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The region today

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The region today


Economy

France’s largely prosperous postwar period has seen farming and industry slowly being replaced as main wealth generators by service businesses. This shift has been accompanied by a movement of people away from the urbanised north and north-east of the country towards parts of the south and west. Burgundy and Jura remain sparsely populated, although the northernmost parts of Burgundy have seen a rise in the number of inhabitants caused by new arrivals from the Paris region.

Both regions remain largely agricultural, with beef and dairy cattle, cereal crops, fruit, timber and wine among the main crops. Many people work in the service industries and there is a healthy tourist trade. Otherwise, people work in various industries, from pharmaceuticals and metallurgy to clocks and toy-making.

France’s postwar economic growth has brought about a substantial rise in living standards. The working week is fixed at 35 hours and income tax and indirect taxes are relatively high, helping to pay for a generous welfare system.

Recent years, however, have seen growing worries over unemployment and sluggish economic growth. On 6 May 2007, centre-right Nicolas Sarkozy defeated his Socialist rival Segolene Royal in the presidential elections with promises of reforms to boost the economy, such as incentives to encourage overtime and social security reforms.


Gastronomy

In Burgundy

Burgundy’s reputation as a gastronomic paradise has been established for a long time. Dijon has been a city of fine food since Gallo-Roman times. In the 6C, Gregory of Tours praised the quality of Burgundian wines, and King Charles VI lauded the gastronomic delights of Dijon, both good wines and local dishes. The historic États Généraux de Bourgogne and the gastronomic fair at Dijon perpetuate this tradition of good food and wine in the region .

The raw materials – Burgundy is home to first-class beef cattle in the regions of Auxois, Bazois and Charollais, as well as some of the tastiest game in France. It produces incomparable vegetables, many varieties of fish (white fish from the Saône and Loire and trout and crayfish from the rivers of the Morvan), delicious mushrooms (cèpes, girolles, morilles and mousserons) , snails and mouth-watering fruit (cherries from the Auxerre region, for example). And of course, Dijon is forever associated with the mustards produced there.

Burgundian cuisine is both rich and substantial, reflecting the Burgundian temperament and robust appetite; people here expect both quality and quantity at the table. Wine, the glory of the province, naturally plays an important part: the meurette sauces made from wine thickened with butter and flour with flavourings and spices added are the pride of Burgundian cuisine. These sauces work well with fish – carp, tench and eel – brains, poached eggs and bœuf bourguignon (Burgundian beef casserole).

Cream is used in many dishes: jambon à la crème (cooked ham in a cream sauce) and champignons à la crème (mushrooms in a cream sauce). Saupiquet is a spicy wine and cream sauce that dates back to the 15C.

Burgundian specialities – Beyond the long-simmering bœuf bourguignon, the cuisine of this region is renowned for escargots (snails cooked in their shells with garlic, butter and parsley), jambon persillé (ham seasoned with parsley), andouillette (small sausages made from chitterlings), coq au vin (chicken in a wine sauce), pauchouse (stew of various fish cooked in white wine) and poulet en sauce (chicken cooked in a cream and white wine sauce).In the Nivernais and Morvan regions, home-cured ham and sausage, ham and eggs, calf’s head (sansiot) , eggs cooked in wine (en meurette) , roast veal and pullet fried with bacon and pearl onions (jau au sang) figure among the traditional dishes.

Perhaps the greatest moment in the meal comes with the cheese course. A good vintage wine enhances the experience of eating Soumaintrain, Saint-Florentin, Époisses, Bouton-de-culotte , or Citeaux , all produced locally. A traditional preparation that honours a great vintage is gougère , cheese pastry.

In Jura

Poultry and freshwater fish go particularly well with Jura wines, and coq au vin jaune or truite au vin jaune are classic local specialities.

Game is abundant and there are many traditional recipes for hare, wild boar, venison, woodcock etc. Wild hare in white wine sauce, venison casserole with cream and roast thrush flambéed in Marc d’Arbois are just a few dishes.

Potée is made with a variety of vegetables cooked slowly in a casserole with Morteau sausage, a speciality of this region, as is sausage from Montbéliard. Local charcuterie , such as Jésus from Morteau and the many smoked hams (Luxeuil-les-Bains), is also appreciated.

For centuries, pork and bacon were the only meat eaten in the mountain regions. Pigs were therefore very important on the farms, and careful calculation went into the diet on which they were fattened. On pig-killing day, an occasion for great celebration in the family, a pig feast was prepared consisting of black pudding (boudin) , sausages made from tripe (andouilles) , head-cheese (fromage de tête) , chops and various other bits.

In Jura, there are as many types of fish as there are rivers and lakes for them to thrive in: char and trout from the Loue; carp and pike from the Doubs; tench and perch from the Ain. In the lakes there are fish from the salmon family (Coregonidae), white fish and small fry. Meurette sauces and pauchouse stew are as popular here for fish dishes as they are in Burgundy.

