Historical tourism, cultural tourism, architectural tourism, tourism for shopping or just tourism for fun- whatever the kind of tourism France has quenched every tourist’s thirst. But France is also the ideal country to play host to another kind of tourism. If your idea of a good time is a glass of full bodied wine in your hand and the smell of ripening grapes in your nose then this is a blog for you. This is a wine lover’s guide to France. Almost every region of France has a winery or two. Then there are some more famous. If you have ever sipped on trampled and aged grapes then you must have heard at least three region names- Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux. Some other more popular regions are Alsace, Loire Valley, Rhône Valley, Provence and Savoie.
Remember the old black and white movies with stylish heroes clicking champagne glasses with perfectly coiffed heroines in chic parties! All those spell-binding movie scenes have this region of France to thank. Legend has it that Dom Pérignon, a Benedictine monk, discovered this symbol of sophistication by accident in his abbey in a town called Hautvillers. Large wine houses like Mumm, Moët and Chandon, along with more than a hundred other famous names, host guided tours of their wineries, with wine tasting opportunities in their cellars. Wine enthusiasts can go crazy here with the option of tasting anything from old wines to the current vintage. There are more than wine tours too. The most important city of the region is Reims which saw twenty five kings donning the mantle of royalty at its famous Notre-Dame Cathedral. This magnificent Gothic church is one of the most beautiful in the world. Reims is also the only place where one can see the labyrinth of crayères, the dark limestone caverns that are the ideal environment for storing bubbly. Epernay, the other half of the twin capitals of Champagne, has several champagne houses more easily accessible than in Reims. Other attractions of the region include the capital of the Counts of Champagne, Troyes, thirteenth century medieval castles and bridges and so much more.
Colorful tiles crisscross with golden ones to cover the roofs of the houses of this predominantly white wine making region. Once including almost all of Belgium and Holland, the duchy of Burgundy was one of the most influential regions of Europe with powerful princes like Charles the Bold. Visits to the wine producing little villages are always welcomed by the locals. There are several open air markets that sell all the locally produced food and wines. One of the more famous towns in the region is Chablis, the chief producer of the most famous white wine of the same name. Beaune is another picture postcard like city in the region. The Hôtel-Dieu in Beaune, a hospital that ran for about four centuries until it stopped functioning in the nineteenth, holds an annual wine auction in November. The Trois Glorieuses wine auction has two purposes- raising money for charity and, in the process, setting current vintage wine prices. Marché aux Vins is a church from the thirteenth century now converted into a wine cellar that regularly hosts wine tasting. To burn off the calories from the wine tasting take a bike ride on the beautiful trail of Bourgogne Randonnees. And it’s not just wines either. The famous Dijon mustard comes from the city of Dijon. The Ducal palace and its museum in Dijon are a must see for all history, art and architecture buffs.
Sitting at the south western waterfront border of France, Bordeaux is a port city most well known for its famous wines. Gourmet Touring is, as the name suggests, a company that offers to tailor a tour of this region the way only locals of this region could. Driving through the wine country in a GPS fitted car with a pre-programmed route of your choice is absolutely the best way to get the most out of your Bordeaux vacation. The Bordeaux Wine School is not only a great place to sample some great wines but can also be an educational trip. Experts teach the art of wine tasting and help tune and train the visual and the olfactory senses to be able to differentiate between wines. Rue St Catherine offers great shopping experience for all kinds of budgets from the designer boutiques at the upscale Grand Theater end to the more casual and cheaper Place de la Victorie end. Chateau Haut-Marbuzet – Henri Duboscq is one of the best winery-chateaus to visit in the area. Sample some excellent wines, buy what you like, and have the owner guide you through the whole process. Other tourist attractions include the Croiseur Colbert, one of the largest battleships of French Navy, the Grand Theater, Europe’s only surviving wood framed theater and the Palais de la Bourse, which was formerly the stock exchange and now houses Bordeaux’s Chamber of Commerce. For the art lover there is the CAPC Musee d’Art Contemporain and the Musee des Beaux-Arts. Several cathedrals and churches complete the tourism experience of the region.
So pick up your own wine glasses and prepare to experience your own wine lover’s guide to France.
Photo of champagne glass originally posted by 1. RX Photongraphy