Cycling Burgundy’s Vineyard Trail

Bicycling the Vineyard Trail from Beaune to Santenay is an adventure to savor slowly, very much like the area’s premier wines.  The trail is only 22km long.  In a car, you could travel it in under 20 minutes, on a train, it is merely a blur.  I had visited the area before in a car, but I had not experienced it, as I did this week on a bike.

This way to the Cote de Beaune

Exploring the vineyards via bike opens up a whole new world

On a bicycle, you can take all day to complete the journey, completely enjoying the sights, smells and overwhelming beauty of some of the best known vineyards in the world.  On a bicycle, you can reach out and touch the vines.  You can marvel at the perfectly trimmed vines in rows of perfect symmetry.  You have time to think about the natural elements that the vines endure, and how very fragile the process of grape growing and wine production is.

Signs make it easy to follow the route

Vineyards in every direction

You can anticipate and admire each village from afar as you cycle closer with every pedal, the tallest spire first, then the rest of the village.  First Pommard with its chateau, then Volnay with its chapel of Notre De Pitie, then picture-perfect Meursault’s town hall with its varnished and colored tiles.

Meursault City Hall

A celebration of grapes in Mersault

Next, Puligny-Montrachet with its beautiful town square and finally, Chassagne-Montrachet with its premier grand cru vineyards.  This is the area that thousands travel to each year to see where some of the best wines in the world are produced.  But few have the opportunity to experience the area as I did, slowly and deliberately, savoring every kilometer, every stone wall and every village.

One of the most famous Montrachet vineyards

Quiet roads through the vineyards

In late August, the vines were full of the rapidly maturing chardonnay and pinot noir grapes.  The vineyards were busy with activity as growers prepared for the upcoming harvest.  Everyone prayed for much-needed sun.  As I rode past each vineyard, it was like watching a beautiful play progress before my eyes.  With the harvest only 10-20 days away, I wished that I could stay to be part of this annual event.  Perhaps another year.  For now, I will just enjoy bicycling along the vineyard paths that have been used by winegrowers for decades, marveling at the vineyards’ complete sense of order, and anticipating tasting many of these wines at the end of the day.

Meursault Chardonnay grapes

A perfect order exists in the vineyards

I will really miss this sight

Posted by Maggie LaCoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.