For the wine amateurs and connoisseurs alike, a wine holiday to France is not complete without a visit to at least one of the renowned French wine regions, such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne or the Rhone Valley.
As most French regions produce world-class wines, wine estates -whether small family-run vineyards or grandiose properties, open their doors to visitors all around the country to invite them to bask in the magic that the vineyards and cellars have to offer. You too, can experience this rather unique « behind the scenes » and let yourself be charmed: from spending a day with a winemaker to learn his craft and taking a stroll among centennial vines in a château to participating in the harvest itself, the wine regions of France will give you plenty of opportunities to discover their beauty.
One of the reasons why France is the perfect country for a wine trip is the fact that over the centuries, the French have mastered the entire spectrum of wine-making: from elegant champagnes to sumptuous dessert nectars, there is French wine for all tastes. So whether you have a predilection for sparkling wines, are a fan of velvety reds or prefer refreshing rosés, you can rest assured that whatever your favorite French wine style might be, you will find its finest expression in, at least, one of the wine making regions of France. Champagne, Burgundy, Provence or Sauternes will make for an unforgettable trip.
Vineyards are all over the map in France: from north to south, east to west and even on the island of Corsica, you will find wine-producing châteaux and estates. The offer is so vast that it is recommended to decide in advance which regions you want to tackle during your wine holiday in France to start planning from there. An alternative to the usual geographically-based choices (“close to Paris”, “in the south of France”, etc.) is to plan an itinerary according to your taste in wine: that way you get double the enjoyment with bucolic landscapes and wines-you-actually-love galore guaranteed!
Here is a short overview of the top French wine regions to help you get started:
For rich and aromatic white wines: Alsace. The 170-kilometer Alsace Wine Route -one of the oldest in France, will take you through scenic landscapes and medieval villages with typical half-timbered houses. Eat traditional regional food like flammekueche or choucroute and drink Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer for a pairing made in heaven. If you visit Alsace around December, you are in for an extra treat: the famous Alsace Christmas markets will be in full swing.
The Châteaux Route and its Grands Crus Classés: Bordeaux. Arguably, the quintessential French wine region. Home to over 6,000 wine-making castles and the most famous wines in the world, this area is a must-do for every wine lover visiting the country. Ideally located, Bordeaux is the perfect base for a multi-day escapade in the Southwest of France: it is close to the Atlantic coast (perfect for a fresh-oysters lunch) and less than two hours away from Cognac, so you can easily include a visit to the region where the famous eau-de-vie (“brandy”) comes from.
For Pinot Noir connoisseurs: Burgundy. Some of the most sought-after and expensive wines in the world come from this quite unique French region: think Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) or Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru, for example. Burgundy is the only wine-growing region in the world with recognized climats: vine plots with their own microclimate and specific geological conditions, which have been carefully marked out and named over the centuries. They were listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2015, now it is your turn to discover them!
For lovers of all-things sparkling: Champagne. Marvel at its hillsides, visit the maisons (“houses”) of the most famous champagnes in the world and venture into their underground cellars to discover some of the production secrets of this remarkable wine. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Champagne is only an hour and a half away from Paris, which makes it the perfect destination for a day trip.
La vie en rosé, lavender fields and the Cote d’Azur: Provence. Incredibly picturesque, the south of France is synonym of summer and glamour. Come visit this breath-taking region and enjoy the sun-kissed beaches of Saint Tropez and Nice while sipping on a glass of refreshing rosé. You might even get to see a movie star walk past you in Cannes!
This is not an exhaustive list of all the wine making regions of France but it gives you some tips to begin planning your next wine trip in the “Hexagon”. We have left some fine wine-making regions out, like the Rhone Valley, the Loire Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon or Beaujolais, for example, but make sure you don’t when organizing your itinerary for your French wine holiday: remember that most regions in France produce high-end, delicious wines and it is up to you to come taste them.