Mushrooms from the forests – morilles, chanterelles and cèpes – add their delicate flavour to aromatic sauces.

The local cheeses are excellent: Comté , with its hazelnut flavour, can be used to make a fondue. Try a mild and delicate Emmenthal , rich and creamy Morbier , or Mont d’Or , a subtly flavoured cheese made from milk from cows that have been kept on mountain pastures. Gex Septmoncel is a blue cheese with a delicate parsley flavour; Cancoillotte , a soft fermented cheese, is one of the region’s oldest specialities.

To top off your meal in style, all the local vineyards produce good quality marc spirits, but the kirsch from the Loue Valley (Mouthier-Haute-Pierre, Ornans) is particu­larly well regarded. Pontarlier, generally acknowledged as the capital of absinthe, produces an apéritif based on green aniseed, Pontarlier Anis . Liqueurs made from gentian and pine in the Haut-Jura plateaux are also popular.

Winemaking

Burgundy

Burgundy wines are so well known that the name itself is synonymous with the deep red colour of some of the great vintages; yet the fine white wines are certainly not to be neglected!

The history of Burgundy wine – The cultivation of vines was introduced to the region by the Romans and spread rapidly. Wine from Burgundy was quick to win accolades, a historical fact confirmed by the names of certain vineyards (Vosne-Romanée) which recall the popularity of the wines with the Roman prefects of the province of Maxima Sequanorum.

In the 12C, Cistercian monks built up the vineyards, in particular the famous Clos-Vougeot. In the 15C the dukes of Burgundy took to styling themselves “lords of the best wines in Christendom” and supplying their wine to royalty. Louis XIV is known to have contributed to the fame of Côte de Nuits, whereas Madame de Pompadour favoured Romanée Conti and Napoleon preferred Chambertin.

In the 18C the first commercial warehouses opened at Beaune, Nuits-St-Georges and Dijon, sending representatives all over France and Europe to find new markets for Burgundy wines.

One of the enemies of the vine is a small aphid from America, phylloxera, which made its appearance in the Gard départe­ment in 1863. In 1878, it was found at Meursault and within a short time it had completely ravaged the Burgundy vineyards. Luckily, disaster was checked by grafting French vines onto resistant American root stock, enabling the slow restoration of the Burgundy vineyards.

Distribution of vineyards – There are 25 000ha/ 62 500 acres of vineyards producing officially registered vintages in the Yonne, Nièvre, Côte-d’Or, Saône-et-Loire and Rhône départements . Average annual production of high quality wines is about 1 400 000hl/36 400 000 gal.

In the Yonne, the region of Chablis produces some excellent crisp, dry white wines, and the hillsides of the Auxerrois some pleasant rosés and reds (Irancy, Coulanges-la-Vineuse) . Well-known wines such as Pouilly-Fumé come from Pouilly-sur-Loire in Nièvre. In the Côte-d’Or highly reputed vineyards stretch from Dijon to Santenay. The Côte de Nuits produces almost exclusively top vintage reds, some of the most famous of which are Gevrey-Chambertin, Vougeot, Vosne-Romanée and Nuits-St-Georges. The Côte de Beaune wines include reds such as Volnay, Savigny-lès-Beaune and Pommard and whites such as Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet.

In Saône-et-Loire, the Mercurey region (Côte Chalonnaise) produces high quality reds (Givry, Rully) and whites (Rully-Montagny) , whereas the Mâconnais is justly proud of its Pouilly-Fuissé , widely considered one of the best white wines in France.

Grape varieties – All the great red Burgundy wines are made from the Pinot Noir, the aristocrat of grapes. It was already highly prized at the time of the Great Dukes. The Pinot Noir is native to Burgundy but has been successfully elsewhere. The juice of the Pinot Noir grape is colourless, and a special vinification process produces Champagne.

The Chardonnay grape is to white wines what the Pinot Noir is to red. It makes all the great white wines of the Côte d’Or (Montrachet-Meursault), the famous vintages of the Côte Chalonnaise (Rully), of the Mâconnais where it grows best (Pouilly-Fuissé) and the wines of Chablis (where it is known as the Beaunois grape).

Other grape varieties include the Aligoté , which has been cultivated for centuries in Burgundy, as it grows in the areas where the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes do not thrive, and which produces white wines which are popular, even if they do not have quite the same reputation for character and quality as those from the more famous vineyards. These are the wines that are combined with blackcurrant liqueur (cassis) to make the popular French apéritif known as Kir after the man who is credited with its invention, a mayor of Dijon, Canon Kir.

Soil – The soil type plays an important role in allowing the particular characteristics of the vines to develop. Vines grow best in dry, stony soils, which are well-drained and easily warmed by the sun. Limestone soils produce wines with rich bouquets and a high alcohol content, which can be aged for many years (Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune), whereas mixed soils of silicas, limestone and clay yield lighter wines (Chablis).

