Burgundy is one of the most famous agricultural regions in France, and while it is a relatively small wine region, it is home to some of the most highly regarded wines in the world. So it is no surprise that wine tourism is an important part of the local economy, with numerous wineries and vineyards available for sampling wines and basking in the region’s history and culture of winemaking.
With our comprehensive guide below, you’ll be ready to “wine your way” through Burgundy on the best viticulture vacation in France!
Enjoying wine in Burgundy
Burgundy is best known for its complex “terroir-driven” wines that reflect the unique geographic characteristics of the land where the grapes are grown. For you as the taster, this means you’ll experience a range of subtleties that make each wine unique and sharpen your conversation skills at your next party.
The region’s most well-known wines are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but there are also many other highly-acclaimed varieties in the region. Here are some of the most common grape varieties and wine styles produced in the area, and their ideal pairings.
White wines make up about 60% of the wine production in Burgundy. They are typically recommended with light meals, such as salad, seafood, grilled vegetables, and charcuterie. Most find white wine pairs well with white meat dishes such as chicken, pork, and veal.
Chardonnay grapes are primarily used to make white wines in Burgundy to develop richness and complexity. Burgundy Chardonnay tends to be less oaky and buttery than those from other regions and ages well.
Other white varieties you may encounter on your “sip and see” vacation include, Aligoté, Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Muscadet, Sémillon, Roussanne, Picpoul or Ugni Blanc.
Red wines make up about 30% of the region’s wine production. Full-bodied red wines pair well with red meat dishes such as beef, veal, pork, or lamb and strong, hard cheeses such as cheddar or aged gouda. Light to medium-bodied red wines complement white meats like chicken and some seafood dishes, as well as milder, softer cheeses such as brie or chevre.
Pinot Noir is the primary grape used to make red Burgundy wines—known for their complexity, finesse, and ability to age. Burgundy Pinot Noir is rare and expensive as it tends to be lighter and more delicate than those from other regions. Pinot Noir grapes produce the ever-popular rose wines (macerated with their skins) and is typically the wine of choice in nearby Provence.
You will also find these red varieties as you taste your way through Burgundy: Chambertin and Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny and Musigny, Gamay/Beaujolais, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec, Bordeaux, Chianti, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Cabernet Franc, Carignan, Tannat or Fer Servadou.
The region’s most well-known wines are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but there are also many other highly-acclaimed varieties in the region.
Wine Terms, A-Z
To help you navigate your wine tasting and discuss each wine you try, consider learning the terminology! This can also help to deepen your understanding and appreciation of the fascinating, complex processes behind the wine:
- Aging: The process of storing wine in barrels or bottles, which allows it to mature and develop more complex flavors and aromas over time.
- Acidity: The tartness or sharpness of a wine, determined by the level of natural acids in the grapes.
- Appellation: A legally defined geographic area where wine grapes are grown and where the wine is produced that follows specific rules and regulations.
- Aroma: The scent or smell of the wine, which can include notes that are fruity, floral, herbal, or earthy.
- Body: The weight and texture of wine in the mouth, influenced by factors such as alcohol content, tannins, and acidity.
- Finish: The aftertaste of a wine that can linger for several seconds or minutes after swallowing.
- Grand Cru: A French term, translated as “great growth.” This delineates the highest quality wines exhibiting the most exceptional quality, aging potential, complexity, and craftsmanship. To be classified as a Grand Cru, the vineyard must meet strict criteria related to soil, climate, grape variety, and production techniques.
- Legs: The streaks or droplets that form on the inside of a wine glass after swirling the wine, also sometimes referred to as “tears.” The legs may indicate the wine’s alcohol content or viscosity, but they do not necessarily provide any information about the wine’s taste, aroma, or overall quality.
- Mouthfeel: The physical sensation of wine in the mouth. This can be influenced by factors such as tannins and acidity.
- Oak: The type of wood used to make wine barrels, an influential factor on the flavor and character of a wine.
- Region: The geographic area where the wine grapes are grown and where the wine is produced, which may significantly impact the flavor and quality of the wine.
