Coming to Burgundy without visiting its vineyards would be a bit like going to Rome without visiting the Colosseum – it has more appellations d'origine contrôlée (AOCs) than any other region in France.
The Route des Grands Crus, sometimes referred to as the ‘Champs-Elysées’ of Burgundy, heads from Dijon to Santenay via Nuits-St-Georges and Beaune, passing through 24 of the region’s 33 grands cru wine areas. Côte de Nuits boasts plenty of Pinot Noir vineyards, making full bodied Burgundy reds with notes of blackcurrant, cherry and earthy mushroom and spice. The white wines from Côte de Beaune are filled with aromas of soft white flowers, dried grasses, fresh apple, pear and hazelnut – while the reds have touches of plum, cherrystone, white tobacco and that classic Burgundian signature of minerality and good acidity.
The Route Touristique des Grands Vins de Bourgogne runs through the Maranges, Couchois and Côte Chalonnaise vineyards, while the Route des Vins Mâconnais-Beaujolais (responsible for famous Pouilly-Fuissé) winds its way through the southernmost part of the region. The wines here are white, made from Chardonnay, and display soft apple, pineapple and white peach aromas, with wonderful structure and freshness. To the north, the Route Touristique des Vins de l’Yonne offers several different circuits around Chablis, Auxerre, Vézelay, Tonnerre and Joigny. If you’re partial to fizz, try the recently-created Route du Crémant around Châtillon-sur-Seine. Meanwhile, to the west, the Route des Coteaux de Pouilly-Sancerre covers the Burgundian section of the Loire Valley.
Feeling peckish? Also look out for dishes ‘en meurette’ on menus in Burgundy – this recipe uses red wine, stock and vegetables to make a dark, concentrated essence that typically accompanies fish or poached eggs.
Crème de Cassis
First introduced in Burgundy in 1841, almost 16 million litres of this sweet blackcurrant nectar are produced in France annually today. A popular way to enjoy cassis is as a ‘kir’ with Crémant. ‘Cassis de Dijon’ can only be made in Dijon and Edmond Briottet, Lejay-Lagoute, Gabriel Boudier and L’Héritier-Guyot are the four companies still producing it here. In 2015, a new protected geographical indication (PGI) ‘Crème de Cassis de Bourgogne’ was approved, which guarantees the liqueur’s Burgundian origin and the minimum quantity of berries used in its production (predominantly the Noir de Bourgogne variety). Cassis coulis, mousse and sorbet appear on many Burgundian menus – but the fruit is so versatile that it’s also paired with savoury dishes (duck in particular), with vinegar to uplift a simple salad and as a jam with goat’s cheese.