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Planning a séjour in France without incorporating a visit to one of its many renowned wine regions would be a travesty. Regarded as one of the most (if not the most) important wine-producing countries on the planet, France is home to some of the greatest gastronomical and viticultural delights that the food and wine world has to offer. Not sure where to plan your next vin-soaked visit? Follow our guide to how to drink your way through each of France’s wine regions, here. Get your glasses ready—it’s about to be an epic ride.
Signature grapes: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne, Cabernet Franc
Known for its chateaux, Chenin Blanc, and serious amount of ‘natural’ winemakers, the Loire Valley is home to some of France’s most exciting and easily accessible wine tasting opportunities. Simply hop a 90-minute fast train (TGV) from Paris and quickly be transported to a landscape of luscious vineyards and leafy greenery as far as the eye can see. Expect light to medium-bodied reds produced from peppery Cabernet Franc and crisp, high-acid whites made from a variety of grapes. Love oysters, goat cheese, and sipping alongside epic scenery? Then visiting the Loire is definitely for you.
Signature grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier
Champagne really needs no introduction. Dubbed the king of global sparkling wine, the region is synonymous with luxurious accommodations, lustrous sipping, and of course, lively bubbles. Hop a 45-minute fast train (TGV) from Paris to Reims and arrive at the region’s capital in no time. From there, simply stay in the city center and hit the big ‘Houses,’ or rent a car and truly see the beauty of the region by visiting smaller grower-producers. Before heading back to Paris, be sure to dine at the incomparable Les Crayeres restaurant. When in Reims, right?
Signature grapes: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir
For quaint cottages, storybook-like ambiances, and opulent yet balanced white wines, look no further than Alsace. Hitting the streets of Strasbourg or Colmar is essentially like walking through a medieval fairytale. Everything is colorful, the people are incredibly friendly, and of course, family winemaking traditions stand strong. Here, the German influence is still rather present; snack on salty pretzels and savory sausages, all washed down with the region’s signature high-acid whites, produced from a variety of grapes, including Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Sylvaner. Alsace is also known for its late-harvest wines and sweet dessert bottlings. Sipping sweetly has never been easier!
Signature grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
Wine lovers of all knowledge levels and palate preferences can agree on one thing: when it comes to wine, Burgundy is mecca. Known as the birthplace of the concept of terroir, the region’s varietal bottlings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are viewed as benchmark expressions for producers worldwide. Burgundy is also home to some of France’s most highly regarded vignerons, as well as some of the country’s most sought after cuisine. Accessing Beaune from Paris is as easy as hopping the fast train. Aspiring wine aficionados (and lovers of boeuf bourguignon), this is the trip of a lifetime.
Signature grapes: Gamay
Is slugging back a bottle of chilled red wine your idea of a good time? Then you have to visit the Beaujolais. The region’s vineyards are easily accessible from the city center of Lyon, which is dubbed the gastronomical capital of France. Hop an organized tour from one of Lyon’s many wine tour centers (roundtrip bus fare generally included) or rent a car and venture out on your own. Francophiles, foodies, and lovers of natural wine, this journey is for you.
Jura / Savoie
Signature grapes: Savagnin, Chardonnay, Poulsard (Jura) ; Jacquere, Altesse, Mondeuse (Savoie)
Searching for a bit of an off-the-beaten-path wine region experience? Then the Jura or Savoie is your answer. Beloved by sommeliers and wine geeks alike, the Jura has become one of France’s top up-and-coming regions, best-known for its ‘sous-voile’ white wine production, which pairs impeccably with locally produced Comté cheese. Just south of the Jura lies Savoie, known for its Alpine-influenced whites and crisp, high-acid reds. This region is the perfect destination for those looking to ski, snack on creamy cheeses, and simply sip in style. Fireside imbibing never tasted so good.
Signature grapes: Viognier, Syrah, Grenache
For a region that can do it all, look no further than France’s Rhône Valley. The region is divided into Northern and Southern components—and knowing the viticultural differences between the two is imperative. The Northern part of the Valley is known for its benchmark varietal Syrah and unctuous whites, while the Southern Rhône basically does a little bit of everything. The best way to see both sides of the Rhône is to rent a car and explore on your own (there’s only a 30-mile distance between the North and South.) Be sure to stop by the famed hill of Hermitage, go for a run along the river, and indulge in the region’s highly-regarded cheeses. Beaufort or Abondance, anyone?
Signature grapes: Rolle (Vermentino), Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault
Salty sea air, vibrant lavender fields, and bottles of thirst-quenching rosé as far as the eye can see… is there any dreamier destination than the seaside vineyards of Provence? We think not. Known for its small fishing villages, daily farmers’ markets, and impeccable wine production, it’s no surprise that Provence is one of France’s most beloved vacation destinations for both French residents and international visitors alike. For those looking to post-up by the sea, dive into the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, and squeeze a few winery visits in between, Provence is provides it all.
Signature grapes: Picpoul, Mauzac, Grenache (Blanc et Noir), Syrah, Carignan
Love the idea of hitting Provence minus the copious amounts of tourists and flashy beachside resorts? Then the Languedoc needs to be on your radar. Located on the western side of southern France, the Languedoc is basically a viticultural melting pot. Hundreds of grape varieties are cultivated within the region, including indigenous and international varieties. The region had somewhat of a bad wine rep for quite some time, though over the last 20 years, the quality of production has dramatically improved. City dwellers, check out the region’s capital (Montpellier) for a lively mix of history and wine culture, as well as easy proximity to the region’s stunning beaches. Don’t forget to visit the world-renowned Canal du Midi, Pont du Gard, and fortified city of Carcassonne for an unforgettable trip of a lifetime.
Signature grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Petit/Gros Manseng, Malbec, Tannat
For those in the know, South West France is where it’s at. The region’s wines have long lived in the shadows of neighboring Bordeaux, though as the latter’s wine prices continue to rise, the South West is seeing a renaissance like never before. Hit the quaint hilltop village of Rocamadour, bask in the sunshine of Biarritz, or take a plunge into the Dordogne, all whilst sipping on something unique offerings. (Fun fact: Malbec actually originates from South West France, not Argentina.)
Signature grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc
Looking for Burgundian like renown with a more urban feel? Then Bordeaux is just the ticket. Known for its top-notch red blends produced on the ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ Banks of the Gironde, Bordeaux is truly the Goldilocks of France’s wine regions—no matter what you like, you’ll be able to find something that’s just right. Serious connoisseurs and collectors can geek out on the region’s prestigious chateaux and vineyard sites, while more casual sippers can enjoy Bordeaux blends (both red and white) at one of the city’s many chic wine bars. Don’t miss out on the city’s epic Cité du Vin wine museum, and definitely don’t leave Bordeaux before filling your stomach with the region’s signature cannelé pastries.