Your Guide to Wine & Champagne Tasting in France
Journey through France's iconic wine regions and bubbly houses with this expert guide to tasting.
Wine tasting in France isn't just a hobby; it's a lavish journey through time and terroir. From Bordeaux's verdant vineyards to Champagne's iconic slopes, France opens its arms to enthusiasts and novices alike. For those pondering, what is the best wine region in France to visit? The answer is multifaceted. Every region offers unique experiences, and choosing one depends on individual preferences.
Whether you have a seasoned palate or are just dipping your toes into the world of viticulture, the diverse landscapes of France offer a tempting array of vinous delights. But where should you start? Our guide to wine and champagne tasting in France will help you navigate these intoxicating regions, ensuring you uncover the very essence of each glass and grape.
Best Time of Year For Wine and Champagne in France
What is the best time of year to visit vineyards in France? Autumn paints France's vineyards in vibrant shades of orange and yellow, marking the busiest period of winemaking from mid-August to October. Harvesting and production take centre stage, and while winemakers might be scarce, the visual spectacle isn't. Before visiting, we confirm availability, as some vineyards may momentarily close their doors.
Winter, spanning November to March, ushers in a peaceful ambience. Bared vines stand in contrast to wines maturing in barrels, and winemakers have the leisure to share tales of their craft over glasses of wine. The serenity might get interrupted by a snowy spectacle, turning vineyards into an Instagram paradise.
Spring in France is about rebirth. Vines, buds, and flowers bloom with the weather staying pleasantly cool. However, night frosts might preoccupy smaller wineries, but they offer enchanting frosted landscapes for early risers.
Summer vibrates with energy. Wineries teem with events and visitors. While the charm of sun-kissed vineyards and extended daylight hours is undeniable, ensure you book your tours in advance. Champagne, especially, witnesses a surge in tourism during summer. Those seeking quieter moments can consider the shoulder seasons – May-early June, and September-October – for an unhurried exploration of Champagne's vineyards and iconic wines.
In essence, every season has its allure. Whether you're drawn to the vivacity of autumn, the tranquillity of winter, the freshness of spring, or the dynamism of summer, France's vineyards await.
For many travellers, the allure of Paris is hard to resist, preferring to stay nestled within the city's embrace rather than venturing too far afield. If you're someone who wishes to experience the rich world of French wines without straying too far from the capital, you're in luck. A day trip from Paris can immerse you in exquisite wine-tasting sessions. Here are some of the best vineyards near Paris, France.
Clos Du Pas Saint-Maurice
Clos Du Pas Saint-Maurice in Suresnes isn't just any vineyard – it's Paris' oldest and largest, sitting snugly just a stone's throw from the city's top sights. Producing over 5,000 bottles annually on its one-hectare land, the winery is renowned for its white wine blend of Chardonnay and Sémillon. Just imagine sipping a delightful glass after a day of sightseeing! If you're a traveller with a love for history, wine, and a dash of culture, this place is your kind of haven.
Vignes Des Grottes Au Pecq-Saint-Germain
Vignes Des Grottes Au Pecq-Saint-Germain, established in 1999, crafts 1,500 bottles of Pinot Noir each year, and is known as one of the best vineyards near Paris, France by locals. More than a wine spot, it offers a picturesque backdrop for family strolls. Just a short hop from Paris, amid the charming Saint Germain Boucles de Seine villages, the vineyard blossoms into a hub of activity in September. Families, especially kids from neighbouring towns, eagerly partake in the grape-picking festivities. A note for visitors: the exclusive wine tasting is a highlight during this event, adding a rare touch since the vineyard isn't commercially oriented.
Hidden within Paris' 19th arrondissement lies Butte Bergeyre, a secluded paradise reached by a steep staircase leading to lush gardens and ivy-clad buildings. The vineyard crafts around 100 bottles of wine using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. To sample it is a privilege for the few knowledgeable travellers who get to savour it during the Fête des Jardins, an annual showcase of both open and concealed gardens. Many locals remain unaware of this tucked-away treasure, making it a true secret vineyard of Paris that only welcomes visitors on special occasions.
