We all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a special feeling that pleases the aesthetic senses far beyond what the eye can capture. True beauty often reveals itself over time, organically, on its own schedule, through the heart.
At first glance, there are many magnificent wine villages throughout the countryside, but it is your subjective interpretation of its fascinating architecture, heritage and culture that makes it memorable. A village that exudes a quiet confidence is often a working town serving the beverage industry. There are 12 major wine regions, each known for exclusive brands and global distribution. You may find it helpful to schedule a day trip from Paris if you would like to discover which landscape you find the most appealing to tip your glass. Here are just a few you should put on your travel list.
Outside of the two manufacturing cities of Strasbourg and Mulhouse, lies the scenic Alsace Route du Vin. At the southern end of the route, you'll find the fairytale-esque city of Riquewihr that will captivate the gourmet cuisine with a German influence of rotisserie meats, sausages, and wood-fired dishes.
In the South, along with the Burgundy and Champagne region - Bordeaux, Aquitaine is one of the three most recognized fermented beverage-producing appellations. St. Emilion, an UNESCO world heritage site with churches dating back to the 12th century, boasts medieval architecture of hillside chateaux and castles. Backpack to St. Emilion and explore the underground catacombs and Roman ruins, then kick back after hiking through the cobblestone streets and sample the Merlot with cheeses.
The Burgundy Trail winds through vineyards on the hillside, within an easy drive from Dijon or Paris to Chablis. Here you’ll find grand cru vineyards and the Chardonnay grape. This small town caters to tourists with tasty local specialties: Burgundy snails, Epoisses cheese, poached eggs, and beef Bourguignon. Foodies will be happy to add this stop to their itinerary. You'll enter the town center through the Porte de Noel and see ornate doors and window openings lining the streets along the Serein River.
Tucked within the picturesque landscape of castles and masterful gardens are the vineyards of Sancerre overlooking the Loire River. This ancient hillside town is part of the Loire Valley and best known for its sauvignon blanc. In addition to its historical sauvignon blanc, it is home to newer vignerons producing organic varieties. Be sure to climb the Tours des Fiefs located in the Sancerre Park. It was a stonghold of the Middle Ages belonging to the Count of Sancerre. You would be rewarded with a 360-degree view of the vineyards.
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With so many different wine regions and wineries, choosing where the best French wine comes from ultimately depends on your preferences and your definition of “best.” Many consider Bordeaux to be the best French wine region because its wines are high-end, expensive, and quite popular. Bordeaux wines are typically rich red wines like Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots. Although Bordeaux wines are high-quality and world-renowned, others argue that the best French wine comes from the Champagne region—the only place in the world where true champagne can be produced. Burgundy is another popular French wine region, and many argue that it produces the best wines due to its rich winemaking tradition and the wide variety of grapes that can be grown there. Ultimately, choosing which French wine region is best can be a difficult task, so you should visit and sample wines from each region before deciding where you think the best French wine comes from.
Located in the southeast corner of France, the Rhone Valley offers excellent wine tasting along the southern edge of the French Alps. In the Rhone Valley, you’ll find plenty of charming wineries and wine villages, so choosing among them can be difficult. However, no trip to the Rhone Valley is complete without visiting the region’s quaint wine villages, such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, and Sainte Cécile les Vignes.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a historic hillside village located in the Southern Rhone Valley. This small village is known for its red wine, and in the throughout the village, you can visit a handful of excellent fine wineries, including the Anselme winery and museum. Additionally, Châteauneuf-du-Pape served as the Pope’s summer home during the Middle Ages, and you can visit a number of historical sites throughout the village.
Gigondas is another scenic wine village that sits at the base of the Dentelles de Montmirail, a small mountain range in Provence. Gigondas produces primarily red wine at wineries and vineyards such as Maison Gabriel Meffre, and since the village sits at the base of the mountains, you’ll find plenty of hiking trails around the village as well.
If you wish to travel a bit further north, head to Sainte Cécile les Vignes. This small tourist village in the middle of Provence sits along the Aygues river, making it an ideal location for wine cultivation. Numerous vineyards surround the village, including the Domaine de La Présidente estate, and you can bike through vineyards and scenic countryside along the Aygue-Ouvèze bike route.
