The Burgundy countryside of central eastern France is undeniably beautiful by any standard. Gentle hills are sprinkled with medieval villages and grand chateaux, while glittering canals snake through the landscape, making this region a popular destination for barge holidays in France. |
But Burgundy is more than simply a beautiful landscape. For centuries, the verdant hillsides of this area have been producing top-quality wines, prized all around the world. The rolling countryside is chequered with the vineyards of thousands of small-scale growers, who proudly tend the grapes that produce such distinctive and varied wines. Since the Middle Ages, winemakers have tended these slopes, but it is only now, in 2015, that the treasure trove of history and culture that lies in Burgundy’s vineyards is being internationally recognised.
At the 39th assembly of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation held in Bonn, Germany, Burgundy’s vineyards were recognised as a culturally significant site of “outstanding value to humanity.” This means that the vineyards have officially been added to the prestigious list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which includes such cultural icons as the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, and the Great Wall of China. UNESCO has been giving its stamp of significance to sites since 1978 and, ever since, the impressive “World Heritage Site” insignia has been much coveted by major cultural attractions all around the world.
World Heritage Status
In order for a location to be named a World Heritage Site, it must meet at least one of UNESCO’s ten criteria. Sites may be natural (such as the Grand Canyon or the Galapagos Islands) or cultural (such as Pompeii or the Tower of London). Burgundy’s vineyards are considered a cultural site; according to UNESCO’s criteria, the vineyards are 'an exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition' as well as an 'outstanding example of traditional human settlement representative of a culture'.
The Concept of Terroir
Vineyards have long been popular with tourists on summer trips or barge holidays in France, but the vineyards of Burgundy are different from those in the rest of the country. The region strictly adheres to the idea of terroir, a concept that refers to the combination of sun, soil, climate, and geography that imbues a wine with special, distinctive qualities. The idea of terroir holds that two wines, produced from the same variety of grapes in adjoining fields, may be drastically different because of their variance in location. In Burgundy, you might find a Grand Cru vineyard only a few yards away from vineyards producing grapes for simple, less costly regional wines.
The vineyards of the region are divided into many smaller, individual terroirs called climats. The system of 1,247 climats and their associated production units, villages, and towns is only one of the two parts of Burgundy that has been recognised by UNESCO. The second part is the historic centre of Dijon, which, according to UNESCO, 'embodies the political regulatory impetus that gave birth to the climat system'. Together, these two parts represent the viticulture and viniculture that has been going on in this region since medieval times.
The Importance of UNESCO Designation
UNESCO World Heritage Site designations are extremely important to the tourism industry, as international recognition tends to draw visitors. Burgundy, already a popular destination for barge holidays in France, might notice an uptick in visitors in the coming months and years due to its time in the spotlight.
Such recognition is also important to conservation projects, as sites that are awarded World Heritage Site status are sometimes eligible to receive funding for preservation efforts. Burgundy is now eligible for such financial assistance.
Discover the Beauty of Burgundy
In the light of this lovely region's recognition, many travellers may be keen to see the terroirs and climats for themselves. The region is crisscrossed with canals and waterways, making it an excellent destination for barge holidays in France. A barge cruise is the perfect opportunity to see the area in all its glory. The Burgundy canal winds through the heart of wine country, passing by medieval towns, chateaux, and stunning cathedrals. Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to visit internationally-renowned wineries and vineyards and taste the fruits of the famous climats.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways. We can provide you with luxury, all-inclusive barge holidays in France to enjoy the sights of the country's most picturesque waterways. Cruises are also offered in Holland, Italy and the UK.
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