Guest Notes for Episode 57: Burgundy Region and Wine

Category: Burgundy Area

Discussed in this Episode

  • Clairvaux
  • Pontigny
  • Cluny
  • Cîteaux
  • Escargots
  • Jambon persilé (parslied ham)
  • Les oeufs meurettes
  • Beef Burgundy
  • Coq au vin
  • Les gougères
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Crème de Cassis (Black Current liqueur)

Burgundy History Guest Notes

Kelly’s guest notes provide a great refresher into Burgundy History. We didn’t go over every detail during the episode, but if you’re going to Burgundy these are worth a read.

Burgundy Today

Burgundy is one of the 22 regions of continental or Metropolitan France, and is made up of four departments: the Yonne, the Nievre, the Côte d’Or and the Sâone et Loire.

Geography and Demographics

  • Surface Area: 31,582 km2 12,194 sq. mi); 6% of France’s total surface area.
  • Population: 1,631,000
  • Density: 52/km2 (130/sq. mi)

Geographical situation

-Burgundy is located in central eastern France. The region begins a hundred kilometers south of Paris and

-The North “lower Burgundy” is made up of sedimentary plains covered by farming sites and forests.
-In the East: the “Saône countries” there are plains covered by grassland and fields.
-In the center, the “bourguignons” there are calcareous and stony plains, covered by vineyards.
-The ” Morvan massif” with its highest point Haut-Folin (901m), is made up of granite, but is surrounded                                     by plains for farming.
-In the South the hills of the ” Mâconnais” are connected to the “Massif Central” and offers various crops,                                     farming and vineyards


-Important rivers such as the Saone and Yonne allow access to the Rhone and Seine have provided the region with a major network of navigable waterways such as the Burgundy Canald in 1794). Goes from Digoin on the Loire to Saint-Jean-de-Losne on the Sâone. It is 112 km -69 miles -long and has 61 locks. Burgundy is a watershed.


Agriculture involves 64,000 people. This is equivalent to 5.9 % of the regional employment.

Forests – 3,700,000 hectares (14,000 sq mi) of forests in France are publicly owned, with the remaining 10,100,000 hectares (39,000 sq mi) being privately owned. Two-thirds of privately owned forests are larger than 10 hectares (25 acres), and 48% are larger than 25 hectares (62 acres).


-Burgundy industry includes: metallurgy, chemistry, pharmaceutical, electronic, plasturgy, stationery, food industry, mechanical and automotive, high communication technology. Among the largest companies are Seb, Dim, Algeco and Senoble account for the largest companies in Burgundy, according to their turnover (+ 400 million euros TO*).

Gastronomy in Burgundy

  • Escargots
  • Jambon persilé (parslied ham)
  • Les oeufs meurettes
  • Beef Burgundy
  • Coq au vin
  • Les gougères
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Crème de Cassis (Black Current liqueur)

A Brief History of Burgundy


In the very beginning (around 20,000 years ago – Upper Paleolithic) settlements began in the limestone caves of Arcy-sur-Cure and St Moré in the north and Azé and Vergisson in the south, and the humans were Neanderthals.

They buried their dead and left evidence of their hunting in camps along the ancient alluvial plains of the Saône, the Yonne and the Loire, and in the cliffs of Genay.

Prehistorical site you can visit in Burgundy

The Rock of Solutré in the south gave its name to the Paleolithic period “Solutrean”

Around 4000BC agriculture began in Burgundy. From the Danube came tribes who brought with them the technology and expertise to build wooden houses in village groups. Neolithic tribes from the Rhône valley brought a sophisticated ceramics industry and a belief-system centred on megaliths, tumuli and dolmen tombs. The metal ages were about to begin.

 The Celts (the Bronze Age and Iron Age)

Burgundy was about to become a crossroads for trade routes and the centre of Celtic Civilisation in Europe.

Celtic Sites you can visit in Burgundy

  • Mont Lassois and the treasure of VIX
  • Bibracte capital of the Eduens

Gallo-Roman Period

France was known as Gallia by the Romans, and its people asGalli. The Greeks knew them as Keltoi – which is where we get ‘Celts’ from.

The Conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar; the Gallo-Roman period from 52 BC

The Conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar, Roman Consul, and governor of Transalpine Gaul, took place in the period from 58 BC to 51 BC. These campaigns were carried out by the Roman legions under his leadership.

They aimed to suppress the rebellions that arose among the Gallic tribes in the area of what is now France and Belgium. In the end, the climax of all the rebellions comes at the siege and capture of Vercingetorix’s stronghold of Alesia (believed to be in Burgudny).

Gallo-Roman Sites you can visit in Burgundy

  • Alesia
  • Autun

The Burgonds

The Burgundians were one of the Germanic peoples who filled the power vacuum left by the collapse of the western half of the Roman Empire. In 411, they crossed the Rhine and established a kingdom at Worms.

Amidst repeated clashes between Romans and Huns, the Burgundian kingdom encompassed what is today the borderlands between Switzerland, France, and Italy. In 534, the Franks defeated Godomar, the last Burgundian king, and absorbed the territory into their growing empire.

Burgundy’s modern existence is rooted in the dissolution of the Frankish Empire. When the dynastic succession was settled in the 880s, there were four Burgundies.

The Franks

Numerous small Frankish kingdoms existed during the 5th century. In 500 Clovis fought a battle with the Burgundian King dom at Dijon.

The Capetian Dukes and Monastic Dominance 9C – 13C

Tremendous change occurred during the Middle Ages in Burgundy, due in the most part to the spread of Christianity and the influence of the monasteries.

Christianity had been spreading across Europe but it was given a real boost in 800 AD when Charlemagne was made Holy Roman Emperor bringing law and order, and prosperity to the continent.

The first monastery in Burgundy was at Cluny, started by Benedictine monks in 910 AD. The Abbey reached its height in the 12th century with over 1,000 monks in residence. It was the largest church in Christendom, only succeeded in the 16th century by St. Peter’s in Rome. It dominated Europe for hundreds of years.

Monastic site you can visit in Burgundy

    • Cluny abbey and town
    • Fontenay Abbey Site (Unesco World Heritage)
    • The Château du Clos de Vougeot

But with power came luxury and corruption. One young monk, St. Bernard, left Cluny in 1112 to get back to the roots of religion, wanting a return to a simple, monastic life. He went to the Cisterian monastery, founded by Robert of Mesme in 1089.

Bernard was the great reformer of Cîteaux before going on to set up other abbeys including Clairvaux , Pontigny and  Fontenay. 500 Cisterian abbeys flourished during his lifetime alone and this figure increased six fold over the next century.

Romanesque Architecture

The effects of these two centers of power on the area were profound and lasting. There was a construction boom to end all booms as 80 grand cathedrals were built, 500 large churches and parish churches too numerous to mention sprang up.

Romanesque sites you can visit in Burgundy

  • Cathedral of St Lazarus in Autun: Giselbertus signed the magnificent Tympanum over the door
  • Tournus the abbey of St Philibert

The style also changed as the puritanical Cisterians under St.Bernard gained momentum, and the sculptures of the likes of Gislebertus – the apes, lions and devilish creatures – gave way to the clean unadorned lines of Fontenay Abbey and Pontigny.

Wine Legacy and the Concept of Terroir

Wine had been produced since Roman times in Burgundy but the Benedictine monks of Cluny left a lasting legacy when they introduced the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape varieties to the region.

Being astute, the monks also realized that the wine from certain parts of the vineyard was better than others and divided the land up into ‘parcels’ according to aspect, soil, orientation etc.

This became the concept of ‘terroir’ so important in Burgundy today and many of the demarcations still exist; the monks of Pontigny, for example, started wine growing in Chablis, picking out plots which produce Grand Cru wine today. Clos de Vougeot was divided into three vineyards with differing soils.

The Valois Dukes

It was under the Valois Dukes that Burgundy became a European power. In the late 14th and during the 15th century, the Burgundy court was a great patron of of art, music and fine living.

The House of Valois-Burgundy (French: a maison de Valois-Bourgogne) was a noble family deriving from the royal House of Valois. It is distinct from the Capetian House of Burgundy, descendants of King Robert II of France ruling the Duchy of Burgundy from 1032 to 1361, although both houses stem from the Capetian dynasty.

