France is renowned across the world for its incredible cuisine and delectable wines.
With the main wine regions combining fairy tale chateaux, verdant countryside and other-worldly wine tastings, France is a must visit for wine lovers.
To help you navigate your way through France’s viticulture, we’ve put together this guide on the wine regions of France.
The plush valleys of Champagne are synonymous worldwide with the delectable sparkling wine of the same name. The 86,000 acres of rolling hills here also produce Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, all equally as delicious. As well as verdant countryside, the Champagne region is home to two major towns – Reims and Épernay. Reims is home to a UNESCO recognised 13th century cathedral where the kings of France were once crowned, while picturesque Épernay houses the Moët & Chandon and Perrier-Jouët wineries.
Travellers can spend time in this world famous region visiting stylish cities along the Champagne Route, or explore family-run cellars and vineyards in local villages. On a tour of Reims’ highlights, travellers are able to journey through the Gothic cathedral and explore Ruinart, the oldest Champagne House in the city. The hilltop town of Langres in the south of the region is also a must-see. Dubbed the “Carcassonne of the North,” Langres has a medieval feel; expect to wind your way through historic stone buildings enclosed with rocky walls.
Of course, no visit to Champagne is complete without some champagne tasting. On a champagne estate tour, you’re able to delve behind the scenes and learn about the traditional “Méthod Champenoise” of champagne production. Standouts on this tour include the Champagne Henri Giraud property in the Grand Cru village of Ay, Champagne Gonet in Épernay and the grave of monk Dom Perignon in Hautvillers.
The best times of year to visit the Champagne region are May, June, September and October. In July and August, temperatures can be too hot to be comfortable, although a lack of crowds make for a pleasant atmosphere. To enjoy the vineyards at their prettiest, visit between May and October.
Burgundy sits in the heart of France, nestled between capital Paris and foodie haven Lyon. This province is famous for its wine, but is also known as a fairytale land of Renaissance chateaux, medieval abbeys, stone walled villages and beautiful vineyards. Burgundy looks as though it has been lifted from the pages of an old novel, and the region boasts some of the most stunning castles in Europe. Impressive structures such as Château d’Ancy le Franc and Château de Cormatin give Burgundy a delightful old world charm. The vineyards here are also some of the best in the country, with the rows of vines producing sumptuous Pinot Noirs, Chablis and Beaujolais. From Volnay to Puligny-Montrachet, some of the world’s most famous wines come from Burgundy.
Burgundy is more than just chateaux and rolling vineyards: the region’s capital Dijon is also worth visiting. Once the home of the esteemed Dukes of Bourgogne – the rulers of Burgundy under France’s Ancien Régime – Dijon is celebrated today for its narrow streets, honey-coloured houses and gothic cathedral. The city of Beaune is also well worth a visit when you’re in Burgundy. With its charming wine caves, wonderful Saturday food market and fascinating Hospice, Beaune is a town not to be missed. A charitable institution, the Hospices de Beaune was founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rullin, chancellor of Burgundy. On a privately guided tour, travellers can marvel at the intricate facades and glazed roofs lined with bright colours and geometric shapes.
As expected, there are plenty of wine-based experiences on offer in Burgundy. On a visit to the Côtes de Beaune wine region, wine lovers can indulge in a tasting at the Château Pommard and journey along the prestigious ‘route des vins.’ Further along the route, travellers can indulge in a wine tasting lunch at Domaine Olivier Leflaive, whose daily homemade menu provides a veritable feast.
July and August tend to be busy months in Burgundy, with most of the locals holidaying during these months, so if you want to avoid crowds, travel either side of the summer. Weather isn’t guaranteed in this region, so be prepared for it to rain as late as July. In winter, days are dark and quite cold but autumn brings cool weather during the harvest. The best time to visit Burgundy depends largely on what it is you want from your vacation.
The city of Bordeaux has had a reputation for its grandeur since 1992, when Queen Elizabeth II dubbed it “the very essence of elegance.” It’s easy to see why Bordeaux is so revered, with half of the city becoming the world’s largest Urban UNESCO Heritage Site in 2007. Beyond its beauty, Bordeaux is famous for its viticulture. This region has been producing wine since the Romans arrived in the 1st century AD and is today without a doubt France’s wine capital. There are more than 3,000 wine estates in the areas surrounding Bordeaux, so it is a true haven for wine lovers.
Just north of Bordeaux, the ‘route des châteaux’ winds through rolling vineyards and leads into the Médoc peninsula. On a full day tour of the Médoc wine region, travellers can visit some of the most esteemed wineries in the area and enjoy a private lunch with wines at the wonderful Château Phélan Ségur. Also a stone’s throw from Bordeaux, the medieval village of Saint-Émilion is a don’t miss destination. Given UNESCO status in 1999, this beautiful village built on cobbled streets is surrounded by a sea of vineyards.
The best time to visit Bordeaux is in September and October, when the wine harvest brings with it incredible sights and flavours. May and June also see pleasant temperatures before summer arrives, and bring with them fields blanketed with beautiful wildflowers. August is the hottest month of the year and often unbearably humid, so is best avoided.
In southern France, Provence offers a rich and diverse landscape, similar to the wines that grow here. With stunning port towns, major landmarks and rich countryside, Provence epitomizes the allure of the Mediterranean. For wine lovers, Crillon Le Brave – a charming hotel village – is a slice of heaven. From here, travellers can journey out to the Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards. The vineyards here stretch out over 3,200 acres between Avignon and Orange. Rich and complex in flavour, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is arguably the best wine from the Provence region.
The village streets of Crillon Le Brave are dotted with fountains and wine cellars, offering the best way to get a taste of the region’s wine. Headed by Baron Leroy – the owner of Château Fortia – this is where the concept of appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) was born. When adopted in 1923, these measures of quality bestowed on Châteauneuf the status of a high end wine.
The best time to visit Provence is during the summer, when temperatures are hot but the lavender fields burst into wonderful colours of deep blues and purples. In March and April, you may not get beach weather but temperatures are ideal for cultural exploration and walks through the vineyards.
The Loire Valley
In central France, the Loire Valley is made up of beautiful countryside, fairy tale chateaux and bountiful vineyards. Stretching along the Loire river, the Loire Valley is considered the “Garden of France,” thanks to its rich fertile farmlands. If you’re partial to fine wines, there are few better places than the Loire Valley. Producing an astonishing variety of wines – including Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir – this region is renowned for its viticulture.
The Loire Valley’s 1,000 kilometre wine route is a sight to behold, home to historic monuments and prestigious wine districts. More than a thousand vineyards are open to the public here, 400 of which are specially accredited wine cellars. As you wander through these incredible wine cellars, you’ll be able to meet the winemakers and taste their delicious varieties. With huge wine cellars, wine-tasting walks and boat trips that glide past rows of vineyards, the Loire Valley is a fabulous destination for any wine lover.