some of the world’s most expensive wines rest in cool cellars tucked beneath centuries-old streets. The grand Gothic building with multicolored tiles that looms over the central market square is the Hôtel-Dieu des Hospices de Beaune. This former hospital is now a museum and charitable organization, hosting a wine auction each November.

South of Beaune stop at Château de Pommard for tours and tastings, where you will learn all about the distinct terroirs and the art of winemaking. Take a wander through the quaint village of Volnay to its hillside church. Off the main track, St-Romain is a bucolic village situated right where the vineyards meet pastureland, forests and cliffs. Hiking trails from here include the spectacular Sentier des Roches, a circuit that follows part of the GR7 and the D171 along the top of the Falaises de Baubigny (Baubigny cliffs), 300m above the River Saône.

A huge fortress-style chateau rises above a village in a wooded area
Château de La Rochepot rises above La Rochepot village © travelpeter / Shutterstock

Take in the breathtaking vineyard views from the hillside hamlet of Orches, before traveling onwards to the fantastic 15th-century Château de La Rochepot, a medieval fortress with conical towers and multicolored tile roofs rising from thick woods above the ancient village of La Rochepot. For a pretty finale to your journey, drive to the villages of Chassange-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet, where you'll have the chance to sample the world's most opulent white wines.

Introducing France

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This article was first published February 2012 and updated October 2021

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