Dijon, as the regional capital, is a worthy representative of the very best of Burgundy; stunning architecture, a riveting history, a vibrant food scene and fabulous shopping. What is perhaps not so well known, is that Grand Dijon is also a paradise for wine lovers.
In July 2015, UNESCO protected the Climats de la Bourgogne, a complex concept designating the particular DNA of the individual parcels of land and know-how of the winemakers going back to medieval times. While the vines were cultivated on the prized slopes of the valley, the role of the capital was so critical that the UN organisation also protected the city center of Dijon as a world heritage site, as it was the trading centre from where the wine business was managed and conducted. As the exclusivity of the church as sole winemaker started to wane, and wine ‘parcels’ changed into private hands, the status of entrepreneur wine merchants emerged, as evidenced by the mansions they built in the city to cement their new standing, such as the famed Hôtel de Vogüé. Traces of that influence and power are everywhere, in Dijon’s history, architecture and in the deep-rooted savoir faire of its people.
From the majestic wines of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti to ‘ordinary’ Bourgogne Rouge, the expert and newbie wine lover will find a favourite wine in Dijon, the gateway to the renown Route des Grands Crus. In just over 20 minutes by car, you’ll arrive at the start of the Côte de Nuits, visiting the Elysian Fields of enophiles, with names like Vosne Romanée, Chambertin and Clos de Vougeot.
These great vineyards are so close to Dijon that they make for a perfect day trip by bike. A celebrated name like Chambertin is just 15km (9 mi.) south of the city. The tourist office offers a fantastic selection of guided tours, individual or in groups, starting from half-day and longer, which also include wine tastings.
Dijon has a number of fabulous museums, and just a skip away in Nuit-Saint-Georges is one venue entirely devoted to wine. L’Imaginarium is part instructional, part lighthearted fun. Two interactive guided tours provide a unique insight into how wines are made, and the happy world of bubbles in Burgundy’s crémant wine—the region’s answer to champagne.
You can’t walk far in Dijon without hitting a wine bar, and for a wine tasting/shopping session frequented by locals, the Duché de Bourgogne wine cellar, facing the Ducal Palace spins its own brand of magic. The stone steps down to the basement are a portal to another dimension—a realm of stone, hushed voices and candlelight. Locals and visitors alike let themselves be guided by experts that cater to every level to wine knowledge and budget.
Of course, since you are already in Dijon, it would be a real shame not to venture further into the great wine making areas around it, exploring further south onto Beaune and north towards the Chablis making areas. The options are so many, and the wine heritage runs so deep, that just when you think you are starting to know your wines, an entire new layer starts to unfold before your eyes. The wines of Burgundy offer a lifetime of rich and earthy learning opportunities.