From landscapes to climate, culture as well as history, French wines have made a name for themselves as the most famous wines in the world. France has a variety of wines that represent the rich and diverse culture.
The Vineyards of France welcome people of all ages to explore 11 diverse regions of land. There is even a chance to meet the winemakers who are proud to share their knowledge and love of their traditions.
Alsace: Strasbourg Area, Eastern France, at the border of Germany
The region of Alsace is set along the foothills of the Vosges Mountains and overlooks the Rhine River. The bountiful wine region is spread 100 kilometers long and five kilometers wide. Between the vineyard runs the "Route des Vins" a 120 kilometer itinerary that starts north of Strasbourg in Marlenheim and ends at Thann outside Mulhouse. Beyond the vineyards, Alsatian village offers tastings in the wine cellars while sampling can be bought by the glass in local bistros.
Colmar, the wine capital, embodies the traditional vineyards by welcoming visitors to experience the Bartholdi and Unterlinden Museums and the Petite Venise canal district. In addition, villages along the Wine Route represent the charm of Alsace. Villages including Eguisuem, Obernal, and Riquewihr even have walking paths through the vineyards.
The unique town of Alsace is the only A.O.C. region in France that labels its wine by grape variety. In fact, they include five "noble" grapes in the A.O.C. Status-Sylvaner, Pinot Gris, Muscat, Gewurztraminer, and a Riesling.
Directions: By car from Paris to Strasbourg, 490 km, 4 hours, via A4; Mulhouse, 532 km, 5 hours, via A6 to A36
By Train from Paris Gare de l'Est to: Strasbourg, 4 hours; Mulhouse, 5 hours
By plane to: Strasbourg or Mulhouse
Armagnac: Midi-Pyrenees - Toulouse area is located from the border of Sprain Southwestern France to the center of France.
The colorful wine region of the Southwest paints a mosaic of vineyards, each with a distinct character that is a reflection through it's district represented through production.
Cahors Reds takes the lead as the most renowned of the Southwest wines. Jurancon, from the Basque country, is produced from three rare different grape varieties found in the world-Petit manseng, Gros Mansent, and Courbu.
Based in the Pyrenees Mountains, Tannat grapes are used to produce Madiran wines in cooperatives. The Cotes de Buzet hillsides east of Agen hold distinctive reds of at least 50 percent Merlot. Meanwhile, White Bergerac is better known for Cyrano than Bacchus, a standout wine is sweet white Monbazillac. The Gaillac is known for white wines made from Mauzac and Len de l'El varieties. The Cotes du Frontonnals produces mainly red wines with a distinct aroma.
While many of Frances regions are known for it's wine, Armagnac has a reputation for it's golden elixir and France's oldest brandy. Produced in the heart of Gascony, the main production area of Haut-Armagnac, Tenereze, and Bas-Armagnac, provide rich and fine Armagnacs often used for blending. The elixir is traditionally distilled in a continuously operating pure copper still, but today Armagnac is poured into oak casks to begin its maturation. After several years of aging, Armagnac is fit for a sip of complexity and finesse.
By car from Paris to Bordeaux: 579 km, 6 hours, via A10; Toulouse, 700 km 7 hours, via A10 to A62
By TGV train from Par's Gare Montparnasse to Bordeaux: 3 hours; Toulous, 5 hours
By plane to Bordeaux or Toulouse
Burgundy/Bourgogne: Between Paris and Lyon, Eastern France
Map of Beaujolais Wine Region: In Beaujolais, verdant vibrant hills and church-spired village produce 99 percent of red wines made by 100 percent Gamay grapes. Quality levels are basic Beaujolais, better Beaujolais-Villages and Beaujolais Cru, which derives from 10 qualifying villages.
The third Thursday of November, Beaujolais Nouveau releases a fresh, fruity young wine to the public.
By car from Paris to Dijon: 3 1/2 km, 3 hours, via A6 to A38; Lyon, 462 km, 4 hours, via A6
By TGV train from Paris Gare de Lyon to Dijon: 1 hour and 30 minutes, Lyon, 2 hours
By plane to Dijon or Lyon
BORDEAUX: Aquitaine-Bordeaux Area, Southwestern France
Map of bordeaux Wine Region: Bordeaux is the largest quality wine region in the world. It leads the way with a production of about one third of the fine wines in France. In the city of Bordeaux, wine tastings are available at the Maison du Vin, 1 Cours du 30 Juillet, Tel: 05-56-00-22-66. In addition, the center of the town is a part of grandiose 18th-century architecture, varied cultural happenings, and an illustrious past.
