Luxury in Burgundy
Getting a taste for luxury
Burgundy has always enjoyed a position as one of the most prosperous regions of France. Historically this was for many reasons, perhaps most importantly a fertile countryside with abundant crops, and a strategically important location at the crossroads of Europe, linking Switzerland, Italy and beyond with the rest of France.
Today it is a wonderful holiday destination offering a delicious mélange of fascinating history, great food and wine, sunshine and plenty of space for all.
Sure, it’s a great stopover en route to or from Provence or the Côte d’Azur. But better to stay a while, enjoy some easy going walking or cycling through the classic vineyards, maybe stopping for an impromptu tasting, buying a couple of special bottle on the way.
Aside from some modest hills, the terrain is rarely challenging – quiet country lanes, trails and paths through and around vineyards, along rivers and canals. And at the end of each day you can put your feet up and relax, reliving the day’s highlights and adventures over a glass of wine.
And, depending on the holiday you’ve chosen, you may be doing so in one of France’s most luxurious hotels, with decadent surroundings to immerse yourself in, an infuriatingly tempting menu from the Michelin starred restaurant to agonise over, and a wine list which basically says “Drink me!” under every listing and its description.
A little history
The Duchy of Burgundy was once more powerful than France itself and managed to remain independent for centuries, even taking the side of the English during the Hundred Years War. In the 15th century Burgundian influence stretched up as far as Belgium and in to Holland, a huge geographical sweep.
Such power could only be maintained through great wealth, and this often went hand in hand with religion, exemplified by the magnificent abbeys of Vézelay, Fontenay and Cluny, dating from the 4th century and at one point the largest church in Christendom.
Dijon, the capital, became the epicentre of wealth and sophistication, one of Europe’s greatest centres of art, science and learning. The Palais des Ducs is a reminder of the unparalleled power of the dukes at this time. And with wealth and sophistication, came the time and inclination to up the ante on luxury, starting with what was on the menu.
The king of wines, the wine of kings
Wine production in the region was widespread since Roman times but this bore little relation to the wines we know in the modern era. However that changed during the time of Louis XIV, whose doctor unwittingly changed things forever and, in the centuries following, its economic value rose inexorably. The notion of wine as a luxury, or something very desirable and special, was born.
The Côte d’Or, between Dijon and Santenay, came to be synonymous with fabulous wines. The Côte de Nuits producing, arguably, the best reds and the Côte de Beaune the best whites. Other illustrious names include Mâconnais, Chalonnais, Beaujolais and Chablis of course.
Burgundy wine is noted as being mono-cépage – from one grape variety, and sometimes one single vineyard. Pinot Noir, fickle and temperamental, is the most common red variety here, soft, rich and mouth filling, while Chardonnay makes some of the world’s greatest deep, buttery whites.
Food, glorious food
Burgundy is blessed with fabulous countryside for producing superlative wine and world class beef. The heavy, pale Charolais cattle are part of the landscape, as much as the rows of vines, and the two combine in great dishes like boeuf bourguignon.
Other specialities include chickens from Bresse (which famously has its own protected designation or AOC) and these are key to the finest coq au vin. Then there’s jambon persillé, escargots, eggs meurette and tête de veau – for some, the height of luxury is a dish of calf’s head with simple market vegetables and a glass of very decent Mâcon.
Staying somewhere just a little decadent takes any holiday to another level. We work hard to find wonderful, character properties that fit our ideals well: friendly, comfortable, with great food and well used to welcoming visitors in muddy boots or on two wheels.
Some of these properties are really rather luxurious, especially those in our ‘Prestige’ category. Below we flag up just a few to whet your appetite.
The one with a 13th century wine cellar
Le Chapeau Rouge Dijon
A beautiful 16th century mansion right in the heart of old Dijon and beside the imposing cathedral. Quite simply, this is one of best hotels in town and a great way to start your holiday. It’s steeped in history, with a 13th century wine cellar, and the Michelin starred restaurant offers sensational dishes showcasing local produce while also displaying international influences.
The one that’s a 16th century hunting lodge
La Gentilhommerière Nuits St Georges
On the edge of the world famous wine village, perhaps one of the most renowned of all, this was built as a hunting lodge in the 16th century. No doubt luxurious in its day, it is now a haven for travellers wishing to relax, indulge and experience the best of Burgundian cuisine, not to mention the finest of fine wines.
The one where Louis XIV stayed
This 5 star establishment has a really welcoming atmosphere, combining 16th century charm with 21st century luxury, with corridors and lounges furnished with antiques, log fires and a piano room. The building has evolved over the centuries, gradually assimilating buildings from the 14th to the 18th centuries and incorporating several private mansions.
The fascinating heritage and architecture remains intact, with one of the city’s most beautiful stone staircases, an internal courtyard featuring original Renaissance stone carvings and an artesian well. Not surprisingly, it is reputed that Louis XIV, the Sun King of Versailles fame and no stranger to luxury, once stayed here, almost certainly in the days before mini-bars. If it’s good enough for Louis….
The one with three Michelin stars
Set on a picturesque square, this is a seriously elegant 15th century house owned by the same family for over a hundred years. They have created a hotel of relaxed, discrete charm and comfort, with soft lighting, individually designed bedrooms and a wealth of well preserved Burgundian architectural features.
If you like your luxury on a plate, in edible format, then this is the place: how does foie gras poché, huîtres fumées aux sarments de vigne, fines lamelles de pomme reinette sound? Or perhaps filet rôti & gratiné au pain d'épices, rillette d'épaule confite & polenta torréfiée?
The boutiquey one
L’Ermitage de CortonLadoix Serrigny
Set right in the bull’s eye centre of top flight wine villages, this is a truly impressive hotel with exemplary restaurant, where the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed in the manner of an upscale guest house.
North of Beaune and with easy access to the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits, glancing at the map is like leafing through the pages of a particularly good wine list: Pommard, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Nuits St Georges, Vosne-Romanée, Savigny Les Beaunes, Aloxe-Corton, Auxey-Duresses, Volnay are all on the doorstep and easily accessible. And many are available by the glass in the restaurant too. Bliss!
Holidays in Burgundy
Burgundy Prestige à Pied
Rolling vineyards and ancient châteaux
Discover vine-clad hillsides, quiet lanes and attractive villages on this easy to moderate walk. Take in the stunning views and stay in prestigious hotels and converted châteaux at the end of each day.
Burgundy Prestige en Vélo
Prepare for world class scenery and stunning flavours
This easy cycle through prestigious vineyards offers sublime tasting opportunities with such names as Pommard, Volnay, Meursault and Puligny Montrachet. Stay at elegant hotels offering gourmet menus – an opportunity to discover some...
A Gourmet walk in the Mâconnais
A Beautiful landscape that lends itself to walking, history, culture and wine!
The Mâconnais is a wine growing region with a southern accent where rolling landscapes are alternated with monumental cliffs. A highlight is to walk to one of the great places of pilgrimage – Cluny. In this wonderful...
Canal du Nivernais Cycling
Easy cycling along the Canal and a visit to Vézelay, UNESCO World Heritage site.
Along its 1,200 km of rivers and canals, Burgundy reveals one of its most striking facets with the Canal du Nivernais running through unspoilt countryside of great natural beauty. From South to North, the towpaths and little side roads alongside the...