Exciting New Ways to Visit France's Vineyards and Wine Caves
You know the coolness and the mellow of the caves, the charm and the calm of the vineyards… but can you imagine being able to do things differently? A number of winemakers and tourism professionals are offering visits that are more “forward-looking,” more lively, more original, more memorable… in deux chevaux automobiles, on quad bikes, in hot-air balloons, in all-terrain vehicles, on horseback… wine tourism is on its way to becoming one of our greatest pleasures!
In the caves
Rappel down into a cave!
Rappel about 30 meters below the surface to find your bottle of champagne. This is how it works at the Maison Leclerc-Briant in Epernay.Well harnessed and supervised by a specialist, you enter through a chalk pit and descend along a rope to end up in the heart of the cave among 600,000 bottles. Magical and sporty!
In Champagne, 30 meters down, the caves of Mercier in Epernay, with a wealth of 15 million bottles, can be visited by train. After discovering the impressive “champagne lightning” shown at the Universal Exhibition of 1889, you take an elevator to access a panorama of tunnels and chalk quarries that unfold over several kilometers and can be discovered from the train. An hour’s visit is necessary before you return to the light. Another small train (this one outside) surveys the celebrated domain of Saint-Emilion. The Train of the Grand Vineyards borrows the route of the Grands Crus where, for 30 minutes, you discover the most beautiful residences and wineries.
From Swinging to Tasting
The Maison de Champagne Dumont invites you to taste its champagne… after a round of golf! Those who opt for an initiation with a professor, after 9 or 18 holes, find themselves together again with other participants for a lunch at the club house of the Ermitage de Vendeuvre sur Barse before spending the rest of the afternoon in the caves of this champagne house, with a tour and the opening of several magnums. In the southwest, around Bordeaux and its prestigious appellations, it’s Bordeaux Label that offers discovery tours like “Golf and Wines” combining the pleasures of the game with the pleasures of tastes.
Do you know how to "saber" open a champagne bottle?
You've seen it done, you've dreamed of trying it… now it’s time to learn! With a saber and a magnum in hand, you’ll make the quick little cut that will send the cork flying! But don’t try this without a short lesson first. Learn how at the Leclerc-Briant champagne house in Epernay (Champagne region), which offers this original and unforgettable instruction, with the awarding of a certificate afterward!
At the heart of the vineyards
Cross the vineyards in a Citroën 2 Chevaux
France, its wine… and its mythical 2CV (“deux chevaux”) cars! Why not discover the vineyards comfortably seated in this iconic Citroën automobile? All along the Loire Valley, you’ll follow the wine routes aboard the “dodoche” belonging to the Hotel Saint Cyr, which offers this activity over the course of two afternoons. From the Ferté Saint Cyr, along the banks of the Loire, chateaux and ancient villages mix with vineyard landscapes colored by the seasons. In Burgundy, Eric from Au Coeur du Vin escorts passengers to the sloping vineyards that produce the celebrated wine of Chablis, while passionately explaining what you are seeing and expressing his own love of the terroir.
To the north of Lyon, the Domaine Brisson organizes walks equivalent to those in the Bordelais. It’s the Bordeaux Label that has put these visits into place, crossing the grand estates of the region, always from the comfort of the famous Citroëns.
Vineyards and beautiful cars!
After the 2CV, suppose you’d like to discover the vineyards aboard an old Citroën Traction, a Jeep, or even a Bentley… it’s possible! Gérard Brisson shares his Bentley S3 (and his passion!) to help you discover his estate at the heart of the Cru Morgon in Burgundy.
Vintage Roads offers a unique experience over the course of three days: a visit from the vineyards of the first Côtes de Bordeaux to Cadillac in a Citroën Traction-Avant. Broken up into beautiful stops at chateaux, the visit goes from estate to estate, accompanied by wonderful tastings, oenological explanations, and delicious regional meals.
Finally, fans of Jeep Willys will appreciate a romp through the Burgundian vines in these khaki-colored vehicles, open and adapted to the terrain, presented by Bourgogne Jeep Découverte.
In a quad on the vineyard paths
In Champagne, with Champ’Aventure, discover the champagne vineyards by getting aboard a quad. By reservation, for a half- or full day, accompanied by a guide, the journey takes you around Festigny, across the woods, hillside vineyards, fields, or small paths up to the banks of the Meuse. In a group (minimum of 8 people), the same activity is available in Burgundy, near Beaune, through the Takamaka agency, also offering a tasting of wines and an introductory lesson on driving quad vehicles. In Bordelais, Bordeaux Label offers group quad outings by request.
The sloping vineyards in an All-Terrain Vehicle
Why not take an all-terrain vehicle (or a VTT, as they’re called in France) to go criss-cross the vines? This opportunity is available through Takamaka in the vineyards of Burgundy and Alsace. After seeing the view of the hillside vineyards and following the vineyard paths, the visit concludes in a cave for a replenishing tasting.
