A Biker's Reverie

Saone River - History and Geography
  |  Gorp.com

The Satne River does not get much attention, overshadowed as it is by the Ctte d'Or or "Golden Hillside" just a few miles to its west. We can, however, credit the Satne with having contributed to the geology that makes its western flank home to some of the most coveted wines in the world. The Satne River rises in northeastern France, in the Faucilles Mountains (Vosges) of Lorraine, and flows 298 miles almost due south through the heart of Burgundy, joining the Rhtne River at Lyon.

The real action"along" the Satne begins near Dijon, the capital and biggest city of Burgundy. Dijon does not sit on the banks of the river, nor does the river really come into play until Chalon-sur-Satne. The river does, however, parallel the sun-drenched, clay-packed slopes of vineyard real estate that set any wine amateur salivating. From Dijon to Mbcon, the Satne meanders through four of Burgundy's five great vineyard areas: the Ctte de Nuits, Ctte de Beaune, Ctte Chalonnaise and Mbconnais; even further south it slips through Beaujolais before heading into the urban sprawl of Lyon.

The best way to cycle through this reach is along the aptly named"Route des Grands Crus" or, roughly, route of the greatest wines ("grand cru" being the highest quality appellation given to the bottled Burgundy grape). The list of villages through which it passes reads like a menu of the best wines in the world. Really. Chentve, Marsannay-la-Ctte, Fixin, Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-St.-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne-Romanie, Pernand-Vergelesse, Aloxe-Corton, Beaune, Pommard, Volnay, Meursault, etc.

In addition to wine, there are plenty of other distractions along the way: castles, clos (enclosed vineyard plots, of which Vougeot, home to the Confririe des Chevaliers du Tastevin, a.k.a. the fabled Brotherhood of the Knights of Winetasting, is the most famous and important), ancient hospices (the one in Beaune is intimately connected to the production of wine), and much, much more.

Further south, the cities of Chalon-sur-Satne and Mbcon are more workaday, but the land and vineyards around them are just as astounding.

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