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Beaujolais:  Wine Lover's Holiday

beaujolais vineyard windmill vacation rentals

The Beaujolais area of Northeast France stretches across the departments of Rhone and Saone-et-Loire,  north of Lyon and south of Burgundy. Originally called Beaujeu, the name gradually became Beaujolais. Today Villefranche is the principal town.  The wineries are a main reason to visit the Beaujolais, but the countryside is worth a visit regardless: vibrant green with woods, open meadows, farm land, fir trees, the Tarare Mountains and of course miles of vineyards. Scattered across this rich rural land are medieval villages and châteaux.

Among the most quaint and picturesque villages in Beaujolais is Jarnioux, built from the golden colored ochre stone in a valley crossed by three rivers. It has medieval towers, a bridge with elegant arches and a castle. Le Pays des Pierres Dorées (Land of the Golden Stones) is the name given to the villages here built from the ochre stone which glistens like gold in the sunlight. Oingt is just one of the villages listed among the "most beautiful villages in France." In Bagnol, Theize and Charnay there are magnificent castles. Follow the Route Fleurie which connects all of the Beaujolais' beautiful villages. Visit Villefranche to see the Gothic and Renaissance architecture like the main street Rue Nationale with its many Italian style inner courtyards. The town has one of the country's oldest markets. Visit the beautiful Notre-Dame des Marais Church and the Paul Dini Museum, a contemporary art museum specialized in works by local artists.

If you've come here for the nature rather than the wine, you will find plenty of outdoor activities like horseback riding, cycling and hiking. In Claveisolles you can see the biggest of the Douglas fir trees in Europe (55 meters tall & 4 meters in diameter).

Beaujolais Wine

The winemaking methods in this area are traditional. Most of the work is done by hand. In the meticulously kept vineyards you will often see people at work, caring for them almost year round, not just during harvest season. Vineyards dominate the Beaujolais landscape. Due to the slightly warmer climate, the Pinot Noir grapes which grow in neighboring Burgundy do not flourish here. The Gamay grape is used for most of the area's red wine production.

Beaujolais is so connected with wine that they even have a wine theme park (Hameau du Vin). The best way to enjoy all the wine related attractions, cellars, vineyards and tasting rooms is to follow the Beaujolais Wine Route which runs for 140km from Saint Amour to Lozanne. The "follow the Grape" wine tour offers 12 possible routes which cover 63 towns and villages. Beaujolais' best wines are called “les Crus”, roughly translating as Vintages, wines of determined geographical origin.  Because of special favorable growing condition, due to orientation and soil, often on hillsides, those wines can keep and successfully compete with the best of Burgundy.   Those « Grands Crus »  are Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, Chenas, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Regnie and Saint-Amour.  Less highly ranked --and priced-- are the Beaujolais Villages wines followed by simple and enjoyable Beaujolais.

Beaujolais Nouveau is a popular wine to come out of this area, bottled and released in the weeks following harvesting. It is a red wine made from Gamay grapes (“Gamay Noir a Jus Blanc because the skin is dark red but the inside of the grape is white). It is a vin de primeur meaning it is only fermented for a few weeks. The Beaujolais Nouveau is released each year on the third Thursday of November at midnight. The wine has a fruity flavor with very little tannin and it is served chilled. It has little appeal to real wine connoisseur but it’s a fun and festive way to celebrate a new crop. Beaujolais Nouveau does not improve with age. Beaujolais AOC (Appelation d’Origine Controllee) is certified as coming from a definite area and made according to traditional methods, frequently organic. 

For an authentic Beaujolais experience, France Homestyle offers vacation rentals to make your stay truly memorable.  Ferme Bressane is a charming, beautifully renovated 19th century farmhouse located on a rolling country estate among private gardens and fruit trees.  Close by are starred restaurants that feature the finest cuisine of the region drawn from the fertile farm fields, rivers and ponds of the area.  Maison des Pierres Dorees located in the village of Denice a few miles from Villefranche-sur-Saone where the area's famous nine Beaujolais “grands crus” are made is a wine lover's vacation rental paradise accomodation with seven bedrooms and five baths.  Between wine tastings you will enjoy the gentle landscape of low rolling hills, country roads, and rural lanes, perfect for hiking and biking.