Friday, 28 February 2014
Chablis to Beaujolais: an epic journey for wine lovers
After breakfast in the sunny garden of the Hostellerie des Clos in Chablis, we returned to the car to continue our journey. Our next destination would be Lancié in Beaujolais for a two night stay before finishing our first week in France in the southern Rhône near Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe.
We headed south of Chablis to pick up the A6 autoroute for Pouilly-en-Auxois where we took the quieter A38 towards Dijon. As we approached Dijon, it got much more hilly and we turned off the motorway onto the D108 which zig zagged steeply up and over the northerly part of the Hautes Côtes de Nuits to Marsannay where we picked up the D974. This is where wine lovers (particularly Burgundy lovers) start getting very excited. The D974 (previously called the N74) runs north to south alongside the Côte d'Or, passing through a series of world famous wine villages, names you generally only see on seriously smart bottles. There is even a restaurant named after this road in San Francisco with an appropriately Burgundian wine list.
As I'd driven along the D974 a couple of times already and it was my husband's first visit to the area, I did the honours so he could sit back and admire the views. We drove through Gevrey-Chambertin and Chambolle-Musigny, passed by the walled expanse of the Clos de Vougeot, continued through Vosne-Romanée and then the busy little town of Nuits-St-Georges and on towards Beaune past the huge mound of Corton with its forested crown.
We stopped for lunch in Beaune, easily parking on the inner ring road. My classically Burgundian oeufs en meurette and my husband's steak went down beautifully with a drop of Beaune, obviously. After coffee and sunny stroll, we were back in the car continuing south.
We took the A6 autoroute briefly to Chalon before turning west to Givry to pick up the D981, an old road that runs south to Cluny. A more scenic option is to leave Beaune on the D974 and pass through Meursault and Chagny where you can pick up the D981. The Côte Chalonnaise has always appealed to me as these wines – generally lighter and more rustic than their glitzier neighbours in the Côte d'Or – were popular with French nobility during the Middle Ages. Apparently Henri IV was partial to the wines of Givry which had been popular since the 6th century. The D981 goes through the historic towns of Rully, Givry and Buxy, passing handsome old stone buildings, stately cedar trees and the occasional château.
The region looked as though it has enjoyed plenty of commercial success in the past, even if its wines are now overshadowed by neighbouring regions. Following this attractive, gently undulating old route was quite an unexpected treat and judging by the numbers of cyclists we passed coming in the other direction, it's a popular one, too. The road led to the monastic centre of Cluny, congested with coach parties when we drove through. We then picked up the main road, the N79 to Mâcon, passing vineyards and the craggy limestone Roche de Solutré, the landscape becoming much more dramatic. Finally, after a few minutes on the A6 we turned off towards Lancié near Fleurie, for two nights at maison d'hôtes Les Pasquiers, looking forward to dinner and a decent drop of Beaujolais.