The term “Valois Dukes of Burgundy” is employed to refer to the dynasty which began after King John II of France (also Duke of Burgundy as John I) granted the French Duchy of Burgundy to his youngest son, Philip the Bold in 1363. During the Hundred Years’ War, the dukes rivalled with their royal cousins uniting a great number of French and Imperial fiefs under their rule. However, their plans to establish an autonomous kingdom ultimately failed when the last duke Charles the Bold sparked the Burgundian Wars and was killed in the Battle of Nancy in 1477.

Philipp the Bold (Duke 1363–1404)

The Capetian House of Burgundy became extinct when Duke Philip I died in 1361, before he was able to consummate the marriage with Margaret of Dampierre, heiress of Count Louis II of Flanders.

The Duchy of Burgundy was then unified with the French royal domain under the Valois king John II. Soon after, however, John’s fourth son Philip the Bold received the Duchy of Burgundy as an appanage from the hands of his father.

Philip the Bold ruled as Duke Philip II of Burgundy from 1363 to 1404. In 1369 he himself married the widowed Margaret of Dampierre, and when his father-in-law Count Louis II of Flanders died in 1384, he succeeded him not only in the French counties of FlandersArtoisRethel, and Nevers, but also in the Free County of Burgundy, becoming a direct vassal of the Holy Roman Emperor.

The next year he arranged the double wedding of his son and heir John the Fearless with Margaret of Wittelsbach, daughter of Duke Albert of Bavaria-Straubing and sister of Prince William II of Bavaria, who himself married Philip’s daughterMargaret.

Already upon the death of King Charles V of France in 1380, Philip together with Duke Louis I of Anjou and Duke John of Berry had acted as regent for his minor son King Charles VI. As Charles VI suffered from increasing mental derangement, Philip tried to spread his influence across the French kingdom, which met with the fierce resistance by the king’s younger brother Duke Louis I of Orléans.

John the Fearless (1404–1419)

Raised in Flanders, Duke John the Fearless succeeded his father in 1404 and unified the heritage of his mother Margaret of Dampierre with the Burgundian duchy. Ceding the French counties of Nevers and Rethel to his younger brothers Philip II and Anthony, he began a skilful see-saw policy to create a scope for free action while the French lands were ravaged by the Hundred Years’ War against the Kingdom of England.

Like his father he quarreled with his Valois cousin Louis I of Orléans, whom he had assassinated in 1407. The remaining tensions with the Orléans liensmen led to the French Armagnac–Burgundian Civil War, whereby Duke John allied with King Henry V of England and in 1418 occupied Paris. Lured into an ambush and murdered by the Armagnac leader Tanneguy du Chastel the next year.

Philipp the Good (Duke 1419–1467)

John’s son Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy from 1419, renewed his father’s alliance with King Henry V of England when he signed the Treaty of Troyes in 1420 against the French Dauphin Charles VII.

He first concentrated on enlarging the Burgundian territories, acquiring the succession in the Imperial County of Namur in 1421 (with effect from 1429) and succeeding his cousin Duke Philip of Saint-Pol in the Imperial duchies of Brabant andLimburg.

He also secured the Bavaria-Straubing heritage of his mother Margaret of Wittelsbach and his uncle Duke John III of Bavaria-Straubing, when finally in 1433 the last Straubing heiress Jacqueline ceded the Imperial counties of County of Hainaut (Hennegau), Zeeland, and Holland, as well as Frisia to him.

By the 1435Congress of Arras Duke Philip acknowledged the rule of King Charles VII of France and in turn reached the formal independence of the Burgundian lands from the French Crown. In 1441 he also purchased the Duchy of Luxembourg from the last duchess regnant Elisabeth of Görlitz.

Charles the Bold to the Rash (1467–1477)

The Valois-Burgundy duke Charles the Bold, ideal picture of a knightly duke, wore himself out in armed conflicts. With the acquisition of Guelders, theBurgundian Netherlands reached their greatest extent.

Charles’ plans to accomplish the rise of his dynasty peaked in the negotiations with the Habsburg emperor Frederick III about his elevation to a “King of Burgundy” and the marriage of his daughter Mary to Frederick’s son Archduke Maximilian of Austria.

