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Uncork the delights of Burgundy, Piedmont and Sonoma on a wine tour

Plan a weekend tour of France’s Burgundy, Italy’s Piedmont or California’s Sonoma, tasting and feasting as you go

Wine Trails



Drop in for tastings at vineyards that produce some of the world’s most celebrated wine; the locals especially love to share the secrets of their pinot noir

Burgundy stretches as far as the vineyards of Chablis, Macon and the Côte Chalonnaise, but the quintessential heart of this historic winemaking region is known as the Côte d’Or: a 35-mile stretch of road along the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune, from Dijon to Santenay. It is no exaggeration to say that the vineyards here produce what are probably the most famous wines in the world. Pinot noir and chardonnay grapes may be grown all over the rest of the world but attain unassailable peaks here in Burgundy.

Despite producing some of the world’s most famous wines for over 2,000 years, most Burgundy winemakers, whose families have often owned their vineyards for centuries, are unpretentious and give visitors an exceptional welcome. This is important because tasting wines in Burgundy can be a little intimidating at frst, both for the high quality and the high prices. But once you sit down with the cheerful, ruddy vigneron, gently swirling a glass at a rough wooden table in a rustic cellar, it is impossible not to succumb to the Burgundian charm, a million miles from the world of a three-star Michelin restaurant where the same vintage is poured by a smartly dressed sommelier.

Opposite The medieval town of Semur-en-Auxois huddles on a hill where the Armençon River doubles back on itself, in Burgundy’s department of Côte d’Or


Large commercial wineries often have regular tours and tastings with set prices, but many smaller producers do things more informally. Such places might offer tastings for free, but of course they will be hoping for a sale! We have given details here of any fxed visiting times or prices charged. If in doubt, call ahead – most smaller wineries like to have some advance notice from visitors.


It’s a two-hour drive north from Lyon airport to Fixin, at the start of the route. The train from Paris to Dijon takes 1¾ hours.


Fixin, pronounced ‘Fissin’, is just outside Dijon near the beginning of Burgundy’s Route des Grands Crus. The manor and wine cellar stand alone, looking out like a watchman over the sleepy village. The manor has remained almost unchanged since the day it was built in 1142 by Benedictine monks from the nearby Abbey of Citeaux; the original fve-hectare (12-acre) vineyard was planted at the same time. Sitting in the vaulted wine cellar, complete with a medieval wooden press, owner Bénigne explains how this magical place inspires him. ‘Every morning when I come in to check the barrels I imagine the scene a thousand years ago: the monks dressed in their habits, going out to work in the vines, no phones, no computers. I feel privileged to make wine here.’ Unlike most Burgundy vintners, who produce a panoply of wines, Bénigne offers only two: a red and a white. The red is wonderfully elegant and achieves his aim: ‘When someone fnishes a bottle of my wine, well, they feel that the next thing to do is open another.’ 00 33 3 80 52 47 85; Manoir de la Perrière, Fixin


A statue of a Cistercian monk stands at the entrance to the 11th-century château of Gevrey-Chambertin, paying homage to the religious order that laid the frst seeds of Burgundy’s winemaking traditions. Down below the vineyards on the busy road to Beaune, enterprising vintner Bernard Vallet has created La Table de Pierre Bourrée, with wine-lovers choosing the vintages they want to taste, paired with a menu of typical local dishes. With its ancient brick walls and communal wooden tables, the restaurant makes for an invariably lively space for tastings (from £25 with a meal) where the sommelier pulls the corks of rare vintages, and guests tuck in to plates of locally cured charcuterie. Lots of helpful hints on how best to taste the wine are offered, and afterwards everyone heads down to the ancient cellars.; Route de Beaune 40; 11am–4pm Mon–Sat late Mar–late Nov

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - June 2016
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