Beaujolais District

FRANCE RHONE-ALPS RHONE Beaujolais scenery

The Beaujolais District is a 55-kilometre long, 11-14 kilometre-wide strip of vineyards on the westen side of the Saone River south of the Rhone/Saone-et-Loire Department border.  It is a region that popped into recognition thanks to its wine of the same name. A fruity concoction that was founded in the 14th century by fermenting Gamay grapes, low in tannins and grown in the gravelly local granite soils, this wine has given the region a strong travel rep.

The commercial capital of the region is Villefrance-sur-Saone, while the historical capital is Beaujeu which gave its name to the wine variety.  Both towns are good information pit stops at their respective tourism offices shown on the map below.  Mâcon's tourism office also has information on the Mâconnaise district to its south, and starting here makes for a seamless journey through both wine districts.

Beaujolais wines, more famously the village crus and the Beaujolais nouveau, weren’t always this popular. In fact, upon its founding, the Beaujolais wines wese considered cheap concoctions due to their sharp taste that was a result of hasty processing and poor resting. It was also difficult to transport these wines. Hence, they earned a reputation for being the ‘coachman’s wine’ or the ‘proletariat wine’. It was during WWII that the Beaujolais wines’ processing became refined; coupled with more recent heavy marketing, these drinks have steadily earned themselves a devoted group of followers. Now seen as a festive blend, the Beaujolais Nouveau’s liberation (opening/release) is a much celebrated event. On the third Thursday in November, once the French law permits, the first bottle of Beaujolais nouveau is opened for tasting. This event, known as the Sarmentelles de Beaujeu is celebrated in the region’s former capital, Beaujeu, with free-flowing wine all night long.


Beaujeu is also home to Le Sources du Beaujolais [Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, +33 474692056 €5/2.50] which houses a museum that documents the evolution of this famous wine, complete with interactive displays and wine-related workshops and activities.

Beaujeu's Musée Marius Ardin [Square Grand’han +33 474692288 ad/ch €2/0.75]- a folklore museum which showcases the daily life of the region’s villages- comprises recreated rooms such as old peasant quarters and classrooms as well as a collection of traditional French dolls.

The entire Beaujolais region is green and hilly; hence, it is favoured by avid hikers and bikers. The area’s gentle slopes are easy enough for novice riders and the green pastures and charming villages make for a pleasant stroll as well. 

A suggested itinerary that takes in the route's highlights start at Mâcon and heading south, first traversing the Mâconnaise wine district that precedes, and is somewhat similar to, the Beaujolais district.  First drive south to Crêches-sur-Saône and St-Amour (both in the Maconaise district ), then west to Juliénas, which is the first stop in the Beaujolais region.  Further south brings you to Ville-Morgon, then turning west takes you to Beaujeu that has some points of interest noted above.  Drive east anlong the D337 to Belleview-sur-Saone, then west to the noted appelation at Côte de Brouilly , south to Salles-Arbuissonnas-en-Beaujolais , south-east to St-Julien, continuing south-east to VIllefranche-sur-Saone.  If you still have time you can consider taking the D338 south-west to Bagnols, which also has a chateau with a superb reputation both as a restaurant and hotel (if you can afford it).

 

BEAUJOLAIS DISTRICT MAP:   1. Villefranche-sur-Saone Tourism Office  2. Beaujeu Tourism Office and Le Sources du Beaujolais    

SUGGESTED ROUTE:
   Mâcon -> Crêches-sur-Saône  -> St-Amour  -> Juliénas -> Ville-Morgon -> Beaujeu -> Belleview-sur-Saone -> Côte de Brouilly -> Salles-Arbuissonnas-en-Beaujolais -> St-Julien -> VIllefranche-sur-Saone -> Bagnols

 

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