Here is the most revealing to know about Burgundy: as the French Revolution drew to a close in 1789, all of its vineyards – some of which had been established for hundreds of years – were sold off in small parcels of land. Later, the Napoleonic Code of 1804 demanded equal inheritance for children, which fragmented vineyards further. The result? More than 1,000 different wines are produced here today. So it’s no surprise that when we think of Burgundy, we think of its namesake wine long before we think of this picturesque cyclist’s paradise.
There are more surprises in this idyllic province than its thousand wines. Three centuries before the Revolution, the Duchy of Burgundy had built an empire that stretched as far north as the Netherlands. As Europe moved from the medieval age into the early modern age, Burgundy held sway over much of western Europe not only in size but in cultural and political influence. The rich culture of its capital Dijon eclipsed that of neighboring France. In fact, its reputation stretched all the way north, where a “Burgundian lifestyle” was known to overflow with good food and extravagance. To many, today’s Dijon may still wear this crown for its culinary indulgences, but the duchy fell in 1477 when Charles the Brash died in battle against the advancing French.
Nowadays, Burgundy is far more modest in size. But our rides reveal a region that holds as much appeal as it might have in the 15th century. Rolling vineyards sidle up to tiny villages of stone, where the aromas of coq au vin or beef bourguignon waft through narrow byways. Tranquil canals lace their way through the countryside. And a patchwork of vast fields lay like an emerald quilt over it all. And because we cannot ignore the wine-making tradition here, our Burgundy: The Wine Route itinerary follows part of the Routes des Grands Crus – “the road of great wines” – a blissful 36-mile stretch that skirts the stunning Cote d’Or escarpment.
Read more about our Burgundy: The Wine Route Bicycling Vacation.