Wine on the Burgundy Canal

This small post is not about a fareway, exotic place. It is about a travel out of time in the good old France, along the Canal of Burgundy and the Cote d’Or vineyards.

Canal of Burgundy

Calmly stretching along hills, forests and fields, walking along the the Canal of Burgundy brings you a feeling of peace of mind.


Beaver-like coypuses were brought from South-America in the 19th century for their fur and are now very common in the Canal of Burgundy, to a point their number must be regulated.

The canal is 242 km in length, with 190 locks and a 3.3 km tunel at is highest point. The Canal of Burgundy is at the junction of an intricated system of canals between the Seine and the Saone rivers, allowing boats to navigate from Paris to Lyons. Its construction was planned as early as in the 17th century, but finally works began in 1775 until the Canal was open in 1832. Unfortunately, when the canal was finished, its traffic was mainly taken away by railway, faster and more convenient. Now the canal is used exclusively by leisure boats.

Did you know that you can charter a barge on the canal? The top-notch option will be one of the several luxury barges, like “L’impressioniste”, managed by European Waterways (

canal burgundy impressionist

The barge “L’impressioniste” slowly enters a lock. Soon, the lock keeper will push manually the door lever, in the foreground, allowing the barge to continue her journey.

Navigating on the “L’impressioniste” is a perfect way for discovering the Burgundy wines of the Côte d’Or slopes, located very close. Burgundy wines are considered, along with the Bordeaux wines, as the most prestigious wines in the world.

In Burgundy, vineyards plots are usually small: 6 hectares on average, which is twice as small as the average surface in France.

Romanee conti wall

Romanée Conti Southern wall.

Romanée-Conti is the smallest vineyard if France, only 1.6 hectare, shared by two owners. There are only 3,500 bottles produced per year. Rare means expensive: the average price for a Romanée-Conti bottle is minimum 6,000 USD, with some milesimes sold at 10,000 USD. This liquid ruby is typically sold at wine auctions or high-end restaurants, so, if you are offered to buy such a wine in other conditions, be leery of counterfeits!

Most vineyards in Burgundy are delimited by walls. Lots of wine producers are named “clos”, which means “monastery property”, because initially many vineyards were created by local monasteries. Now the name “clos” is simply synonym for the word “chateau” in Bordeaux. Burgundy wine producers kept this tradition of keeping walls, made up of stones assembled with no cement as walls protect from the wind, prevent erosion, gives the vineyard more stable conditions.

Clos Vougeot

Clos de Vougeot is classified as Grand Cru wine. The whole vineyard, delimited by a tall stone wall, makes 50 hectare, but it is divided into more than 20 producers. Clos de Vougeot is a landmark in Burgundy as the medieval castle, lovely in itself, hosts a well-documented museum on the local wine history, including ancient wine casks and wooden grape crushers.

Vigne de l'enfant Jesus

Bouchard & Fils, Beaune is a “negociant”, that is a middleman between the grape producers and the client. The company owns some vineyards and also buys grapes and wines from other producers. Traditionally, a “negociant” wine is considered less prestigious than the wine directly made by the producer. However, this rule doesn’t apply to Bouchard, whose knowledge in Burgundy wines since the 18th century, guaranties a high quality of their products. This bottle of “Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus” is a good choice to enjoy a typical Burgundy wine.

A waiter told me the opinion shared by local wine specialists : “- Aloxe-Corton, Pommard, Vosnes-Romanée…They think the world turns around them ! ”They produce only a limited amount of bottles a year, while demand for them, especially from new overseas markets is always growing. As a result, prices are steadily high and even rise regularly. But they are plenty of other, less renowned, villages that produce very decent, yet affordable wines”

I asked this waiter for a tip on where to buy that kind of wine and I was sent to Mr Laurent Jeanniard, in the village of Corgoloin, between Beaune and Nuit-Saint-George, who produces many sorts of wine since 2006. His parents are also wine producers at Morey-Saint-Denis.

laurent jeanniard

We particularly appreciated two “generic” Bourgogne – that is not classified as 1er Cru wines – A delicious white Chardonnay, matured 12 months in oak casks and a well-balanced red 2010 Pinot Noir. You can have a similar pleasure than with a 1er Cru, but your wallet will be preserved.

One Response to “Wine on the Burgundy Canal”
  1. Olga says:

    I wish i was there! 🙂

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  • © Sebastian Zelechowski, Moscow 2011
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