A Local’s Mini-Guide to Beaujolais, France – Enjoy a Genuine Short-Break Experience
When you decide to explore the vast and varied destinations in France, Beaujolais should be high on your wish list. Beaujolais is a perfect area to explore if you enjoy good food coupled with a “friendly and unpretentious” bottle of local wine. Anyone who loves spending time treasure hunting in brocantes (second-hand stores) and antique shops, visiting ancient churches and taking long walks though beautiful scenery will enjoy a visit to Beaujolais. Located near Lyon and Burgundy, Beaujolais has made a name for itself in both the culinary and wine marketplace.
I was brought up in Beaujolais and later studied in Lyon before moving the the UK. I’ve created a mini-guide to Beaujolais for you to discover Beaujolias in the most authentic way. I’ll share local tips and advices I know from living there to see the genuine side of Beaujolais and get around for less.
Pick Your Time To Visit
The Beaujolais area is rolling with row after row of grape vines. Whilst they are stunning in winter, especially on a cold frosty morning when the naked wines glisten. The whole countryside can look like a scene out of Narnia. Summer to autumn is my favourite time to enjoy Beaujolais. You’ll be greeted either by luscious green vineyards bearing heavy gold or dark purple bunches of grapes everywhere you look, or a festival of oranges and red if you wait a little later.
Late august to mid September is traditionally the time for “les vendanges” (harvest time). Go on long walks and simply enjoy watching the pickers clipping the grapes. The stronger carriers take huge mounds of grapes to the back of the tractor and local songs help the workers keeping up with their tasks. You might even catch the convoy of tractors taking their grapes to the local cooperative if you’re lucky. Saying this, you could also wait until early November and land in Beaujolais just in time to try the Beaujolais Nouveau: Joining in a Beaujolais Nouveau celebration night is an experience not to be missed.
Don’t hesitate to stop and knock on the door!
Most local producers have a caveau (wine vault) and are happy to organise a tasting for you without an appointment. Some of them even have facilities now to ship your wine back home if you can’t take it with you. Often you might find them offering you a slice of local saucisson or small cheese buttons called bouchons de chevre (goat cheese bottle corks). Local producers also often have more time, better wines and a more authentic way to welcome you round for a tasting. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience here.
Visit a Traditional Cheese Making Farm
In Ouroux en Beaujolais you can see how they make the local cheeses and sample them too. It’s a rather delicious way to spend an afternoon.
Look Out For “Vide-Greniers” Signs
Brocantes and other “bric-a-brac” gatherings happen most weekends somewhere in Beaujolais. It’s a great way to spend a morning, hunting for little treasures to take home or simply enjoying a coffee or a glass of local “kir” aperitif and people watching for a while. If you happen to be back down to Lyon at the week end, you can also visit “les Puces” (flea market) on a Sunday morning.
You’ll Only Know if You’re a Native (or know one)
Head over to Beaujolais in early September and you could also spend a day at the wonderful “Festival des orgues de Barbarie” in Oingt. Oingt is a medieval village where all the house styles are protected from building changes with anything but the traditional “pierres dorees” (golden stones) from the area. As a result of its preservation is takes a place on lists of the most beautiful village in France.
Don’t Forget Nearby Lyon
Plan to drive to Lyon for a morning of food and wine indulgence in Les Halles, where you can sample the best ingredients from the gastronomic capital of France. If you want to explore more of the traditional wonders of the city, hop across to Le Vieux Lyon or pick up the funiculaire all the way up to Fourviere “religious hill” and Cathedral.
The easiest way to enjoy a discovery weekend is to follow “La route des vins du Beaujolais” with a hire car. One word of caution on that matter, especially if you hire it from abroad; find comprehensive car hire excess insurance advice as car rental companies in Europe can include a huge amount to pay in their contract (whilst hire excess insurance can be bought separately for a lot less separately!).
Where To Stay
A lot of the local winemakers and houses in the area have converted some of their room into lovely Bed and Breakfasts or Gites. In Le Bois d’Oingt you can enjoy Le Gite des Tourieres; on AirBnb you can find a lot of fabulous places to stay like this amazing Duplex holiday rental; You can sleep in a giant wine barrel at this camping site; if you want something a little more special, the Chateau de Bagnols is one of the most magical places you can pick for you stay. Celebrities including Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman stayed there, and the restaurant offers the most delicious tasting menu (Top tip: you can get a meal for a fraction of the cost of dinner by booking a table for lunch with the “menu du marché”).
Getting to Beaujolais
Fly to Lyon or take the TGV to Macon, and exit in the heart of Beaujolais directly. TGV tickets can be a little pricey but if you plan ahead, you can save a lot by booking the alternative train company Oui Go. If you Fly to Lyon, there are trains and a bus transfer to take you back to the centre of Lyon as the airport is a fair way away from town.
About The Author: Laure Moyle grew up in Beaujolais before moving to Lyon then the UK. A real foodie and chocolate artist, she also writes guides and articles for businesses in financial services like Claimscore.co.uk.