- Sommelier: A trained wine professional responsible for selecting, storing, and serving wine in a restaurant or similar setting.
- Tannins: Compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems that contribute to the mouthfeel and structure of a wine.
- Terroir: The unique set of environmental factors—such as soil, climate, and topography—that affect the flavor and character of a wine.
- Varietal: The specific grape variety that is used to make a wine.
- Vintage: The year the grapes were harvested to make a particular wine.
- Viticulture: The cultivation and management of grape vines to produce wine.
Your visit to Burgundy
While planning a wine tour in Burgundy, there are a few things to keep in mind to help you make the most of your trip.
Variety is the spice of life
Burgundy has over 3,000 wineries, and only around 1% (or 33) of those are deemed Grand Cru vineyards. These exclusive, award-winning vineyards produce some of the world’s most renowned and expensive wines and are concentrated in the 3 primary regions of Burgundy: Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, and Chablis.
When planning your Burgundy wine tour, include a mix of both large, well-known commercial wineries and small, family-run operations to get a sense of the full range of wines produced in the region. You should also try a wide range of wines, styles (still vs. sparkling), and older or younger vintages—you will likely discover a new favorite!
Be kind and respectful
It’s essential to consider the people and your surroundings as you enjoy your Burgundy vineyard experience, so follow these simple guidelines to avoid wine-country faux pas:
- Dress appropriately in comfortable and casual attire—avoid wearing perfume or cologne that can interfere with the aromas of the wines.
- Be punctual for any scheduled appointments or tasting reservations.
- Taste the wines you are offered, but avoid overindulging, as it is considered impolite.
- Avoid touching the grapes or vines, and do not litter or damage the vineyard’s property.
- Remember to thank the staff for their time and hospitality at the end of your visit. If you enjoyed a specific wine, consider buying a bottle or case to take or ship home to support the vineyard and take a piece of your experience with you.
Vineyards often require a lot of walking on uneven terrain, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes. Additionally, Burgundy’s narrow and winding roads can be challenging to navigate, especially after a day of wine tasting. Alcohol can impair your ability to ride a bicycle safely, so we recommend arranging alternate transportation back to your lodging—perhaps a ride-share service, designated drive, taxi, or public transportation.
Even if you feel like you have only had a small amount of wine, it can still affect your judgment, coordination, and reaction time, so ride cautiously and carefully and, of course, with your helmet and any reflective clothing on.
Prioritize your health & comfort
These tips will help you enjoy your visit to the fullest, sans hangover:
- Stay hydrated to help prevent or minimize after-effects; drink plenty of water before, during, and after imbibing.
- Pace yourself and sip your wine slowly, savoring the flavors to avoid drinking too quickly.
- Eat a meal before or snack during wine tasting to help slow the absorption of alcohol into your system.
- Stick to lighter white wines, which have lower alcohol content.
- Take a break between tastings to give your body time to process the alcohol.
Diversify your itinerary
Burgundy is known for its wine, but it is also equally rich in history, stunning architecture, and delectable food. There are endless things to do and see in the area, so consider hiring a specialized tour company like Outfitters Bicycle Tours to help you plan your itinerary and make reservations for you.
Many of our clients find it rewarding to focus on a few key areas and spend more time exploring them in-depth. With these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a memorable and rewarding travel experience in Burgundy and beyond!
Burgundy bike tours
Our guided Burgundy Bike Tours are what dreams are made of. You can choose from the following carefully curated itineraries:
To learn what our guided bike tours are like, check out this glowing testimonial from a past client who experienced Burgundy as their third tour with Outfitter Bicycle Tours.
Customized, self-guided bike tours
Want a Burgundy Bike Tour fully on your own terms? You name the dates, riding distance, and other details of your tour for a self-guided bike trip. We can custom design a tour for your pace, needs, and interest. Plus, you’ll be able to breathe easy with top-of-the-line cycling equipment and gear, worry-free routing by GPS, and a professional concierge always available to help you when you need it.
Outfitter Bicycle Tours is fully committed to providing low-hassle customizable cycling tours that are created to fit each guest’s interests and needs! Contact us to start planning your dream bicycle vacation in Burgundy today.