When people ask me what French region they should visit after spending time in Paris, I reply Burgundy without missing a beat. It’s my husband and my favorite region outside Île de France. We can’t stay away. We’ve been five times in four years. The wine is the big draw for us, of course. We think the earthy and elegant Pinot Noirs and the steely, straw-colored Chardonnays are the best wines in the world. In the walled city of Beaune, wines from plenty of the best local winemakers are offered by the glass at reasonable prices, but the town’s beautiful architecture, excellent cuisine and charming hotels are also a good reason to make it a stop on your itinerary. Check out my video guide to the region and written guide below.
If you go:
Located down an alley way off the main square in Beaune, this small restaurant seems inconspicuous but it’s known by sommeliers the world over for its legendary wine list, a leather bound book featuring the best local producers. The cuisine is second to the wine but traditional dishes like Boeuf Bourguignon and escargot are hearty and flavorful.
My favorite restaurant in Beaune has understated design: bottles from lesser-known local producers, many natural winemakers, line one wall and there’s a large communal table in the center of the restaurant. Reservations are obligatory, though, because the food is so delicious. Caves Madeleine is full every night its open. Hungry diners can choose from an ever-changing menu of market-driven dishes scrawled on a chalkboard menu like onion soup with cheese ravioli and roast duck breast served with sinfully delicious mashed potatoes.
At this excellent Japanese restaurant, diners sit perched at a counter where they have a closeup view of the chef in action.
This French-Asian fusion restaurant serves small plates like seared scallops and crispy fried chicken, making for a fun, tapas-style meal.
Locals love to station themselves at this corner spot’s zinc bar for thinly-sliced charcuterie and excellent wine by the bottle or glass like a a zesty Thierry et Pascal Matrot Saint Romain or a Jean Pascal et Fils Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru that tastes faintly of lemon bundt cake.
La Table du Square has become more of a restaurant than a wine bar, but it’s still possible to go for a glass at the bar. The ambience, selection and prices can’t be beat.
This excellent wine bar just outside the walled city, serves local terrines, Italian sliced meats and incredible natural wines in a warm space with red brick walls.
One of the owners of this bed and breakfast in an old stable is from the UK, so it has a slightly British feel (proper English breakfast and guests are often from the United Kingdom). The lovely gardens, winery and light-filled rooms decorated with antiques are quintessential French country. This is a very popular place to stay due to the charming setting, location and reasonable rates, so book well in advance.
Located in a beautiful hôtel particulier in the middle of Beaune, L’Hotel de Beaune is slightly more expensive then Les Jardin de Lois, but its has a central location, spacious guest rooms and very friendly service. I like the two “Bistro” rooms above the restaurant. They were renovated recently and have big bathrooms and hardwood floors, but they’re less expensive that the guest rooms in the main house.
Things do Do
The most iconic building in Beaune, this former hospital for the poor features Gothic architecture and a spindly turret. The Hospices de Beaune was founded in the 15th century. Also known as l’Hôtel Dieu, today it’s a museum and the organizer of Burgundy’s most famous event. The Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction takes place in Beaune on the 3rd Sunday of each November.
The Hospices owns vineyards in Côte de Beaune, Côtes de Nuits and Pouilly-Fuissé. Wines produced from these vines are auctioned off to connoisseurs and professionals from all over the world. Some sell for thousands of dollars and the proceeds go towards the Hospices’ newer hospital in Beaune and other charities. In the days leading up to the auction, Beaune has a festival-like atmosphere with vendors selling wine and food on the main square and many restaurants opening outdoor bars where they sell oysters and sparkling wine.
This family owned winery with vineyards in Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune and Côte Chalonaise also owns the Cellars of the Dukes of Burgundy, historic caves beneath the walled city. It costs 38€ to go on a guided tour of the extensive caves. They were built in the 15th century, but the caves also contain Roman ruins. It’s a fascinating experience and it ends with a tasting of six Drouhin wines.
Beaune has an excellent market each Saturday next to the Hospices de Beaune. Vendors sell roast chicken, fresh vegetables and fruits like mirabelles, cheese and even black truffles.
Under the ownership of a wealthy American businessman, this winery and château built in the 1700s is being reimagined as a Wine Experience Center where visitors can taste wine, view art and learn about Burgundy’s storied climats or vineyard plots that have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. Bespoke experiences can be arranged such as how to build a wine cellar, how to taste wine and people can participate in the wine harvest each September.
Standing in the middle of one of Burgundy’s most famous Grand Cru vineyards, Château du Clos de Vougeot should be a pilgrimage point for any Burgundy wine lover. While the castle does not produce wine any longer, the museum tells the history of wine making in the region. The wine farm was originally built by monks in the 12th century, but renovated to look like a château in the 16th century. Visitors can see the medieval vat house and presses, the wine sellers and the dining room where elaborate banquets are still held each year.
Some of our favorite Burgundy winemakers:
Bertrand Machard de Gramont
Pierre-Yves Colin Morey- Try the 2014 Santenay Vieilles Vines, Santenay white Burgundy or Saint Aubin white Burgundy
Domaine Dujac– Morey Saint Denis is superb.
Domaine des Comtes Lafon– Mâconnais are a great buy
Jean-Marc Roulout- Meusaults are divine and hard to find
Domaine Michel LaFarge for Volnays