The weather has been kind to France's grape harvest this year with the 2009 vintage widely expected to be one of the best in decades.
So it seemed the perfect time to visit Burgundy's world famous vineyards. Touring any area of vines around harvest time is a unique experience. But the whole of Burgundy seems to take on a particular allure at this time of year and a visit to this part of France is a rare treat.
I started in Beaune, a town that has grown wealthy on the back of wine production. It is an intriguing amalgam of old French architecture, spectacular clocks and shops crammed with every artifice associated with the business of wine making.
Some of the wines made in the fields outside this town are renowned the world over. in particular those from Louis Latour’s Aloxe-Corton estate - the producer of the highly regarded Cote d’Or.
Louis Latour’s elegant offices can be found in Rue des Tonneliers. Here, after a tour of the vineyards, we tasted 12 different wines, from the very drinkable Macon-Lugny ‘Les Genievres’ 2008 at €7.80 a bottle to the spectacularly elegant 2006 Chateau Corton Grancey at €51.20 a bottle.
I based myself at the Hostellerie Le Cedre, one of Beaune's luxury hotels. Given the warm autumn sunshine, I could enjoy breakfast, lunch and afternoon drinks on the terrace before settling down in a very comfortable room for the night.
From Beaune, Dijon is just a short hop to the north. You can whizz up the motorway in no time at all, but it is much nicer to drive along the old ‘Route des Vins’, the D974 road which links Dijon to the south. You go through villages like Vosne Romanee, Gevrey Chambertin and Chambolle-Musigny, where the smell of wine hangs like perfume in the air.
At Vosne Romanee, try stopping off at one of the smaller growers such as Jacky Confuron-Cotetidot in Rue de la Fontaine. He makes a lot of the area's fine wines and will happily offer tastings and on-site sales.
Once you leave Marsannay on the northern tip of the Cote d’Or, you are close to Dijon where other pleasures await. This ancient town's architecture is sumptuous, in particular the great palaces of the old Burgundy kings.
The cuisine here is also superb. There are numerous restaurants around the market, all vying to lure the customer with a variety of cooking styles and dishes. At ‘Le Bistro des Halles’ we enjoyed pate en croute followed by Pave d’agneau, while my partner tucked into an excellent ‘Sanglier’ (wild boar). Chef Jean Pierre Billoux excelled. Dinner for two, including two desserts, plus a bottle of wine was €81, exceptional value. If you go to Dijon head straight there for lunch or dinner.
And on Saturdays, Dijon's market offers one of the widest choices of fresh produce anywhere outside Paris. There really is nothing better than buying some fresh bread and cheese here, a half bottle of Burgundy and heading out to the countryside to drink in the views.
Hostellerie Le Cedre, 12 Boulevard du Marechal Foch, Beaune. Doubles from €179 per night. Tel: 00333.80.24.01.01; www.lecedre-beaune.com.
Eating and drinking
Louis Latour, 18 Rue des Tonneliers, Beaune 21204. Tel: 03.80.24.81.00; www.louislatour.com
Le Bistro des Halles: 10 Rue Bannelier. Tel. 03.80.49.94.15Reuse content