With miles of well-maintained highways and a wealth of wine regions to discover, France is the ideal destination for a wine-lover’s holiday. Whether you’ll be staying at villas in South of France with a group of friends or taking a romantic road trip for two, here are five regions worth exploring.
Just north of Paris, the Champagne region’s cold winters and chalky soils produce the world’s most famous bubbly. What is now the beverage of choice at fashion shows, Grand Prix races, and New Year’s Eve parties started as a delicious accident, when the yeast in young wines heated up and bubbled in the warm spring weather.
With a little help from a monk by the name of Dom Pérignon the process was perfected. Learn the history behind big labels like Moët et Chandon and G.H. Mumm with guided tours of their cellars and vineyards. Moët hosts twice-daily group tours for as little as €16 that include a flute of champagne. Book ahead to avoid disappointment, especially during peak tourist season.
Unlike other regions of France that tend to focus on the Château or winemaker, in Burgundy the focus is 100% on the soil or “terroir.” You will find some of the most valuable Pinot Noir grapes in the world here along the sloping hillsides or Côtes, destined to become Grand Cru wines.
With so many vineyards in close proximity, pack some local cheese and a baguette and head out a self-guide cycle tour of the vineyards near Beaune and Pommard. To explore further afield, a local driver / guide can safely shuttle you around from vineyard to vineyard while filling you in on local history.
The Rhône Valley
Continuing south past Lyon, you will hit one of France’s most productive wine regions, the Rhône Valley. The most famous local appellation is the Châteauneuf-du-Pape, an AOC with a rich history dating back to the early 14th century when the Pope was based in nearby Avignon.
Today’s reds are a blend of up to 13 varietals, with a high percentage of Grenache and Syrah grapes. Honorable mention: if you’re planning a sun-filled holiday on the Mediterranean, Provence and the Longuedoc-Rousillon regions are two more wine regions worth discovering.
Heading west towards France’s Atlantic cost, you will arrive at one of Europe’s most popular red-wine regions. Known for wines that are big on style and excitement, it’s no surprise that Bordeaux’s grape of choice is primarily the Cabernet-Sauvignon.
Here the wines are named for their “Château,” whether the winery is based in an actual castle or a more modest building. Each Château prides itself on developing a signature wine, known for consistent flavor and quality. What better reason could there be for taking part in a multi-stop guided tour?
After all those rich red wines, you might be in need of something more refreshing. Continue north to the Loire valley and you can take your pick from dry Chenin Blanc wines, light Muscadets, and tangy Sauvignon Blancs. For romantics or architecture buffs, the Loire Valley is also home to some of Europe’s most Cinderella-worthy castles (many with their own vineyards). Be sure to charge your camera, these are some of the most scenic vineyards in France!
About the author: A wine-lover and traveler, Katherine has visited wineries throughout France and Spain. When she’s not traveling, Katherine is the editor of Luxury Retreats’ website and travel blog, a brand specializing in personalized villa vacations and luxury rentals in more than 50 destinations around the world.