Bordeaux, France, wine tasting experiences are legendary, and for a good reason. This infamous wine region, celebrated worldwide, produces wines that have become iconic, thanks in no small part to the illustrious namesake that they carry. As a wine lover, basing yourself in Bordeaux offers the taste of its storied wines and an immersion into a rich history and culture deeply intertwined with viniculture. The vine-laden landscapes, ancient cellars, and the passionate vintners you encounter here transform every sip into a story. Whether strolling through the lush Bordeaux, France vineyards (known as châteaus) or partaking in curated tastings, this region promises an unparalleled wine-centric escapade at the heart of where it all began.
Château Ambe Tour Pourret
Château Ambe Tour Pourret in Saint-Émilion offers an array of tours for wine enthusiasts. A highlight of this Bordeaux, France vineyard includes a three-wine tasting paired with either cheeses or chocolates for just twelve euros. Fancy a bite? Opt for a tasting with savoury cannelés, Bordeaux's signature pastry. The château also serves breakfast and lunch and offers curated picnic baskets brimming with local delights. For the culinary aficionado, they even have cooking classes. However, due to its location in the renowned Saint-Émilion, it might get busy during peak seasons.
Settled gracefully on the Garonne River banks, Château Sainte-Barbe boasts an exquisite location. Over an hour, their detailed tour dives deep into their wine-making legacy, showcasing their historic vat from 1886 and the meticulous process of ageing wine in French oak for 18 months. Wine enthusiasts will appreciate the blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot here.
Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion
A stone's throw from Bordeaux city centre, Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion is a tram ride away, making car rentals redundant. Visitors are welcomed by an ivy-clad picturesque château, which melds history with modernity. Though steeped in tradition, the winery underwent a contemporary overhaul in 2016. Notably, art lovers will admire the sculptures and modern art sprinkled across the estate, while the tasting room offers sweeping vineyard views.
The Burgundy, France vineyards share tales of the region's rich wine history like old storytellers. Tucked away on France's eastern side, Burgundy has a charm that beckons wine lovers. Here, it's not just about the wine but the land, the tradition, and the heart put into each bottle. The secret? It's how they craft their wine, giving each patch of soil its moment to shine and influence the flavour. Whether sipping the gentle whites of Chablis or the bold reds from Côte de Nuits, Burgundy takes you on a flavorful journey, one glass at a time.
Caves de l'Abbaye, Beaune
Tucked away in the heart of Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy, you'll stumble upon the cosy Caves de l'Abbaye wine cellar. It's a breath of fresh air compared to the more touristy spots around. As you wander through Beaune, you'll see its rich blend of architecture, ranging from ancient Roman designs to modern-day structures, including iconic places like the Hospices de Beaune and the Basilica Notre Dame. If you're considering visiting during the peak season, they're open every day; otherwise, their hours are limited. Under the expert guidance of Guillaume Grandin, this cellar boasts some truly remarkable wines, including the Chateauneuf du Pape and treasures from the Loire Valley.
Château de Santenay
Imagine a picturesque setting infused with medieval magic, and you'll find Château de Santenay waiting for you. Located just south of the Côte de Beaune villages, this château is best known for its deep red wines, though there's a sprinkle of Chardonnay in the mix. Today, it goes by 'Château Philippe le Hardi' in honour of the Duke of Burgundy's legacy. Spanning a vast 242 acres, this Burgundy, France vineyard is an absolute sight to behold – a must-visit for anyone who loves the taste and beauty of wine culture.
If you're the kind who likes to dive deep into your wine experiences, Simonet-Febvre is your place. With the stunning Chablis vineyards, famed for their Chardonnay grapes, as its backdrop, this estate is all about immersing oneself in Burgundy's rich wine traditions. But there's more than just wine here. You can take guided tours of their historic vaulted cellars by appointment, offering a blend of learning, history, and pure enjoyment.
When you think of those celebratory pops and joyous toasts, it's hard not to picture the vineyards in Champagne, France. Here, it's not just about the bubbles, but the legacy, the heritage, and the sheer elegance of crafting the world's most renowned sparkling wine. If you're on the hunt for an unforgettable experience, some of the best Champagne vineyards to visit in France beckon. Here are some of the best Champagne vineyards in France.
