Wine tasting in France
France has long been the beacon of viticulture, and has produced some of the finest vintages in history, with regions lending their names to almost all grape varieties. Whether you’re a snob for a Southern hemisphere Sauvignon or favour a California Pinot Noir, you probably have France to thank for it. If you have a car, there should be little to put you off exploring France’s famous wine capitals on a road trip – just be sure to stay overnight locally when choosing to indulge in a few glasses of regionally produced wine. Tempted to try a spot of wine tasting in France? After catching a P&O ferry to Calais, four of the most distinguished wine regions in the world are at your fingertips. Each have their own allures, and here, we delve into what makes them unique.
It may not be the most well-known French wine region, but the Loire Valley is unbelievably pretty and the perfect place for a gentle road trip – making it well worth the journey from Calais, or taking a tour here from Paris. Also known as the Garden of France, the region has a long history of winemaking that dates back to medieval times, when the local wine was the most sought after in Europe. Its speciality is in fresh, lemony white wine of the Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc variety, as well as sparkling Cremant wine, making it the second largest sparkling wine producer after Champagne. Besides the abundance of vineyards, the Loire Valley has a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list and is the perfect place to marvel at fairytale châteaux, including the impressive Château de Chambord (reportedly designed by Leonardo da Vinci), Le Chateau d’Usse (i.e. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle), and Château de Saumu.
It might be a longer drive from Calais at around 8 hours, but travellers to Bordeaux are more than rewarded for making the trip. This is arguably the greatest wine region in the entire world, and connoisseurs simply flock here to sample the superior claret. The calcium heavy soil and an oceanic climate make it the perfect environment for growing vines, making it the largest grape growing area in France. Fine cellars around the world are filled with wines from this remarkable area, where dark, robust reds are the order of the day. There are over 100,000 vineyards across the province, many of which offer wine tours, but the most eminent producers are situated around Medoc. Venture to Château Mouton Rothschild to sample what claims to be the finest wine in Bordeaux. The house is home to a museum dedicated to its famous bottle art, where you can feast your eyes on labels hand-painted by Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.
If you’re happiest sipping fine red wine in picturesque countryside, then a trip to Burgundy is a must. Situated slightly east of central France, this breath-taking area is a vision of gently rolling hills, sun-drenched vineyards and mustard fields, making it perfect for scenic strolls and lazy, long lunches. World class pinot noir and immaculate medieval sites such as Fontenay Abbey, and the village of Vézelay, make the lengthy drive from Calais well worth it. Renowned for its centuries-old knowledge in the art of viticulture, the secret to the success of their wines is the region’s landscape, with its sloping valleys, limestone soil and sunny climate. Spanning 60km, the Route des Grands Crus (Wine Route) is a must if you have a car. Passing through some of France’s most prestigious vineyards from Dijon to Beaune – the region’s wine capital – the route takes you across 38 different wine villages, and is boasts stunning scenery along the way.
If you’re looking to experience the south of France in all its glory, what could be lovelier than a road trip through Provence? Just north of the Mediterranean Sea and south of the Alps, Provence is renowned for promoting joie de vivre. The oldest winemaking region is a real feast for the eyes, patched with purple lavender fields and elaborate olive groves. The region includes several different winemaking areas consisting of around 350 houses that produce the world’s most vibrant rosé. A drive from Toulon will take you through idyllic countryside down to the glorious vineyards that cling to the edge of glamorous Saint Tropez. Along the way, village bistros serve hearty portions of delicious Provençal cuisine, which you absolutely must indulge in.