France is famed for its culinary excellence, with escargot and frog’s legs topping the bill. However, these speciality dishes are in need of a good drink to wash them down with and luckily visitors to France are spoilt for choice, being one of the greatest wine producers in the world. Here’s my top 5 list of the best French Wine Regions to visit.
With ferries to France taking just a few hours from the south coast of England to the northern coast of France, us Brits are spoilt for choice when it comes to exploring the French wine regions. The closest to us is arguably the best, its famous Champagne region which is just an hour from Paris. The drink itself is a true French delicacy and one which is highly regarded and taken extremely seriously. Whilst the high end producers charge quite hefty sums to tour their vineyards and cellars, there are many smaller producers who are more than happy to show visitors around. I would recommend Champagne Gardet, who give visitors the chance to see ‘old school’ champagne making, with their production dating back to 1895 as well as Champagne Tribaut.
Alsace is a long narrow region, no more than 50 km wide, which covers 190 km of the Rhine Valley and the border with Germany. The Lower Rhine region (Bas-Rhin) centres around Strasbourg, while the Upper Rhine (Haut-Rhin) covers the more southerly area. The southern area with quaint cobbled villages amongst the picturesque Vosges slopes, including the huge Regional National Park of the Ballon Vosges, which is a protected natural environment, is packed with vineyards to tour. Crossing the two regions is the wine route which journeys north to south from Marlenheim (near Strasbourg) to Thann (near Mulhouse) through over 60 beautiful towns and villages with more than 50 premier wines produced on route.
The Loire Valley
Having studied the ferry timetable, it is entirely possible to make a short day trip to The Loire Valley from the UK, with ferries travelling from Portsmouth to St. Malo overnight. St. Malo is a three hour drive then onto the Loire Valley, a journey through the rolling hills of the French countryside. The Loire Valley is a beautiful part of the country and produces the widest range of wine in any part of France. As a Rose drinker, the Loire Valley is my destination of choice as the region is famed for this particular type of wine. From Wine Festivals through the summer months to specialised wine tours around the region, visitors here are spoilt for choice. Personally, I would recommend visiting the vineyards that supply the wines of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.
The Burgundy (French name ‘Bourgogne’) region to the south-east of Paris, between the towns of Sens and Auxerre to the north stretching to just north of Lyon in the south. Until 1477 the region was independent of the rest of France and fought on the side of the English in the Hundred Years War. It has an enormous amount of important and beautiful historical sites from this time as it was also a major and wealthy religious centre of Europe. Wine enthusiasts will be able to sample hugely renowned wines such as Chabils and Nuits-Saint-Georges as they tour the beautiful vineyards.
The Bordeaux Region
Technically not a region as such, the city of Bordeaux has given its name to a host of wines which come from the surrounding Gironde region. The city itself is a stunning place to visit for a city break, with cultural sites at every turn and even France’s longest shopping street. Deep down though, for many visitors here, it’s all about the vino. Some of the worlds most famous wines are produced a stone’s throw from the city itself including Bordeaux Superieur, Saint-Emilion, Entre-Deux-Mers and Medoc. As with Champagne, there are many other vineyards to visit aside from the famous ones and the local tourist site has a section on its website dedicated to wine tourism.