France’s vineyards are what romantic movies are made of…rolling hills stretching out under early morning skies, patterned rows of vines ripening in the sunshine…
If you’re heading to your French timeshare resort this summer and have never taken a wine tour, we’ve put together some tips on how to get the most out of an afternoon’s wine-tasting. Although France is such a big country, it’s so big on wine, so chances are there could be a vineyard close by.
- Contrary to popular belief, a lot of vineyards – both established and up and coming – are now welcoming tourists as part of the wine tourism boom.
Just make sure you check in advance as appointments are usually required, particularly in popular regions – you may need to book ahead. Similarly, small local producers prefer to be notified before you pop round and be aware that they might not be fluent in English although generally it is a lot easier to find English-speakers than it used to be.
- The first hurdle is deciding which winery (or plural!) you want to visit, as practically the whole of France is “wine country” essentially. You’ll also find that the production, culture and history of wines are intrinsically different depending on the location of the vineyards, so what you learn and taste in one region may be entirely different to in another.
If you have the time, research the local wines and vineyards before you arrive. Plan out how you’re going to begin your journey learning about wine and it makes sense to start with a variety that you love before moving on to discover new favourites.
- Another tip – wine-tasting without food means your alcohol consumption could escalate before you realise it, so eat before you set out.
- The right cheese paired with a matching wine is one of the best ways to really get to know a varietal, so why not make a “lunch” out of it and find a winery that serves food as well as just wines.
- If you prefer, join one of the tour groups that can schedule visits for you in one or more regions giving you ease on the trip though little time to explore independently. These are a good point of call for a general, less specialised trip allowing you to visit local points of interest and to taste a limited amount of wines and local specialities.
- If you’re not coming to France specifically for the wine and want to focus on exploring Paris you could squeeze in some wine and champagne tasting with a day trip. The Champagne region, Loire Valley and Burgundy are top favourites, allowing you to experience the wines without taking up too much of your holiday time. Additionally, there are organised wine-tastings in Paris itself, so you can try out wines from across the regions in just a couple of hours.
- Foodies might want to join a cooking course to understand the connection between the culture of the local cuisine and the wines every region produces. Normally, you’ll spend 4-5 days indulging in a local culture, milling around markets, vineyards and taking part in daily cooking clases.
- For a really independent wine-tasting experience, get in the car and ask the locals for suggestions. Chances are you’ll find a wine-producing gem not far away, but remember that you can consume a lot more alcohol in an afternoon’s wine-tasting, so please make sure you drink enough water, especially if it’s hot, and be sure that you’re fit to drive home – better still, bring along a designated driver.