Love good food? Love history? Love wine? Then France is calling you. France is one of those places that people dream about, and rightfully so. I dare say that it’s hard to have a bad day in France. Fresh bread and cheese in the morning, and a glass of fine wine in the evening with a view of the Eiffel Tower – it’s heaven for food and wine lovers.
When in France, go on a winery tour or two to learn more about the history of wine making and taste some of their finest. Here are a few world-famous wine trails in France.
No, not every bubbly wine is Champagne (something that I realized later than I should have done). Sparkling wine can’t claim the name unless it’s originated from here. The Champagne region is only 160km from Paris, yet seems a lifetime away from the cityscape. There are five circuits that wind their way through each of the appellation territories. The Coast Bar route is the longest at 220 km, and the shortest courses are the Montagne de Reims and the Massif de Saint Thierry, each 70 km. Most big champagne houses offer tours of their magnificent cellars by reservation, but it’s always fun also to visit the smaller producers. At Hautvillers is the grave of Dom Pérignon, the 17th-century monk who is known to have invented sparkling champagne.
I always thought Bordeaux had such a sophisticated name. Maybe because of the ‘x’. If you have an interest in wine, you need go wine touring in Bordeaux. Six distinct wine producing territories branch out from the heart of the Bordeaux region. The grandest of the Bordeaux wine territories is Médoc, along the Gironde’s left bank, home to distinguished reds such as Château Margaux, Château Mouton Rothschild, and more. More of the fine red wines can be found north of Bordeaux, and the sweet or dry white wines are to the south of the city.
The Burgundy vineyards were planted in the Roman period, but it was the Cistercian and Benedictine monks in the Middle Ages who expanded the grape growing and brought order to wine making. Two of the most popular grape varieties growing in the Burgundy region are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The soils of Burgundy are extremely varied in their richness, depth, and mineral content. Located in the central-eastern part of France, Burgundy has five wine growing areas. It’s a region of small, mixed ownership vineyards, with a relatively small production – the quantity of wine produced here is only a small fraction of that of Bordeaux’s.
Alsace’s wine route crosses the age-old vineyards between the Rhine plain and the Ballons des Vosges. Mostly white wines are produced near the picturesque villages of France’s northeast border. The primary grapes grown in Alsace are white: Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Muscat. Pinot Noir is also grown, and usually served chilled. The wine trail in Alsace is lined with charming floral villages, wine cellars, good inns, authentic winstubs (typical Alsatian restaurants) and numerous castles. The geology of Alsace is a mosaic, made up of granite, limestone, gneiss, schist and sandstone. Such different soils bring out the best in the region’s grape varieties and Alsace enjoys a generous climate, perfect for wine making (and tasting!).
The vineyards of the Rhone Valley, which form a corridor between the Mediterranean Sea and Northern Europe, have been producing wines for at least 2,000 years. All together about 250km from north to south, the vineyards of the Rhone Valley are a shifting landscape. From Vienne to Avignon, and on to the borders of the Luberon, on both banks of the river, there are plenty of places to explore and try different wines.
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