For art lovers and champagne aficionados, Pommery offers a one-of-a-kind experience among the vineyards in Champagne, France. Imagine sipping exquisite Champagne amidst an ever-changing modern art gallery. Nestled in Reims, the Pommery Champagne house transforms its chalk quarries into a vibrant art exhibition every year, known as "The Pommery Experience." Dive deep into the magic of 11 miles of underground galleries that marry art and libations.
History buffs and admirers of timeless beauty, take note. Journey to the heart of Reims and discover the ancient Gallo-Roman crayères. Many of these centuries-old chalk mines, which later served as Champagne storage, are tucked under a hill south of the city. If you're off the centre, hop on public transport, hail a taxi, or enjoy a refreshing 40-minute walk from the train station. Once there, step into Ruinart – one of the region's oldest houses – and immerse yourself in its rich history. Bask in the serenity of its beautifully preserved house and garden, culminating in a curated tour with tastings of their exquisite Chardonnay-focused cuvées.
If you're new to the world of Champagne, GH Mumm in Reims is one of the best Champagne vineyards in France. Dive into the legacy of Mumm's historic house with a delightful tour of its expansive cellars and a glimpse of its innovative ventures – including that legendary first bottle of Champagne in space. Booking the Grand Cru Experience is a must for those with a refined palate. It unveils Mumm's commitment to superior wines, spotlighting their RSRV range which celebrates the grandeur of grand cru villages and extended lees aging. Summer visitors are in for a treat as Mumm unveils a range of unique weekend experiences – from intriguing sensory tastings to indulgent Champagne and cheese pairings.
South of France
The allure of the southern France vineyards is undeniable. Picture this: Sun-kissed beaches, azure waters, and then there's you, with a glass of fine wine, toasting to life. The South of France isn't just a haven for those chasing the sun and sea but also for those seeking the thrill of an exceptional wine journey. Some of the best vineyards south of France have their doors wide open for you. And for the explorers who want nothing but the best, diving into the best vineyards to visit south of France is like uncovering hidden gems, one after the other. Sun, sea, and sublime wine? Now, that's the South of France for you. Here are some of our favourite spots.
Château Massamier La Mignarde
In 2005, Chateau Massamier La Mignarde was crowned the best French red wine across all categories at the International Wine Challenge. But, what makes it one of the best vineyards to visit south of France (beyond the stellar wine) is the intimate setting. Instead of a bustling tasting room, guests are treated to personalized tastings in a charming old barn, often accompanied by the resident barn kitten. It's essential to book in advance. If you fancy an immersive experience, they offer winegrower meals and comprehensive vineyard tours. And don't miss a chance to dine at the nearby Les Meulieres for a delicious lunch with regional wines.
Clos du Gravillas
St-Jean de Minervois may be famous for its sweet Muscadet, but Clos du Gravillas is breaking the mould. Founded by Nicole from Narbonne and John from Kentucky, they aim to showcase the area's potential for other quality wines among southern France vineyards. Nicole crafts the wine; with John's American roots, English-led tastings are a breeze. However, there is a lot of demand. So, we ensure that your spot is reserved. They produce some exclusive wines, like the Sur la Lune - a blend of Carignan, Syrah, and Cinsault. While some are exported to the US, we want you to take advantage of the opportunity to taste the locally exclusive varieties.
Chateau St Pierre Serjac
Spanning 200 acres, Château St Pierre de Serjac boasts a dedicated vineyard and a luxury spa. Set against a backdrop of rolling vineyards, timeless olive groves, and tranquil woods, this estate offers guests the dual experience of wine tasting and relaxation. With its intimate setting, visitors can delve into a historic vineyard's authentic charm while indulging in the pampering services of a top-tier spa – a perfect blend of viniculture and rejuvenation.
Book Your Vineyard Tour
Your journey into the world of wines is just beginning. At Scott Dunn, we pride ourselves on crafting unique experiences tailored to your taste. Our France vineyard tours are a testament to that commitment. Whether you're a seasoned connoisseur or a curious beginner, contact us about our tours that offer an unparalleled immersion into the heart of France's vinicultural legacy.
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