Climate – The prevailing climate in Burgundy is temperate, but frosts do occur and must be taken into con­sideration. Burgundy vineyards are usually laid out in terraces on the hillsides at altitudes of between 200-500m/656-1 640ft. They seem to thrive best when facing between south and east (south-west for Pouilly-sur-Loire). In each village, the vineyards are divided into climats , as determined by the soil content and exposure of the plot. The name of an individual vineyard with excellent conditions for producing fine wine, often known as a clos , may be added to the name of the village on the label. Some of the climats have earned such a reputation over the years that their name alone suffices to identify them: Chambertin, Musigny, Clos de Vougeot and Richebourg.

Millésime and aging – When selecting a Burgundy wine, it is important to take into account the year in which it was bottled, as the weather conditions have a big impact on quality. Although they do not enjoy the exceptional longevity of the famous vin jaune du Jura , Burgundy wines mature well. Generally, they are best kept for five to seven years, but some white wines can age eight to ten years and exceptional reds can be stored for up to 15 years. Wines mature best in a dark, well-ventilated area at a constant cool temperature and about 70% humidity.

Serving Burgundy wines – Certain dishes enhance the pleasure of drinking Burgundy wines:

– with oysters, shellfish, fish: Chablis, Meursault, Pouilly-Fuissé, Mâcon, or other dry white wines, chilled;

– with fowl, veal, pork and light dishes: Côte de Beaune, Mercurey, Beaujolais or other light red wines served at the storage temperature;

– with game, red meat, wild mushrooms and cheese: Chambertin, Côte de Nuits, Pommard and other hearty reds served at room temperature.

Beaujolais wine – The Beaujolais vineyards cover an area 60km/37mi long and 12km/7.5mi wide from the Mâcon escarpment to the north to the Azergues Valley to the south. This area occupies about 22 500ha/55 595 acres and yields an average of 1 250 000hl/27 375 000 gallons of wine a year. The majority of these (99%) are red, exclusively from the Gamay grape. There are three categories of Beaujolais wine, starting with the crus, the best vintages, followed by Beaujolais Villages and Beaujolais supérieurs.

The 10 leading crus are Moulin-à-Vent, an elegant wine with lots of substance, which can be kept for 5-10 years, closely followed by Morgon with its fine bouquet, which has often been described as the “Beaujolais most like a Burgundy”. Firm and fruity Juliénas , well-rounded Chénas , classy Fleurie and Côte de Brouilly all have a keen following, whereas the fresh and lively Saint-Amour, Chiroubles (which the French consider to be a feminine wine), Brouilly and Régnié-Durette (the baby of the crus, having been promoted in 1988) are best enjoyed young.

Fruity Beaujolais-Villages is at its best after about a year in the bottle. Beaujolais or Beaujolais supérieurs do not age well and are best served slightly chilled (unlike most red wines).

Jura

The vineyards of the Franche-Comté extend south-west of Salins, along a narrow strip of land 5km/3mi wide, covering the limestone and mixed clay and limestone slopes of the western edge of Jura. Four vintages are produced from these vineyards: Arbois , the most famous, Château-Chalon, Étoile and those of the Côtes du Jura appellation, which includes local wines such as Poligny and Arlay. A Jura wine festival is held each September in Arbois .

The grape varieties cultivated in Jura include Trousseau for red wines, Poulsard for rosé, Chardonnay for white wines and Savagnin, used to create the celebrated vin jaune du Jura.

Red wines are produced in small quantities and are fresh and fruity when young, developing a subtle, characteristic bouquet with age. The most famous rosé wines come from Arbois and Pupillin. These lively but not overpowering wines have a pleasant fruity flavour. Local white wines , mainly from the Arbois and Étoile regions, are dry, yet supple, and fairly heady. Not only do these wines accompany local dishes, they are also excellent apéritif wines. The region also produces sparkling wines , both white (Étoile, Arbois and Côtes du Jura) and rosé (Arbois and Côtes du Jura).

Vin jaune is a speciality of the Jura region (Château-Chalon and Arbois), made from the Savagnin grape. The wine is left to age in barrels for 6-10 years, where it begins to oxidise and acquires its characteristic deep yellow colour and distinctive bouquet beneath a film of yeasts (similar to the production of sherry). A good vintage can be kept for over a century. It is relatively rare and expensive, with a strong flavour. .

Vin de paille , straw wine, also particular to the Jura region, is made from almost over-ripe grapes dried on a bed of straw for a couple of months before being pressed. This produces a strong, sweet dessert wine.

Macvin is another Jura dessert wine, made from grape must blended with Franche-Comté eau-de-vie, and can reach up to 16-20% alcohol content. It is usually drunk chilled as an apéritif.

Red and rosé Bugey wines are light and fruity, but the white Bugey wines are the best. Particularly good examples are Roussette and Seyssel, followed by rarer wines such as Virieu or Montagnieu. This region also produces some sparkling wines, Seyssel and Cerdon .

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