Wine is produced throughout the country of France, but there are some major regions you shouldn't miss. Each is known for its ambiance and charm as well as its exclusive brands with global distribution. The French have been producing wine for over two thousand years and consider it serious business. Their entire culture incorporates their artisan approach to viticulture and its delicious accompaniment of cheese varieties.
Much like their contribution to the culinary arts, they have created a classification system that is one of the oldest systems for certification of origin, winemaking processes, and production. The Institut National des Appellations d'Origine – INAO, regulates the producing areas by defining the character of the wine it crafts. While there are thousands of wine producing villages, they fall into specific areas with established microclimates and terrain producing consistent taste and quality. Here are some of them to explore if you are considering getting out of the city for wine region day trips from Paris.
Bordering Germany, lies the scenic Alsace Route. The popular villages of Turckheim and Kaysersberg are famous for their Sylvaners, Rieslings and Gewurztraminer white wines. Alsace is home to some of the official most beautiful villages in France including Riquewihr and Eguisheim. This storybook landscape is great for tours with kids.
One of the three most famous wine-producing appellations. It’s villages boast 118th-century architecture with hillside chateaux, medieval castles, fishing villages, and seaside resorts. It's worth the trip to see the city of Bordeaux and Saint-Emilion village - there are few areas that can compare. Without exception, this should be on your travel itinerary.
The Burgundy Trail winds through the grape vines and wineries. Here you’ll find grand cru and the Chardonnay grape used for the classic Chablis. For organic and raw food lovers, have the Burgundy signature specialty of Coq au Vin made with the free-range chickens of Bresse.
South of the Burgundy region is an area best known for its famous Beaujolais, a light red. The village of Beaujeu is a must stop on your tour. Yearly, launch parties on the third Thursday of November celebrates the new crop of Beaujolais Nouveau. Wineries, vineyard tours, wine tasting, and cheese shops are par for the course in this very popular region of France.
An internationally famous region east of the city of Paris. It has climate and soil conditions that are ripe for success. Red Pinot noir grapes are blended with white Chardonnay grapes to make every memorable bottle of this celebratory sparkling wine, a process that takes years. Add this one to your gourmet walking tours. Get a professional travel guide to help you retrace the steps of Dom Perignon at the Abbey d’Hautvillers. Visit the Champagne capital, Epernay, and take a cellar tour. Immerse yourself in the history of bubbly in Reins, Troyes, Charleville, and Sedan.
Recognized by the AOC since 1937, this earthy, dusty region runs along the Rhône River, producing Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Mourvèdre, and Grenache varieties. Over 95 villages can be found in this region, but only 18 are permitted to put their name on the label. Among those villages, 4 are in the Gard, 4 in the Drome, and 10 are in the Vaucluse. The village of Laudun has been the home to vineyards for over 2,000 years. While exploring, take the path “the vine of the senses” which travels through the stages of tasting. And, “the vineyard of time” an overview of the farming and production practices in this region.
Known as the most obscure, it is located between Burgundy and Switzerland. Jura’s wine is “unusual, distinctive, completely different” from anywhere else, with grape varieties of Chardonnay, Savagnin, Pinot noir, Poulsard, Trousseau. It’s challenging climate and late harvest lend to a surprisingly spicy, nutty, and earthy flavor crafted with a unique aging style. Vin Jaune is Jura’s most famous wine. Travel to Jura is only 2 hours on the fast train.
Innovative and experimental growers in Languedoc overcome what it lacks in prestige with character and personality. With over 500,000 acres of land, it is the largest growing area encompassing both the climate of the Mediterranean and the inland mountains. Grape varieties include Carignan and Grenache. Enjoy a tasting with charcuterie by the sea.
An abundance of Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, two white grapes that have made the Loire Valley the second largest sparkling beverage producer in France, after Champagne. With 23 subregions, the villages of Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire (where Pouilly-Fumé is made) sit on opposite sides of the Loire River. They enjoy a temperate climate and a soil rich in acidity. The finished product flourishes with a fresh, crisp flavor, a tradition dating back to the Romans. You’ll also find architecture reflective of the Middle Ages, when they first produced Sancerre, a popular blend of white, enjoyed around the world.
Also in the Bordeaux region, on the left bank of the Gironde estuary, lies the Medoc. It houses a number of premier appellations with only 14,000 acres of vines that grow and harvest top-shelf Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties. From Grand Cru and Premium Cru, Medoc produces 5 1ers crus, 14 2ème crus, 14 3ème crus, 10 4ème crus, and at least 18 5ème crus. The crafted wines of Medoc are well respected by wealthy connoisseurs around the world. A trip to Medoc will be rewarding.
On the edge of the Cotes du Rhône AOC is Provence, an appellation that has nine registered sub-regions with many villages and working communes. Located near the Mediterranean coast, the full-bodied red wines of Bandol have been celebrated since the Middle Ages, often paired with chocolate. Cotes-de-Provence is the financial center of this AOC, offering competitively priced rosé for its thirsty tourists.
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Although the majority of French wine regions are located far south of Paris, the Champagne region in the northeast is only 200 km away from the city. In fact, Paris has a direct train line to Champagne that takes just 45 minutes, so you do not even need to worry about renting a car. The Champagne region is tucked away in the hills in France’s northeast, making it a scenic wine tasting getaway, and its best-known wine villages are Reims and Epernay. This region is best known for its namesake wine, Champagne, and in the region, you can find famous Champagne wineries such as Moet & Chandon and Tattinger. Many larger wineries, however, do not always offer public tastings, so be sure to check out each winery’s website to ensure that you’ll be able to get in. You can also find plenty of smaller wineries that don’t carry the price tag of major brands, so be sure to do your research before booking a tasting.
