When it comes to French wine, there are three most popular terms that are associated with it which are Bordeaux, Champagne, and Burgundy. Aside from being the traditional styles of wine, they are also the actual places or regions in France where these wines are produced. Since they are the big three when it comes to Old World wine production, they are mostly on many travelers’ bucket lists.
If you’ve experienced wine tasting in the United States and you want to try wine tasting in the famous vineyard of France as well, you should do a little planning before you fly to France. It’s because wine tasting in Europe can be an entirely different experience compared to wine tasting in spots like Napa. To help you out, here are some tips for planning a wine tour in France.
Choose a Region
Unlike in Napa Valley, the distance between the wineries in France are quite far. Like Champagne and Bordeaux, the distance between them is a multi-hour drive, therefore, it’s best to choose what region you really want to focus on.
- Bordeaux: This region is known for its blends made with grapes such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbc. Their white wines can be made from Semillon or Sauvignon Blanc. There are also well known sweet dessert wines here.
- Burgundy: This region is known for soft red wines such as Pinot Noir, and white wines made from Chardonnay.
- Champagne: This region is obviously popular for its sparkling wines.
These are the top three wine regions in France but there are other regions you can try as well such as Alsace, Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence, Loire Valley, and Rhone Valley.
You can choose one or two regions depending on your time frame or how long you’ll be having your vacation. You can fly to a regional airport that is closest to the wine region you plan to visit. However, most overseas flights land at Paris’ Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport. From there, you can take a budget, regional airplane going to the places near the wine region of your choice.
Guided Tour or Self Tour
You can choose between a guided wine tour or you can go by yourself. However, if you know little about French wine and you’re looking into learning more, a guided tour might be best for you.
There are a lot of wine tasting tours that can be found in all of France’s wine regions, most especially in Bordeaux. The tour operator will be able to give you interesting information and they will know the best places to take you based on your likes and dislikes.
If you want to go on tour by yourself or without a guide, you should keep a few items in mind. Remember that not all wineries in France accept visitors. Therefore, if you’re planning a self-tour, you should try to connect with regional tourism boards to get maps and visitor information. It’s also great if you can have a designated driver.
The Best Time to Visit
France’s wine country can be visited throughout the year, but the best time or seasons we can recommend is during spring and fall. It’s because these are the most important seasons when it comes to the annual growth cycle of grape vines.
During these times, you will be able to observe the grapes through their cycle in the vineyards. You may also have the first-hand opportunity to taste and purchase wines from the current harvests during these times.
Check Their Business Hours
Another important thing when planning a wine tour in France is to check their business hours. It’s because France’s business hours might be different from what you’re used to and many wineries there are not open on a daily basis. Therefore, it’s best that you book in advance, check their websites, or call before going there.
If you will be coming in a large group, it’s better to schedule your visit or tour in advance to make sure that there will be someone to assist you when you arrive. Also, Saturdays in France can be busy and crowded, so try to plan your visit on weekdays if possible.
Bring a Wine Luggage
If you plan to purchase some wines, it’s better to bring a wine luggage. It’s because bringing wine back home with you can be a hassle especially in airplanes. A wine luggage can keep bottles safe from breakage, and some of them can maintain a steady temperature and pressure levels making your wine cool and safe.
Don’t Be Intimidated
Remember that you’re doing a wine tour to learn more about the famous wine they offer. Therefore, you should enjoy the experience and try to learn as much as you can. Feed your curiosity by asking questions. Good winemakers are expert educators as well, so it’s certain that they will be glad to talk about their products as well as processes. Never let any stereotype about the French, or even a bad experience, change your mind about visiting a winery in France.
Going on a wine tour in the famous wine regions of France is certainly one of the major goals of every wine lover out there. We hope the tips we shared will help you in planning your wine tour in France.