France Wine Tours
France wine tours can be some of the most beautiful, romantic and delicious wine country tours in the world. While there are hundreds, no thousands, of other wine country areas around the world, there is something special and almost holy about France. We all know that Paris is for lovers, well France wine tours are for lovers who love wine! But even if you are traveling alone, with your family or whomever, the vineyards of France are some of the most famous in the world and their wines have influenced viticulture and cuisine the world over.
But like California, Italy or other areas that produce a lot of wine, there are many wine regions within France to plan a France wine tour. So which do you choose? This page will give you some general info about wine tours in France as well as some info about some of the specific regions that are popular to visit.
How to plan your France wine tours
First, choose a wine appellation you'd like to visit. Below we discuss several of the more famous regions in France. Second, decide how you would like to tour wine country. As we have discussed on the Wine Country Tours page, you can plan a self guided tour, planning your own transportation and lodging, or you can sign up for a package France wine tour. Either way has its benefits and it really depends on how you want to travel. A package tour, and there are many offered for just about any region of France, takes the worry out of it as you can often find tours which have all your winery visits and tastings planned already. You simply show up and are along for the wonderful ride.
- Bordeaux: Bordeaux, in the southwest of France on the Gironde river, is one of the most famous wine region in the world. The red wines, produced from blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and three other grapes are cherished and collected by thousands of wine lovers. White Bordeaux and Sauternes, a sweet white wine, are also produced here. These are generally large chateau, which are old castles, which sits on a domaine with vineyards. Each producer generally makes one primary wine. The region is fairly flat with large domaines spread out over several villages. The feeling here is aristocratic, almost regal. There are dozens of France wine tours which take you to the various vineyards of Bordeaux. One thing to keep in mind is that Bordeaux is roughly split in half by the river and is separated into two sub-regions, the "Left Bank" and the "Right Bank" of the Gironde. In the left, including such appellations as Pauillac and Margaux, Cabernet is king, while on the right bank (Pomerol, St. Emilion, etc.) generally uses more Merlot.
- Burgundy: The seductive wines of Burgundy are a huge lure to wine lovers from around the world. Produced from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, red and white Burgundy can be some of the best, and most expensive, wine anywhere. The region is beautiful, but is generally a bit cooler compared to Bordeaux. It stretches from Chablis in the north, through a long row of vineyards called the Cotê d'Or (the slopes of gold) where much of the best wine in the world is grown, down to the Macon, Cotê Chalonaisse and Beaujolais in the south. There is not nearly as much organized wine tourism as you find in Bordeaux or somewhere like Napa Valley in California. Instead, small, ancient villages are strewn along the almost linear stretch of hills with small domaines scattered amongst them. The old villages are quaint and beautiful. Most of the best producers require appointments to tour the facilities and taste the wines so plan ahead!
- Provence: Of all the France wine tours, Provence is one of the most popular, not because of just the wine, but because the region is so beautiful and has so much more to offer. Provence is a region in the south of France, right along the Mediterranean coast. It is so wonderful because besides the beautiful vineyards spanning the hillsides near the sea, the weather is great, with warm Mediterranean air filling your nose with scents of the wild growing herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, savory, lavender, etc.) There are many wines made in Provence, from crisp, refreshing whites, to great, fun summer rosés to hearty reds, but the two most famous appellations are Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the Southern Rhône valley (still technically part of Provence) and Bandol (right along the coast). Both make hearty red wines but also make some rosé (some of Bandol's are considered the world's best) and white. Most of Provence, particularly the more westernly parts are not yet over-run by the more eastern riviera resorts. It is still quaint and beautiful.
- Alsace: Alsace is in the northeastern corner of France. France wine tours of Alsace are fun because of the interesting, almost caricature building style of the homes and buildings. It looks like you are in Germany, but the culture is decidedly French. The beautiful little medieval towns are strewn across the rolling hillsides with vineyards all around them. The food is very German influenced with choucroute (sauerkraut) featured prominently. It pairs beautifully with the local wines which are mostly white from several varietals, primarily Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Muscat. The wines vary from dry and intense to super-sweet dessert-style wines. The weather does tend towards the cool side. The small ancient walled towns are a great attraction, but the bigger cities are beautiful as well with Strasbourg's magnificent cathedral being one of the most beautiful in France.
- Loire Valley: The Loire Valley is a large river valley spanning from almost the middle of the country to the western coast. It is a great destination for France wine tours because it has many different appellations to choose from, from zesty, refreshing whites from Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Muscadet and Touraine, to full-bodied dry and sweet whites from Savennieres, Vouvray and the Coteaux du Layon, to rich and fulfilling reds from Chinon, Bourgeuil and Saumur-Champigny. The classic grapes grown in this region are Sauvignon blanc, Chinon blanc and Cabernet franc. Besides beautiful vineyards the region has dozens of beautiful old chateau strewn through the region, many of which you can tour.
- Champagne: France wine tours of Champagne are very satisfying because you can potentially sample many Champagnes, which might be hard to do in the US unless you have a lot of money. The cuisine and the great sparkling wines are all more than enough reason to visit. Again, this is a cooler climate region which can be quite cold in the autumn and winter. Many of the larger houses have large tours, most by appointment. The smaller, grower producers most definitely need an appointment to tour and taste the wines but they are worth it as they are making some of the most impressive sparkling wines in the world today.
- Rhône Valley: The Rhône Valley is a stretch of wine producing regions that run north to south along the Rhône river. It is often split into two parts, the Northern and Southern Rhône. The southern part is technically part of Provence, which we discussed above. It is known for its hearty red wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape as well as other appellations such as Gigondas, Vacqueyras and the Côtes-du-Rhône. In the northern part, Syrah reigns as the most important red grape, making up the majority of wines from appellations such as Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie, Croze-Hermitage, and St.-Joseph. There are also floral, aromatic whites made from Viognier in Condrieu and full-bodied whites from Hermitage and others. This area is great for France wine tours because in many areas there are dramatic vineyards, terraced along steep cliffs which slope down to the winding river. This beautiful and unique wine country is hard not to fall in love with. While the north can be quite cold, it is closer to Burgundy, the weather gets more warm and Provençal as you travel south.
- Languedoc-Roussillon: This region is the large area in the south of France that runs west from Provence (see above) along the Mediterranean coast all the way up to the Spanish border. Lots of wine has always been produced here but for years it was mostly mediocre jug wine. In the last few decades a core of dedicated young vignerons have pushed the limits of these appellations and brought them to the world stage. The area now makes many outstanding wines which can compete with the best in the world. Like Provence, this is absolutely beautiful country with the Mediterranean sea to the south and beautiful, rolling hills. Considered by many to be one of the most satisfying France wine tours and vacation destinations for this natural beauty as well as the ancient history and sights that fill this part of France. Because the Languedoc is relatively new for fine wine, the tourist trade has not hit here as hard as further east along the Mediterranean coast, so you can find quaint and quite areas to enjoy the sun and vines.
We hope this helps you get started in planning your France wine tour. For more general information about wine country tours, visit our Wine Country Tours page.
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