At The Slow Road we pride ourselves on getting in deep and up close. If knowledge of a region is power, access is authenticity—and we’ve spent decades forging the relationships that grant us both. But the road, like so many of life’s great pleasures, is better shared. So allow us to shed some light on a few of our favourite places and give you a head start for getting in deep. As for the other half of the immersion equation—getting up close—well, it should go without saying that we highly recommend it.
Burgundy: A (Brief) Introduction
Renowned for its wine, food and history, the countryside of France’s Burgundy region ranks among the most beautiful and varied landscapes in the country, laden with thousands of miles of quiet, paved roads—perfect for biking.
At the heart of the Burgundian vineyards lies Beaune, a well-preserved medieval jewel that owes its history and development to wine. Home to the region’s leading wine négociants, Beaune’s foundations form a maze of tunnels used for cellaring wine. Its ancient ramparts have been converted to wine cellars, giving rise to the observation that Beaune is defended with bulwarks of bottles.
For centuries, this wealthy, charming town was the capital of the dukes of Burgundy. Beginning with the Capetian and continuing through the Valois dukes, Beaune was the site of Burgundy’s parliament. Nicolas Rolin, one of the most famous chancellors of Parliament, commissioned the most imposing edifice in town—the Hôtel Dieu (or Hospices).
From oeufs en meurette to boeuf Bourguignon, it should come as no shock that many of Burgundy’s signature dishes list wine as a key ingredient. Other staples, like escargots a la Bourguignon and saupiquet, feature the rich sauces for which French cuisine is well known.
While the region’s wines have provided it with a well-deserved reputation for excellence, its cheeses are not to be overlooked. We’ve included a few of our favourites below.
One of the most pungent raw cow’s milk cheeses, it usually has been washed with Marc de Bourgogne. At its best, it is so runny it has to be served on a plate. The best can be found at the Laiterie de la Côte in Brochon.
L’ami du Chambertin
A pleasant raw cow’s milk cheese very similar to l’Époisses and also washed with Marc de Bourgogne. Created by Raymond Gaugry in 1950.
Amour de Nuits
From Côte de Nuits, this delicious fresh cow’s milk cheese is creamy and very salty. It looks like a young l’Époisses with its orange-coloured rind, but is milder.
One of the most famous wine regions in the world—and one of our favourites—Burgundy’s wines are worthy of their reputation. A more in-depth introduction to the region’s wines can be found at Vines 101, but below you’ll find a few selections to whet your palate.
To recommend a few Burgundy wines, we went straight to our resident expert: Trip Planner and Slow Road columnist Olivier Maillard, a born and bread Burgundian who works in our Beaune office, and Jane Eyre-Renard, a winemaker from Beaune’s Domaine Newman.
Domaine Michel Lafarge – Volnay
This domaine produces lovely, elegant red wines. They work biodynamically in the vineyards and the wines are consistently good no matter the vintage. They can be difficult to find as they are popular (and for good reason).
Joseph Voillot – Volnay
Another very good red producer from Volnay, the wines here are a little more rustic but are still elegant and age very well. My favourites here are Pommard Pezerolles 1er cru, Volnay Champans 1er cru and Volnay 1er cru Fremiets. That being said, all the wines are good, but these three are my favourites.
Domaine Chevrot – Cheilly-les-Maranges
In an area of the Côte d’Or you probably haven’t heard of before, the villages of Maranges represent the southern-most appellation of the region. The last few years have seen a substantial rise in the quality of the wines; both whites and reds are good here and are an absolute bargain.
Essential Reading: Books on Burgundy
We’ve partnered with Longitude Books, experts in travel literature, to prepare a comprehensive list of books, from novels to great guidebooks, which have really opened up the region to us. Find a few picks from our Essential Reading List below, and check out the full list at Longitude Books.
Companion Guide Burgundy
Robert Speaight, Francis Pagan
A personable district-by-district guide to Burgundy, this intelligent (and very British) book interweaves maps, some illustrations and plenty of opinionated detail regarding local geography, history and culture.
Adventures on the Wine Route, A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France
A delightful and warmly anecdotal book, highly recommended for anyone touring the wine regions of France. Lynch brings the domains and appellations of French wine to full-blown life, and his portraits of the grand personalities who make the wine are priceless.
The Food of France
A classic and aromatic survey of French food, beautifully written. First published in 1958, this book covers the important regions of French cuisine by dividing them into domains of Butter (northern France), Fat (Alsace), and Oil (the south).