Raising a glass to leisurely riding...

The French do cycling and wine very well, so it makes perfect sense to combine the two!

Do I prefer the Meursault or the Puligny-Montrachet? Well, the former has a lovely vanilla-y aftertaste, but I’m wavering towards the latter – not just because of its delicious taste but also because I’ve just ridden through the very vineyards where the grapes it’s made from are grown, and I’m sitting in the restaurant belonging to the winery which makes it, in the village of the same name.

Actually that’s a lie, I’m home now, but a few weeks ago I was in Burgundy on a trip that combined cycling, wine-tasting and a bit of sight-seeing. Oh, and eating eight-course gourmet meals. And staying in rather nice hotels. Who says cycling in France needs to involve mountain stages?

Riding through the vineyards is stunning, and was the highlight of the three-day trip. We were guided along little roads up into the hills and beautiful villages above Beaune – ‘capital of Burgundy wine’ – by an enthusiastic Canadian cyclist called Sarah who had fallen in love with a Burgunidan, Burgundy and Burgundy wine. I thought I had a great job… Not only did she know where to ride, she knew all about winemaking and the ‘terroirs’ which dictate the quality of the wine, and, crucially, she knew the winemaker in Puligny-Montrachet…

It was a real eye-opener. It was the first time I’d been to Burgundy, and the first time I’d been wine-tasting. And it was the first time I’d ridden a hire bike. God they’re awful! Actually, Sarah’s weren’t bad, but on the other days… if you like heavy frames, even heavier steering and super-wide saddles, you’ll love these… Then again, we only had to cope with the beautifully smooth tarmac of French cyclepaths and roads. (You'll  find loads of similar riding trips on the French Tourist Board's website.) With fine wines and haute cuisine as a reward for our efforts. A heavy bike with brick-like handling was a small price to pay really.

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