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Wednesday 22 May 2013

The best little wine capital in the world?

The centre of the Burgundy wine trade – midway between Paris and Geneva - the pretty town of Beaune is a place of pilgrimage for gourmets and is dotted with wine bars, cafes, tasting facilities and boutique hotels.

In my humble opinion it is the best little wine capital anywhere; serious about wine and food - and surrounded by some of the greatest vineyards in the world.

The world’s greatest chardonnays and pinots noir come from this region; stretching from Chablis in the north to just above Lyon in the south. The greatest wines from producers like Domaine de la Romanee-Conti are stratospherically priced but there are plenty of more affordable bottles to taste and buy.

Chablis produces dry, minerally chardonnays while the long thin strip encompassing the Cote d’Or and Cote de Nuits produce the world’s best pinots and some superbly complex chardonnays from villages including Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet.

Pinot lovers are spoilt for choice with producers in communes including Pommard, Volnay, Nuits St George and Chambolle-Musigny all offering tastings while further south more affordable reds and whites are produced in the Cote Chalonaise and the Maconnais regions; with St Veran offering particularly good value.

Centrally-situated Beaune is almost certainly the best base for wine tourists.Take a ride on the ubiquitous petit train with tourists from around the world to discover the many winding old streets and then take a tour of the magnificent Hospice de Beaune, where the original hospital building, the Hotel Dieu (below), is one of the finest remaining examples of French 15th-century architecture and is now a fascinating museum.

Wine lovers will also enjoy the MuseĆ© du Vin de Bourgogne and browsing for wine posters, books, corkscrews and other accessories at the L’Athenaeum store, while the outdoor Saturday food market here is legendary. Taste wines at Alex Gambal or Camille Giroud and spend a night or two in the Hotel Le Cep, a collection of 14th-18th century buildings that is part of Small Luxury Hotels group and a perfect base for exploring the many vineyard hamlets. It’s at 
27 Rue Maufoux in the old town centre but within strolling distance of the vines. 

The hotel (above) is close to the Basilique Notre Dame and the Hospices de Beaune. There are 64 air-conditioned guest rooms, charmingly decorated in traditional French style. The on-site Loiseau des Vignes restaurant  features dozens of wines by the glass thus providing the perfect solution for anyone wanting to sample great Burgundies without breaking the bank. Other stellar dining choices include L’Ecusson, Ma Cuisine, Le Goret and the cute Le Gourmandin.

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