French wine regions
Everybody loves summer, but it’s over now and new challenges are before us.
Idle lying on the beach should give way to exploration. Fall and winter are the best time for wine tours in France.
Some like spring and the new wines coming out into the market. I, somehow, prefer the fall. The wineries are busy doing their thing, the scent of young wine and chestnuts is in the air. Preparations for the winter can be very tasty. Winter, too. Wine is trying to mature, cellars are full, tables are covered with winter delicacies. Every season offers its charms, but fall and winter are the ones to enjoy cellars, wine tastings and good food.
Meanwhile, vineyards are taking their winter beauty sleep under the leaden sky, gathering strength for a revival in the spring. The winemakers have more time in the winter and like to chat with their guests about the frost of last April, the hail of July, or the August fear of whether the harvest will be good. In the end, the year did turn out pretty good. Not one of the best, but towards the end it did manage to make up for some lost time. Those first two weeks of September improved the impression, just like the rain in late August. The conversation goes on, a new bottle is opened, a plate of domestic cheese put out…
That’s what a day visiting wineries all over France looks like. Different regions, different stories. The distances are also considerable, so you should pick a region. Making the choice is no easy task.
What’s best? Where to go?
Provence? It offers a pleasant climate and the warmest temperatures at this time of year. If you like rose wines, of which you’ll find the biggest selection here because after all, Provence is their homeland, then it’s definitely the best choice. Aix en Provence, then villages like Gordes, Les Baux and all those wonderful wineries. Of course, be sure not to miss the Châteauneuf du Pape region with some of the best French reds.
Bordeaux? Always a favorite with which you can do no wrong. Best of the best, but naturally, this also translates into the most expensive. A good combination of the city and a diverse region. Here, it’s easy to spend a week savoring the food and wine that you won’t forget. Médoc, Saint Émilion, Cognac is close… This region requires time and a deep pocket.
Alsace? Some of the best whites come from this region. Alsace, they say, also has the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe. Colmar, Strasbourg and those beautiful villages in between like Eguisheim, Ribeauvillé, the Haut-Koensibourg castle and many, many more. Alsace is always a good choice. White Rieslings and all their versions are excellent.
Burgundy? Home to some of the world’s best whites. This is the region from which Chardonnay expanded and conquered the world. Gorgeous little villages along the river Saône near the town of Beaune. Premier Cru vineyards on the quiet slopes of the hills between Dijon and Chalon, and Chablis is also not far. The nearby Lyon is a gastro-mecca of France.
Champagne? Is there anything better? Breakfast with champagne in the midst of the vineyards surrounding the town of Epernay. The streets here are named after winemakers, Martin, Perignon, Chandon, Moët and others. All grand names, but there are about five thousand smaller winemakers with their production, tasting rooms and museums. Reims and the region are about an hour and a half away by TGV high-speed train.
These are not all the regions that should be visited, but they are the most famous ones. France is a large country where every part has something good, interesting and tasty to offer. If there were only one country that I would have to travel to for the rest of my life, it would be France with its wines, food, and other points of interest.
France in general is always a good choice, and not just Paris. There is a lot hidden in the countryside that is yet to be discovered by many. I was lucky enough to have visited all of the above, as well as some other regions, traveling to France at least a couple of times every year. And every year I discover new places, gastronomy, culture that make me respect this country more and more.