This same activity, over the course of two days, is offered in Vaucluse (Provence region), departing from the Hotel de Provence in Orange . And for those who wish to organize a tour on their own, another route crossing the vineyards is offered by Provence à Vélo (Provence by Bicycle).
In the prestigious vineyards of Bordelais, Bordeaux Label also puts together outings on all-terrain vehicles covering the vineyards of a single area. Less strenuous, the “discovery” program using a VTC bicycle from Evazio lets you escape for several days in the vineyards of the Médoc. Please note that the different tourism offices in the Bordelais offer marked maps of green paths for cycling, so that you can go discover hundreds of kilometers of vineyards for yourself.
Explore the vines at a trot, or at a gallop
In the Médoc at the Château Lanessan, visits to the wine storehouses and the museum of the horse, as well as a tasting all take place after an hour of harnessed walking among the vines. Over the course of a half-day, in Burgundy, with Dilivoyage, a horse-drawn carriage takes visitors across the Pommard vineyard, from Meursault or Savigny-les-Beaune. In Champagne, it’s around Verzenay that you ride thanks to the Attelages de Verzenay (French only).
On horseback, all over the Bordelais basin, BD Tours organizes original equestrian outings right in the heart of the vineyards. Similarly, Evazio offers a circuit over the course of 8 days based on the great wines of Bordeaux.
GPS and GPS treasure-hunts in the vineyards
Accompanied by a GPS and in a group, you head off for adventure to try out “géocaching” (a GPS-enabled treasure hunt) amid the vines of Clisson. This practice, a cross between a race and an orienteering course, is organized by the Vineyard Leisure Organization (French only), proving that there is an original and intelligent way to discover a land and its cultural heritage.
From the Air
Fly over the vineyards in a hot-air balloon
The Loire Valley, the vineyards of Burgundy, Alsace, Champagne, or even the vines of the Rhone Valley… in the hour it takes to fly in a hot-air balloon, all these landscapes offer themselves up to passengers. As far as the eye can see there are rows of successive vines, mixing the colors of the season, natural reliefs, and the calm you can only get with altitude.
- France Montgolfières (France balloons) in Burgundy and the Rhone Valley
- Aérovision (French only), for flights in Alsace
- Air Magic (French only), for flying over Champagne or the Loire Valley
- The Domaine de Durand (French only): accompanied by a winemaker-balloonist, discover the vineyards of the coasts of Duras, then taste its organic wines.
Glide in an ultra-light aircraft (ULM) above the estates
Fly like a bird! From June to October, leaving from Soulac-sur-Mer, ULM Médoc Océan (French only) offers 60 minutes of flying over the vineyards of the Médoc and the chateaux of the Bordelais. At the doorway to Champagne, at Meaux, Véliplane (French only) transports passengers above the celebrated houses and villages of Champagne, in an ultra-light plane or an Autogyre (an ultra-light aircraft with a propeller). In the Midi-Pyrénées, with the ULM Club of Castelvert (French only), the landscapes of the vineyards of Gaillac reveal themselves to passengers. From Libourne, thanks to ULM Sensations (French only), you can fly over the vineyards of Monbazillac, Bergerac, Sauternes, or Loupiac. Meanwhile, in the Rhone Valley, the vineyards of the Hermitage are the subject of an outing thanks to ULM Evasion 26 (French only). In Touraine, Val-Tour-Air shows visitors vineyard landscapes and royal estates… the vineyards of Chinon, Vouvray, Bourgueil, as well as the chateaux of Chenonceau, Amboise, and Chambord. From the edge of Alsace, near Mulhouse, to Habsheim, you follow the wine route from the air with in a multi-axis or pendular ULM from the ULM Center in Upper Alsace.
“Parachute” in the vineyards
In Gironde (Aquitaine region), at Montalivet, get ready for a parachute jump with Air Mauss Parachutisme (French only), between the sea and the vineyards. From one side you see the blue of the ocean, and it meets the green of the vines in infinite alignments. Depending on the season, in Champagne or above the vineyards of Sancerre in the Centre region, the team from "4,000metres.com" (http://www.whatajump.co.uk/) supervises participants for descents at nearly 200 km/hr with a view of amazing scenery.
The Vineyards as Seen from a Helicopter
During a “discovery” flight from the private base of Chateau Maucaillou (French only), you fly over the closely cropped vines, the impressive and superb Médoc vineyards, and the estuary of the Gironde (Aquitaine region). An unforgettable aerial loop for the discovery of the most beautiful estates and homes of this famous wine-making area.
Vineyards accessible to Everyone
Burgundy, through Vite-en-Bourgogne has set up a visit to the vineyards of Chablis and Auxerrois over the course of two days specially adapted for people with reduced mobility, and adhering to the criteria for France's "Tourism and the Disabled" label.