The warm Indian Summer of September is the perfect time to see the Burgundy vineyards and you can get up close and personal with the region’s famous wine-producing villages by taking the cycling route La Voie des Vignes.
Burgundy is home to some of the world’s greatest wines, where names like Montrachet and Nuits-St-Georges set wine-lovers’ hearts a-flutter. They are grown in a region of almost otherworldly beauty, where you’ll find one charming village after another nestled among vineyard-covered hillsides. For anyone who loves great wine and beautiful scenery, Burgundy is a must-visit part of France.
Not only is Burgundy a mecca for oenophiles, it is also wonderful place to go for a bike ride. My wife and I recently rode part of the Voie des Vignes (Vineyard Way), a route that runs through some of the most famous vineyards in the world, from Beaune to Santenay and from Santenay to Nolay. We pedalled along the 22-km portion that connects Beaune to Santenay, in the Côte-d’Or département of Burgundy.
Electric Bikes Make It Easy
The route can be hilly, so we rented electric bikes and zipped right along. From Beaune we rode south through gorgeous countryside, with deep-green vines climbing up the hills on one side of us and down on the other. Soon we came to Pommard and then Volnay, two villages best known for their Pinot Noirs, and later Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet, where some of the world’s best Chardonnay is grown. When we passed a sign marking the Route des Grands Crus, we knew we were in wine heaven indeed.
All of the villages had cafés and restaurants, and of course there were plenty of wineries — though moderation is advised when drinking and biking! We especially enjoyed the village of Meursault and its famous château, a grand building with one of those multicolored tile roofs for which Burgundy is famous.
Once you’ve reached Santenay, ambitious riders can continue on a voie verte (greenway) through another 13 km of beautiful countryside to Nolay. A voie verte is a former railroad line that has been replaced by a biking and walking path, so voies vertes are generally quite flat.
Before we started our ride, my wife and I were concerned about having to fight with auto traffic, but we needn’t have worried. Except for a very short stretch, the Voie des Vignes is on a road reserved just for vineyard vehicles. While we passed dozens of bikers and walkers on our ride, we felt safe because we only saw a handful of agricultural vehicles (note: it is busier during harvest season.)
Burgundy can be quite warm in the summer, and on hot days bikers should start early and drink plenty of water. The villages along the route are just a few kilometers apart so there are plenty of opportunities to stop and get something to drink.
Where to Rent Bikes
We rented our electric bikes from Bourgogne Évasion, a friendly and efficient rental shop at 5 Allée du Docteur Bouley in Beaune, just a few hundred meters from the start of the Voie des Vignes. Bourgogne Randonées at 7 avenue du 8 Septembre in Beaune is another bike rental shop with a good reputation.
Where to Have Lunch
We loved our lunch at Le Soufflot in Meursault, a bustling restaurant with delicious food and a reasonably-priced three course menu. Other good choices are Restaurant l’Ouillette and Le Terroir in Santenay.
Another option is to take a picnic lunch. You can get goodies at the Beaune or Dijon weekly markets, or at any of the shops in the area. Enjoying great French bread and cheese in a beautiful vineyard, what could be better?
Lead photo credit : La Voie des Vignes © Alain Doire / BFC Tourisme
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