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Walking the Vineyards of Burgundy

July 8th, 2007-- by Allan Wright

Burgundy is one of the most popular regions of France for tourism. For good reason. The area is only a short train ride from Paris, facilities such as hotels and restaurants are plentiful, and the well-known vineyards not only produce excellent wine but also give the area a fantastic visual appeal.

Burgundy is a fairly large province but the wine area is centered around the Côte d’Or, a narrow swath of land that includes both the Côtes de Nuits and Côtes de Beaune appellations. This area is centered on the lovely city of Beaune, capital of the Burgundy wine ara.

From what I can tell, most visitors to the area don’t get outside Beaune. For those who do, most of them don’t get out of their car except to walk to the entrance of a winery. This is the reality of wine tourism today, where “Wine Routes” for autos are what most local tourism bodies create to attract visitors.

Of course, we at Zephyr Adventures are trying to change that.

Although we have run multisport tours in Burgundy for years, we are changing the itinerary and hotels for 2008 to create a new Wine Adventure. I was in Europe last week and so stopped by Burgundy for a few days to do a little research.

One of the great things about Burgundy’s wine area is the tourism authorities have mapped out Wine Routes not for cars but for walkers. You can start from the city of Beaune and make loop walks into the vineyards of varying lengths. There are also walks that run from and through other small towns, up into the the Haute Côte area, and even along the entire length of the Côte d’Or. The trails are composed of dirt roads, small paths, and lightly-trafficked paved roads connecting various villages. They are signed and color-coded to coincide with printed maps. They are fantastic.

This trip, I spent time on trails up in the Haute Côte region. This winery sub-appellation is in the hills above the Côte d’Or area and, because of different altitude and conditions, is on the fringe of the main wine area. The Haute Côte gets few tourists and is clearly on the cutting edge of change in Burgundy. I saw some vineyards (like the one pictured here) where the vintner had simply given up – the attempt at putting vines in a new area had failed. In other areas, new and thriving vineyards were replacing agricultural land. It was interesting to see an area pushing the limits of wine production and yet located in such as established location as Burgundy.

Our Burgundy Walking Wine Adventure in 2008 will take us past small villages, into Beaune, and through many appellations and sub-appellations. Walking, we get the feel for the land much better than from behind a windshield. While I certainly understand creating Wine Roads for those who prefer driving, I hope many other locations will follow the lead of the Burgundians and join the push for active wine tourism.

Tags: Allan Wright · France

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Michael Donohue // Feb 26, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    I had the good fortune to ride a bike on a stunningly perfect day from Beaune to Volnay and Pommard. Sad part was, by the time I got to Volnay I was so parched I could only drink water!
    L’eau au dos!

  • 2 Allan Wright // Feb 26, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    We also have run multisport tours in the area and so I know how great – and how thirst creating – biking in Burgundy can be!

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