Emmanuel Tresmontant - 2009-10-06
The south of the Beaujolais region is less than an hour away from Lyon. Exploring the vineyards around Fleurie, Régnié, Brouilly, Juliénas and Saint-Amour will be top of the agenda, but you are bound to want to see more of this region, with its amazingly varied scenery.
In the north, the mountains are often wild, covered with dark forests of fir trees; in the south, on the contrary, the luminous villages of the Pays des Pierres Dorées become vibrant as soon as they are caressed by the sun…
The north of the Beaujolais region
To get your trip off to a good start there is nothing like heading up to La Terrasse, a panoramic table located 1 km away from the Col du Fût d'Avenas in the district of Chiroubles, in a loop of the D 18. Magnificent view of Mont Brouilly, the Saône valley, Mont Blanc, the Massif de la Vanoise... As you contemplate this scenery, the alchemy between nature and wine becomes clearly perceptible.
ViaMichelin is proud to reveal the existence of a gem, a marvellous little 17th century hamlet lost in the mountains, with the mysterious name of Le Pardon... Some lucky farmers moved here in the 1970s, and produce succulent goat's cheeses that are sold at the region's markets, and fir honey with powerful aromas. Peace and quiet, beauty and simplicity are the motto of this timeless place.
Beaujeu: museum and oil mill
After this bucolic interval, a gentle return to civilisation is the order of the day: so head for the old capital of Beaujolais. Beaujeu lines up its low houses along a narrow street, between hills covered with vines. Here you can visit the Musée des Traditions Populaires (Folk Museum), founded in 1942 by the erudite printer Marius Audin. A 19th century peasant interior has been reconstructed, while a classroom recreates the school atmosphere of 1900, with pages of writing and lessons in morality. Some craftsmen's tools are also on display, along with furniture and objects from the hospices of Beaujeu.
But the must-see in Beaujeu is the oil mill, an international reference in matters of gastronomy. Jean-Marc Montegottero renovated an old disused mill 20 years ago, and took over his parents' place to use as a shop. With a 1.6-tonne millstone and grinder, he produces precious walnut, hazelnut, almond, groundnut, pistachio, sesame, pecan nut, pine kernel and poppy oils. These artisanal oils of outstanding delicacy are served at the greatest restaurants in Europe.
Pays des Pierres Dorées
Next, head south to Villefranche-sur-Saône. In this part of the Beaujolais region, you are no longer struck by the vineyards, but by the mineral matter. The omnipresent limestone has been used since the Middle Ages to build houses and castles, churches, wash houses, wells and low walls. Its colour - golden, pale ochre or russet, depending on the season - gives Tuscan shades to the villages. The Pays des Pierres Dorées ("land of the golden stones")is the most beautiful place in the area around Lyon!
Spared by the wars, the complex of buildings with six towers, which dominates the village, is one of the most impressive in Beaujolais. Listed as an historic monument, it has a superb entrance with drawbridge.
The charming village of Theizé has the distinctive feature of having two chateaux, one below the road, Rapetour, and the other at the top of the village, Rochebonne. It stands out for its classic façade, flanked by two towers and crowned by a pediment.
Not to be missed: the master bedroom with its original (17th century) parquet and panelling, the trompe l'œil paintings, and above all, in the castle's vaulted cellars, an oenological centre devoted to wine production methods in Beaujolais.
Oingt, the little wonder of Beaujolais
Its steep little streets called "Trayne-cul", "Tyre-laine" or "Coupe-jarret" take you back to the Middle Ages! A host of craftsmen (potters, weavers, wooden toy makers, etc.) has taken over this remarkably restored village.
In the Middle Ages, the formidable fortress of Oingt dominated the valley; all that remains of it today is the Porte de Nizy (entrance to the village) and the tower, the top of which offers a magnificent view of the mountains of Lyonnais, Beaujolais and the valley of the Azergue. Beautiful and peaceful, Oingt is on a par with the most beautiful villages of Provence…
Musée des Traditions populaires Marius Audin
Tél.: 04 74 69 22 88.
Jean-Marc et Mireille Montegottero
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