Discovering France’s Famous Wines
Our six years as expats in Europe have turned us in to oenophiles; one of our favorite things to do when traveling is to seek out the local wine. Wine, it seems, is a universal language - the sniff, swirl, and serene glow as the wine’s notes dance across your palette and the nod of approval that follows know no language barrier.
Biking through lush vineyards, sipping some of the most highly coveted wine blends in the world, blending your own wine or taking a cooking lesson to prepare the perfect meal to pair it with, are just a few of the experiences that make wine tourism so special. With 17 different wine regions all easily accessible by France’s network of railways and river ways, wine holidays in France are unique trips you won’t soon forget. We know we certainly won’t.
In Burgundy, unlike many of France’s other wine regions where the focus is on the chateaux or winemakers, the focus is on the soil. The soil, or “terroir” here is so unique that the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune areas have even been submitted for consideration to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No two parcels of land produce the same wines, lending to some truly unique wine tasting experiences.
Some of the world’s most valuable Pinot Noir grapes are produced in Burgundy, and the reds like Vosne Romanée, Gevrey Chambertin and Chambolles Musigny are world-famous. With so many vineyards in close proximity, one of the best ways to explore is to simply pack some local cheese and a baguette and head out a self-guide cycle tour of the vineyards near Beaune and Pommard. Two vineyards in particular should not be missed: Dijon-Côte de Nuits, which has been awarded the prestigious Vineyards and Discoveries label for their developments in wine tourism, and Mâcon for their surprising luscious white wines.
We think fall is a fantastic time to visit Burgundy. Not only can you go truffle hunting from September to mid-December, but also the third weekend of November is the Hospices de Beaune Wine Sale. It’s a big rendezvous for wine enthusiasts and professionals with more than 600 casks of wine up for auction under Christie’s hammer. Burgundy pulls out all the stops with a huge a festival and it’s a great way to discover the wine and gastronomy of the area.
One of our favorite areas of France is the Savoie Mont Blanc region. It is here that we spend our winter days on the pistes just so we can justify all that delicious tartiflette and Reblochonade we consume. And there’s nothing better than wrapping your hands around a steaming cup of vin chaud as the snow falls.
But to only experience the wines of the Savoie while skiing in to the mountain huts is a shame. These terraced vineyards, stretching up hillsides so steep it seems impossible anything would grow, are home to grape varieties that can’t be found anywhere else. Wine appreciation takes on rugged charm in these landscapes - hire a boat on France’s largest natural lake, Lac du Bourget, in the morning and bike the vineyards in the afternoon.
Though there are so many wine regions to be discovered in France, one in particular shouldn’t be missed. What started as a delicious accident when the yeast in young wines bubbled up in the warm springtime is now the beverage of choice at New Year’s Eve parties, Grand Prix races and Paris Fashion Week. While some of the famous international brands demand a hefty fee for a tour of their cellars, there is no better time to head north of Paris to Champagne.
Take part in the 140th anniversary of the creation of Brut Champagne with the celebration of Madame Pommery until June 30, 2015. Madame Pommery was an Iron Lady of Champagne, introducing revolutionary techniques that changed the face of wine making here. There are exhibitions of contemporary art and, of course, champagne tastings throughout the celebration.
We’ve only highlighted a few of the wonderful wine experiences you can find in France’s wine regions, but there is truly something for everyone, from visiting vineyards set amongst Cinderella-like castles to sommelier certifications. We know we can’t wait to explore more of France’s wine regions ourselves.