France is full of gorgeous wine regions. From Alsace and its fairy tale villages to Cassis and its vineyards that nearly touch the Mediterranean Sea. And then there’s Beaujolais. Its vine-covered hillsides are as pretty as any in France. You’ll find it in the south of Burgundy, a region that’s world famous for its wines.
Beaujolais wines are made from the red Gamay grape and are so food-friendly that you can drink them with practically anything. Gamay is not considered a “noble grape” and so Beaujolais won’t impress the wine snobs. But, it is reasonably priced and really quite good. The best bottles have the name of a village on the label. Look for Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon, and several others.
You might have heard of Beaujolais Nouveau, a young wine that is deliciously drinkable. It is produced right after the harvest and delivered to restaurants and wine shops around the world on “Beaujolais Day” in November. Thirsty crowds greet it with the joyful cry of “Le beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!” (“The Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived!”) and the party begins.
Top things to see and do in Beaujolais
The region is packed with charming villages, just perfect for a stroll and a leisurely meal with some of that tasty wine. But the best part of a visit to Beaujolais is driving through the countryside and seeing those rolling hills, covered with their lovely green vines.
The village of Oingt is officially listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Only the tower remains of the medieval castle but it’s worth climbing for the panoramic views over Beaujolais. Read more about Oingt here.
If you like to walk or bike, you’re in luck! The Beaujolais Greenway is a pretty, 15km route and mostly flat. It runs along the path of an old railway line. You can rent bikes (including electric) at the Maison du Terroir Beaujolais.
Visit Chateaux in Beaujolais
The Château de Montmelas is known as the Sleeping Beauty castle. The same noble family has lived in it for centuries. If you are there on the first Saturday of the month, you can join a tour of the interior at 11am.
A castle with beautiful grounds is the Château de la Chaize. Here you can taste their excellent wines during your visit.
Another lovely castle with nice wines to taste is the Château de Corcelles.
The official website for the region is Destination Beaujolais.
The largest town in the region is Villefranche-sur-Saône. Their tourist office has good information on Beaujolais, including maps and a list of wineries open to the public where you can taste wine.
More on Burgundy
Keith Van Sickle splits his time between Silicon Valley and Provence. He is the author of One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence and Are We French Yet? Keith & Val’s Adventures in Provence. Read more at Life in Provence.