Beaujolais Travel Guide

Beaujolais Travel Guide People & Places Wine Travel
  • Tuesday 1 July 2003

The graceful 12th-century Château de Pizay makes for a plush, formal introduction to Beaujolais. Bathed in bright morning sunshine, and surrounded by vineyard and woodland, its tranquillity is broken only by a cacophony of amorous toads lining the perimeter of the pond in the gardens.


But this sort of exclusive feel is not the norm in this friendly region. The reality is much more down to earth.More typical of the communal feel is the Domaine de Pouilly-le-Châtel in the nearby village of Denicé. The winery is home to Sylvaine Chevalier and her husband Bruno, who as well as making decent red and – unusually – some white Beaujolais, rent out two guest rooms in their delightful house.

Down the road is the Villefranche local market, which by 11am on a Friday is buzzing with locals buying food for the weekend. The stalls are stacked with fine seasonal produce: purple-veined fresh garlic; asparagus – both giant white spears and verdant green shoots – laid out layer upon layer in regimental lines. Tables groan under the weight of vast rustic loaves sold by the kilo. Butchers' stalls are adorned with colourful Bresse chickens. Small artisan producers offer cheeses from the Charolais area or their own particular spin on charcuterie. Funnily enough, there's a fair selection of local wine on offer, too.

The narrow country lanes of Beaujolais boast vineyards on both sides, and gently meander towards the relatively lofty village of Chiroubles – this is the highest cru within the appellation, with vines planted at up to 450m, and is the cru that the Beaujolaise regard as the most 'Beaujolais' of all. The impressively located, 26-hectare Domaine Cheysson is perched on the southern edge of the village. On a clear day, it affords glorious, uninterrupted views of Mont Blanc, some 200km away to the southeast.

Here I taste different vintages of Chiroubles, going back to 1992. Good Beaujolais can age well, even when it originates from what is deemed one of the lightest of the 10 crus. But as I sit down for lunch at the Michelin-starred Auberge le Cep in the charming village of Fleurie, it's the memory of the crunchy, vivid raspberry fruit in the youngest wine that lingers on.

The menu is presented in five different-coloured inks to represent the cuisine of Beaujolais and the surrounding regions: Charolais, Mâconnais and Bourgogne to the north, Bresse and the Dombes to the east and Lyonnais and the Ardèche to the south. Whether it's river fish such as sandre (perch), Bresse chicken, Charolais beef or wild duck from the Dombes, the high-quality ingredients are allowed to speak for themselves. Try the coq-au-vin, a rich, dark, almost gamey dish that would be matched perfectly by a good Côte de Brouilly, Moulin-à-Vent or perhaps a Morgon.

Where to stay

Around 85% of the B&Bs in the Rhône département are in Beaujolais, so you are pretty spoiled for choice. Many wine producers offer a number of rooms for bed and breakfast.

Château de Pizay, 69220 Saint-Jean-d'Ardières.

Tel: +33 4 74 66 51 41.

The French football team stayed here the year they won the World Cup.

62 rooms from Euro 101 for two.

Domaine de Pouilly-le-Châtel, 69640 Denicé.

Tel: +33 4 74 67 41 01.

Run by Sylvaine & Bruno Chevalier, Two rooms, B&B from Euro 61 for two, meals Euro 20.

Jeanine & Gérard Lagneau, Huire, 69430 Quincié en Beaujolais.

Tel: +33 4 74 69 20 70.

Three double rooms plus a family room that sleeps four. B&B for two people from Euro 50, or Euro 80.10 for a family of four.

Domaine de St-Ennemond, 69220 Cercié.

Tel: +33 4 74 69 67 17.

Run by Marie and Christian Béréziat. Three rooms for two to four people, B&B from Euro45 for two, then Euro16 for each extra person.

Where to eat

Auberge le Cep, Place de l'Eglise, 69820 Fleurie.

Tel: +33 4 74 04 10 77.

In the centre of Fleurie, where wine-tasting opportunities abound, this old fashioned-looking restaurant is a must.

Restaurant Le Morgon, Hameau de Morgon, 69910 Villié-Morgon.

Tel: +33 4 74 69 16 03.

A lovely two-storey restaurant with a good selection of wines from Morgon, including some older vintages.

Restaurant Christian Mabeau, Le Bourg, 69460 Odenas.

Tel: +33 4 74 03 41 79.

A family-run restaurant in the centre of the village with two rooms and a pretty terrace overlooking the vineyards.

Restaurant Au Bon Cru, Route Romanèche, 69820 Fleurie.

Tel: +33 4 74 04 11 90.

Just to the south of the village, in among the vineyards, lies this restaurant offering cheap but good rustic fare. The vineyard workers eat in the room at the front.

Where to buy wine

Of the recent vintages, 1999 and 2000 were the best. Only the better producers made worthwhile wines in 2001.

Domaine Cheysson, Clos Les Farges, 69115 Chiroubles.

Tel: +33 4 74 04 22 02.

Sells classic Chiroubles and Chiroubles Cuvée Prestige from Euro 6.10 a bottle.

Louis-Claude Desvignes, 'La Voûte', Fond du Bourg, 69910 Villié-Morgon.

Tel: +33 4 74 04 23 35.

Sells Morgon 'Climat du Py', Euro 6.10 and Morgon Javernières, Euro 6.40. These wines will age. Look for older vintages of their top wine, Javernières, such as the 1996.

Domaine du Tracot, 69430 Lantignié.

Tel: +33 4 74 04 87 51.

Jean-Paul Dubost sells Régnié, Morgon and Brouilly, and has a charming museum with old winemaking artefacts.

Domaine du Petit Puits, 'Le Verdy', 69115 Chiroubles.

Tel: +33 4 74 69 15 90.

Céline & Gilles Méziat sell Chiroubles, Fleurie and Morgon at prices from t5.30. Of the 2001s I liked their Fleurie from 100-year-old vines best.

Château Thivin, 69460 Odenas.

Tel: +33 4 74 03 47 53.

Claude Geoffray sells Beaujolais Villages, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly. The latter two are more serious and are quite Burgundian in style.

How to get there

Beaujolais is just west of the A6 autoroute between Mâcon and Lyon. The TGV from Paris to Mâcon-Loché, 25km to the north of the region, takes one hour, 40 mins. BA, Flybe, EasyJet and Air France all fly from London to Lyon, and the airport is situated about 60km from Beaujolais.

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