Although most wine regions in France produce some white wine, the Loire Valley is considered the best and largest white wine region in France. Located south of Paris in northwest France, the Loire Valley is considered one of the most scenic wine regions in the world, and its rich winemaking history led UNESCO to deem parts of the region to its list of World Heritage sites. The Loire Valley is also quite large, spanning over 280 kilometers, so to fully explore the region, you will need to spend multiple days there. In fact, due to its massive size, the Loire Valley is often divided into three regions—Upper, Middle, and Lower. The Upper Loire is known for its Sauvignon Blancs while the Middle and Lower Loire are known for their excellent regional blends. Because the Loire Valley is so expansive and inundated with wineries, we recommend that first-time visitors take a guided tour to get the most out of their stay in the Loire Valley.
Although you can taste a plethora of delicious wines in Paris, you will need to travel quite far to actually go to the various wine regions in France. For instance, the Rhone Valley, which is famous for its stunning scenery and huge variety of wines produced, is all the way in southern France, roughly 555 kilometers from Paris. To get to the Rhone Valley, then, you will need to travel quite far. If you choose to drive, you will need to be prepared to make a 5-hour cross-country trek into the valley, and if you prefer to not be behind the wheel, you can take a bus to Lyon that takes just as long. If you wish to expedite your arrival, you can opt to take the train into Lyon. While this option can be a bit more expensive than the bus or driving, you will arrive in Lyon in just over two hours.
The Bordeaux wine region is one of the most famous wine-growing areas in the world thanks to its delicious high-end wines. This famous wine region surrounds the delta of the Gironde River, which feeds into the Atlantic Ocean, and this river delta provides the fertile soil necessary for wine cultivation. Because this wine region is so expansive, it is divided into a series of regions and sub-regions based on their location relative to the Gironde River. First, the Left Bank region includes sub-regions such as Medoc and Graves, which are known for their red wines. Next, the Right Bank is primarily comprised of the Libournais sub-region, which often grows Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignons as well as other reds. The Bourg and Blaye sub-region is also a part of the Right Bank. Finally, the third main region of Bordeaux is Entre-Deux-Mers, which is the only Bordeaux region that primarily specializes in white wines.
If you’re a fan of rich history, exquisite wines, delicious food, and stunning scenery, then you should visit the Burgundy wine region in Eastern France. Wine production in Burgundy began during the Roman Empire, making Burgundy one of the oldest wine regions in the world. Many vineyards and wineries in Burgundy offer lessons on the history of winemaking in the region, and you can enjoy historical sites throughout the region’s quaint wine villages. Burgundian wine is also some of the finest in the world, and much of it is made in small batches. So, when you visit a winery in Burgundy, you will be able to taste wines that you will not be able to purchase elsewhere. Burgundy is also home to some of the best traditional French foods and dishes, including coq au vin and Dijon mustard. Finally, Burgundy sits in a stunning river valley with mountains to the east, making for stunning views as you sip a glass of fine pinot noir.
If you wish to taste sparkling wine in France, then your stop on your journey should be Champagne. Located in the northeast corner of France, this region’s namesake wine is known for its light, bubbly profile, and in this region, you can visit famous producers like Perrier-Jouët and taste some of the finest Champagnes in the world. However, while you can only find proper Champagne in this region, you can find plenty of delicious sparkling wines in other French wine regions. In Burgundy, head southwest of Dijon to Crémant de Bourgogne to taste the region’s best sparkling white and rose wines. Crémant du Jura in the Jura wine region also features delicious sparkling rose wines along with stunning views of the Alpine foothills. Sparkling wine aficionados can also find plenty of bubbly in the Loire Valley. In Vouvray, a small wine village on the banks of the Loire, visitors can enjoy sparkling Chenin Blanc wines, which have uniquely floral aromas and distinct tastes.
Most of France’s diverse wine regions produce delicious red wines, but where do the best red wines in France come from? In general, wine afficionados tend to give one of two answers – Bordeaux or Burgundy. The Bordeaux region is the birthplace of Cabernet Sauvignon – a classic French red wine. Some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignons in the world hail from this region, and it also produces excellent Merlots and Red Blends, such as Medoc. Bordeaux is thus well-known for its wide variety of reds as well as their quality. On the other hand, Burgundy is best known for its Pinot Noir – a notoriously difficult wine to produce. Because Pinot Noir grapes require specific environmental conditions to thrive, Burgundy is one of the few places in France where this wine thrives. However, while Burgundy red wine is often high-quality, it is more difficult to find and more expensive than other regions since this wine is so susceptible to environmental changes. Therefore, red wine lovers tend to favor Bordeaux due to its variety and large supply of red wines available.
When you plan a trip through French wine country, you should keep the following tips in mind to ensure that your trip is successful:
First, you should carefully research the hotels that you plan to stay at as well as the drive times between your accommodations and tour bookings. One common mistake that people make is underestimating the time it takes to drive between cities in France, so you should plan well to ensure that you do not overextend yourself by driving too far each day. You should also strategically plan your trip to stay in cities where you can find quality and affordable accommodation.
Second, you should be sure to schedule all of your winery visits in advance, and you should only book 1–3 wine tours or tastings per day, depending on the size of the wineries you choose. You will get more out of your trip if you spend more time at fewer wineries.
Finally, you should have a plan in place to never drink and drive on your trip. Generally, you should hire a driver or designate one, or you can take group tours from larger towns that provide transportation.