Enraged at the reluctance of the emperor, Charles started the unsuccessful Siege of Neuss in 1474 and hurled himself in the Burgundian Wars against Valois France, the Duchy of Lorraine and the Swiss Confederacy. In consequence, the Valois-Burgundy dukes became extinct in the male line when Charles was killed in the 1477 Battle of Nancy.

Mary of Burgundy (reign 1477–1482)

The Burgundian heritage passed to the Habsburg archduke Maximilian, who married Mary of Burgundy seven months after her father’s death and could ward off the claims raised by King Louis XI of France in the 1479 Battle of Guinegate.

The French king could only seize the Duchy of Burgundy proper, Artois, and the former Burgundian fiefs in Picardy. The House of Habsburg abruptly rose to a royal dynasty of European scale, however, at the price of the centuries-long France–Habsburg rivalry.

Things to do with Kids


The Muséoparc Alésia and the archaeological site (the last battle between the Romans (Julius Caesar and the Gauls (Vercingetotix, leader of the allied Gallic forces). You could also enjoy the Gallic Oppidum of Bibracte

Sport and Adventure

Touroparc (animal and amusement park)

NEW – Visit Dijon by canoe or kayak along the Ouche river (

Almost every town has a municipal swimming pool, some towns have lakes or water holes (all kids like to swim and play in the water, but Burgundy is far from the sea).

There is the “Parcours de la Chouette” in Dijon. You buy the booklet and let the children guide you around following the brass owls on the streets of Dijon.

Most monuments and museums have these games booklets for kids.

Things to do on a rainy day

Museums – the Museum of Fine Arts of Dijon has one of the finest, richest collections outside of Paris, the children may like the Pompom room, a 19th century (Burgundian) animal sculptor. There is the mustard museum in Beaune FALLOT. You can take the mustard making tour, kids like that to.

In Dijon, there the minoterie (former flour mill) that has set up a space for children to do crafts and other manual activities.

Many towns have local museums or themed museums that are not too expensive and won’t take all day.

The photography museum in Chalon sur Saöne

Restaurants Recommendations

Fine haute cuisine meal – the restaurants of Bernard Loiseau (Three starred Michelin chef who committed suicide in 2003). His restaurants can be found in Saulieu (Bernard Loiseau), Beaune (Loiseau des Vignes), Dijon (Loiseau des Ducs) and now there are two in Paris.

Family style country restaurant with lots of character, but a bit out of the way : La Ferme de Rolle, Ternant in the haute Côte de Nuit (Nuit-Saint George). You need a car to get there, but its worth it for the drive (you can see some dolmens in the woods if you look carefully), the atmosphere (farm fresh meat roasting on the fire) and of course, the food.

For a great luncheon experience – La Grange in the town of Flavigny sur Ozerain (where the film chocolate was filmed). It’s cafeteria style, but all the food is locally grown and made – when there’s no more there’s no more, but they might make offer to make you an omelette with farm fresh eggs.

It’s not open every day (closed December 1st to March 1st ; open on Sundays and Bank holidays from March 1st to June and in the high season, open from Tuesday to Sunday at noon). And you can stroll around the charming medieval town of Flavigny (can be combined with Alésia – see above)

GIE des 4 Heures Soupatoires Place de l’Eglise 21150 Flavigny-sur-Ozerain

Hotel Recommendation: Look for a Gîte!

I prefer to recommend « gites » rather than hotels, and there are a lot of lovely rural gites or chambres d’hôte in the country.

But for a historical upscale experience there is the Abbey of the Buissière – a hotel/restaurant in a former Cistercian abbey.

Things That Are Over Rated in Burgundy

Something over rated: do avoid the big wineries like Patriarche or le Marché aux vins, both in Beaune or Zeiltner in Chambolle Mussigny. If you are going to do a tasting, try to find the smaller wine growers. You may need an appointment, but it will be worth your while and you may taste some nicer wines.

Château de Premeau Prissey (Côte de Nuits essentially reds), Domaine La Croix Senaillet (Côte Maconnaise – essentially whites) for example.

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Category: Burgundy Area