Burgundy is one of France’s best-known wine regions thanks to its popular and exclusive wines, such as pinot noir and chardonnay. In fact, some of the finest wines in the world come from this region, so when you visit, you should do your best to visit the best and most beautiful wine villages in Burgundy. To visit a historic medieval village, head to Noyers-Sur-Serein - a portal back in time along the Yonne wine trail. You can visit more UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Vézelay, which is home to both historic basilicas and some of the best local wines in France. This village is also one of the larger wine villages in Burgundy, so it’s easy to find plenty of great restaurants and hotels here. Next, Beaune is the capital of Bourgogne wines, and it is also home to the Notre-Dame Basilica and a Museum of Fine Arts, making it a must-see wine village in Burgundy. Finally, Châteauneuf-en-Auxois is considered one of the most beautiful wine villages in all of France - complete with a medieval castle.
The Alsace Wine Route - the oldest wine route in France - is a must-see for all wine lovers who tour France, but where are the best places to stop along the route? You should begin with Marlenheim, which is called the “door” of the Alsace wine route, where you can visit family wineries like Pfister and Dischler. Next, you can go to Bergheim, which features fine wines and plenty of 14th Century Gothic architecture, and then you can go to Ribeauville - a brightly-colored village that features plenty of historic architecture. Then, Riquewihr is considered one of the most beautiful wine villages along the Alsace Wine Route, surrounded by vineyards and ramparts, Kaysersberg is considered the most beautiful wine village in France; in fact, this village was one of the first wine-growing villages in all of France. Finally, if you enjoy the outdoors, head to Pfaffenheim, where you can take a bicycling tour of the surrounding vineyards.
The Bordeaux wine region is the largest wine region in France, so choosing where to visit can be a daunting task. One of the best wine villages in Bordeaux is Saint-Émilion. This hilltop village has plenty of local wines as well as a wine school along with plenty of excellent shops and restaurants, and it is also considered to be one of the most beautiful wine villages in France. Other excellent wine villages can be found along the famous Medoc wine route. Vertheuil is perhaps the most stunning village along this route, featuring exquisite wineries and historical sites from the 11th and 12th Centuries. Other notable wine villages along this route include Saint Vivien de Medoc, which lies along the Atlantic coast, and Saint-Estèphe. If you’re looking to experience a traditional French village, head to Bages. This village has retained its original character and is an ideal place to explore classic French architecture.
Pays de Loire is a region in France’s famous Loire Valley that is best known for its Muscadet and Sauvignon wines, and it is home to many quaint wine villages that produce some of the world’s best wines. Pouilly-sur-Loire sits on the Loire River surrounded by rolling hills, and it is best known for its exquisite Sauvignon Blancs. It also has many historical sites, including an ancient Medieval fortress. Chinon is another historic Loire wine village that is home to an impressive castle as well as some of the finest Cabernet France wine in the world. If you wish to venture further inland, head to Fontevraud - a hillside village situated near some of the Loire’s best vineyards that is also home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, L’Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud. Finally, Candes-Saint-Martin is another well-known wine village in the Loire that sits on the confluence of the Loire and Vienna Rivers. Like other Loire villages, visitors can enjoy both wine and history in this picturesque village.
France’s wine country is extensive, so planning a trip there can be overwhelming for people who have never visited before. Therefore, many people plan their trips along wine routes that travel through some of the best wine villages that France has to offer. Fans of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir should try the Burgundy Wine Route, which runs through villages like Chablis, Pommard, and Macon. This 220km-long wine region extends through a variety of terriors, making it a very diverse wine route. Those who wish to visit the expansive Loire Valley can follow the Loire Wine Route that runs along its namesake river. However, this trail is fairly long, so visitors often complete it in pieces. Finally, for a stunning route through the mountains and along the coast, you can follow the Languedoc-Roussillon wine trail. This trail is particularly appealing since it features two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Nimes and Pont du Gard.
Known best for its namesake wine, the Champagne region in Northeastern France is home to delicious sparkling wine as well as many picturesque wine villages. All sparkling wine lovers should make the trip to Hautvillers – the small commune where Champagne was first produced. This historic village once housed the Abbey of St. Peter, where a monk named Dom Perignon was credited with creating the first batch of bubbly. Verzenay is another excellent village to visit if you enjoy a good glass of champagne, and given its close location to Reims, it’s an ideal place to visit if you choose to book a hotel in the city. This village is literally surrounded by vineyards, and its town center is filled with plenty of historical sites, including centuries-old churches and a wine museum. If you’d like a break from bubbly, Cramant is another scenic village in the Cote des Blancs area of the region, and it primarily produces Chardonnay.