Things to Do in Burgundy
Also known as Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune to locals, the Beaune Hospices used to be an almshouse in the 15th century and was used as a hospital for the poor people of the region recovering from the Hundred Years’ War. It was actually used as a fully functioning hospital until the late 1970s; it now houses a museum and a major charity wine auction every November.
The building itself is now regarded as one of the finest architectural gems in France; it was designed by the Flemish architect Jacques Wiscrère, which explains the striking resemblances to architecture typically found in the Flanders region of Belgium. The hospices’ façade is an exceptional example of Northern Renaissance architecture and features an abundance of panel painting, long half-timber galleries and, of course, the signature gabled roof and its multi-colored and geometric tiles. There are also plenty of ironworks, carvings, and tapestries inside the hospices’ walls.
This family-owned yet sprawling estate winery, whose cellars are located in the city of Beaune, are geared towards quality and not necessarily quantity. What makes this winery special is its owner’s background; Yvonnick Debray spent 20 years of his life selling Burgundy wines on the French market, and therefore acquired a wealth of information about wine production and the art of being a wine-maker. Domaine Debray produces several wines, reds and whites, belonging to a variety of appellations including classics like Bourgogne Aligoté and Hautes Côtes de Beaune, as well as one Grand Cru, the Corton Charlemagne. The winery is extremely respectful of the soil and only picks grapes by hand; wines are vinified in French oak barrels directly on the estate.
Fallot Mustard is the first museum in France to be entirely dedicated to mustard, the renowned condiment that has become the pride and joy of the Burgundy region. Inside the museum, visitors will find a selection of modern and ancient tools that were used to create mustard and its derivative products, revealing many surprising trade secrets along the way. The multi-sensorial and interactive exhibits explain everything from the manufacturing process to the tasting criteria; visitors are even encouraged to test their own knowledge of mustard through different experiences. The museum offers two different guided visits: the first one, called Découvertes, is more traditional and features a mixture of commentary and videos in the museum. The second one, called Sensational Experiences, takes visitors inside the actual production facilities in order to get a better understanding of the process and the challenges the industry faces today.
The arresting Château du Clos de Vougeot lies at the heart of Burgundy’s wine country and makes a popular stop along the Route des Grands Crus tourist trail, offering a unique insight into the region’s wine-making history. Although the winery was originally built by monks in the 12th-century, the Renaissance-style château that stands today dates from the 16th-century and the complex includes the original kitchens, medieval vat-house and presses, and Cistercian cellar. The Clos de Vougeot no longer produces wine, but is preserved as a national monument and hosts regular events, exhibitions and concerts, as well as daily tours, which allow visitors to peek at the historic grape presses and stroll through the surrounding vineyards.
More Things to Do in Burgundy
Built on the site of an old Roman post in the 12th century, Château de Bazoches is one of the finest properties in Burgundy. Privately owned and a listed Heritage Building, the feudal château was passed on to many wealthy Middle Ages families until it was finally inhabited by none other than the father of French engineering, Marshal of France and Louis XIV’s military advisor, Marquis de Vauban. He chose to turn the castle into a military garrison and used his strategic, military intelligence to make Bazoches an unshakable stronghold. The actual owners are direct descendants of the Marshal, and they take great care of the property and its remarkable furniture. Château de Bazoches is an architectural prowess to say the least; it has a trapezoidal layout, four towers and a massive central keep, which surrounds a quaint inner courtyard. One of the best features of the castle is nevertheless its location, halfway up a hill that overlooks the bucolic Morvan National Park.
Domaine du Château de Meursault is one of the most prestigious wine estates in the Burgundy area of France. Located in the Côte d’Or vineyard in Côte de Beaune, the winery spreads over 60 hectares and was founded all the way back in the 11th century, yes, 1000 years ago, to be precise. Initially known as the fiefdom of Foulot MIII, it now produces an acclaimed selection of wines that are frequently served at the top Michelin restaurants across France and elsewhere in the world. At Meursault, tradition in enhanced by modern winemaking techniques, which enables the rich and historic Burgundy terroir to fully be expressed in the 27 different wines produced on site. Unlike the Bordeaux region, wine châteaux are quite uncommon in Burgundy, a fact that only makes Meursault that much more special. The sprawling estate features a castle, a conservatory, ancient and massive (up to 800,000 bottles or 2,000 barrels) cellars dating back from the 12th century.
What most visitors truly seek in Chablis is the wine. The flowery, crisp white nectar is made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes and isn’t quite as fruity as other white wines typically found in Burgundy. Monks from the Abbey of Pontigny, upon settling on the slopes surrounding the River Serein in the Dark Ages, realized that the microclimate they found themselves in could only bring novel flavors to their cultivation. Indeed, the chillier temperatures slightly stimulate the acidity of the grapes, which is only further enhanced by the stainless steel tanks used by local wine-makers, rather than traditional oak tanks.
There are various vineyards and cellars open to visitors in Chablis, each worth a visit; the most popular one being William Fevre, where wine aficionados can taste different Chablis wines by the glass and eat regional delicacies in the atmospheric setting of the village’s historic hospital, surrounded by 51 hectares of vineyards.
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