Hidden in the hills to the west of the best graded vineyards of Beaujolais, the crus, the little town of Beaujeu is still surrounded by vines. This settlement has historical significance being the medieval capital of Beaujolais and named after the first lordly castle of the Beaujeu family which was built on a high-perched rock above town. The place looks slightly uncomfortably crammed into the narrow valley bottom today, the steep slopes above reserved for vineyards.
Attention lower down focuses around the church of St Nicholas, the medieval edifice sadly said to have been built on the site of a lake where Lord Guichard III of Beaujeu’s son drowned. On the square around the church stand two good museums.
Les Sources du Beaujolais is one of half-a-dozen Pôles Oenologiques scattered around the Beaujolais area, each of these contemporary museums concentrating on a different aspect of the famed vineyards. Behind its timberframe façade, Les Sources du Beaujolais (t 04 74 69 20 56) reveals the history of Beaujeu and Beaujolais using amusing modern techniques on a lively guided tour. The outstanding stone sculptures on display at the more traditional Musée Marius Audin (t 04 74 69 22 88) were rescued from Beaujeu’s château and church.
Apart from sampling local wine in town, the nutty aromas emanating from the Huilerie Beaujolaise incite visitors to enter this specialist shop and see how its highly-prized nut and seed oils are made the old-fashioned way. On the culinary trail, visit L’Escargot de Beaujeu (t 04 74 04 84 49), a snail farm on the Route des Echarmeaux.
For much more information on the Beaujolais, read the Cadogan guide to the Rhône-Alpes.
Copyright text : Philippe Barbour 2011
Copyright Images : Beaujeu.com