For an Oenophile, the main attractions are the vineyards that the surround the city. The best visits include a stop by the large estates of the grands chateaux. In the Medoc region, visitors are often welcome to a cellar tour as well as an explanation of the winemaking process, and a tasting of the most recent vintage wine.
While there may not be one set of legislation that covers the entire region, Bordeaux wines are often paired into six categories, four red and two white. The Medoc and Graves red districts include many popular appellations such as St-Estephe, Pauillac, and Margeaux. The noble Libourne region includes St-Emillion, Pomperoi, and Fronsac. Bordeaux and various Cote appellations are the other two red families whereas whites are sectioned into dry appellations. Fore example, Graves and Entre-Deux-Mars, and sweet, including the celebrated Sauternes.
The main red grape variations are typically blended. These include Carbernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Small quantities of Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Carmenere are used for balance and white wines of Bordeaux use usually Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon varieties.
By car from Paris to Bordeaux 579 km 6 hours, via A10
By TGB train from Paris Gare Montparnasse to Bordeaux, 3 hours
By plane to: Bordeaux
Champagne: Champagne-Ardenne: East of Paris
Map of Champagne Wine Region: Sparkling wine is born from this region of France. Champagne, its namesake province, is a stunning countryside with vine patterned hills forested with maple, elm and pine.
France's northernmost A.O.C. wine-producing region is parted into three major districts. The Champagne houses are easily visited due to their location in Reims and Epernay. The districts have a sign posted wine route that combines multiple villages through the tractor-wide roads. The Montagne de Reims route begins in Reims and goes for 75 kilometers south to Epernay. The 52-kilometer Marne Valley route starts in Epernay and heads west to Vincelles. The Cote des Blancs route stretches 108 kilometers from Epernay south to Vill au-la Grande.
Dom Perignon was originally a Benedictine monk at the Hauvillers abbey who discovered the unique double fermentation process, method champenois, which gives white wine its characteristic effervescence. Today, three variations of grapes (a white grape, a Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier red grapes) are combined to produce Champagne-Chardonnay. The majority of Champagned are made up of blended juices from all three variations of grapes and several aged wines. However, Chardonnay that is made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes are known as blanc de blancs. Rarely, a vintage year end blend of mind will be made from a superior growth year.
The Gothic Cathedral is the regions most famous attractions. From 1137-1825, 25 French kings came to be officially crowned.
By car from Paris to Reims, 144 km, 90 minutes, via A4
By train from Paris Gare de l'Est to Reims, 1 hour and 30 minutes
By plane to Reims
Calvados: Normandy-North West of Paris
Normandy is effortlessly beautiful during all four seasons. In the spring, apple trees share their sweet fragrance while in the fall, tree limbs appear heavy with golden and red fruit. While the climate remains too cool and damp for grapes, the apple of the Normandy's eye is Calvados, the regions most famous brandy.
Fresh yet unique cider apples are used in Calvados. Forty eight variations are recommended by law for making the cider. The cider distilled into Calvados and sent to one of two A.O.C. producing regions. The Pays d'Auge is a small demarcated piece of land between Caen and Rouen with Liseux at the center. The Calvados appellation derives from western Normandy, a small area east of Rouen.
By car from Paris to Rouen, 137 km, 1 hour and 20 minutes, via A13; Caen, 240 km, 2 hours and 20 minutes, via A13
By train form Paris Gare St.Lazare to Rouen: 1 hour and 15 minutes, Caen, 2 hours and 20 minutes
By plane to Rouen or Caen
Cognac: Poitou-Charentes - Western France
Who would have thought that one the most famous Brandy would delve from a quaint countryside 100 miles north of Bordeaux. The peaceful town known as Cognac, ages brandy in warehouses. Tours and tastings happen in Jarnac and Rouillac while outside towns sell directly to the public.
Cognac houses have a unique process to mix its eaux-de-vie. "Trois Etoiles" means that the eaux-de-vie used had aged at least 30 months in oak barrel. VO and VSOP have aged four and one half years, and extra, XO, Napoleon, and Grande Reserve can be as old as 50 years!
Grandge Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois, and Bois Ordinaires make up the Cognac group. Nearly 50 percent of Grande Champagne is blended with Petite Champagne which results in sale with special appellation Fine Champagne.
By car from Paris to Cognac: 463 km, 5 hours, via A10 N 141
By TGV train from Paris Gare Montparnasse to Cognac: 2 hours and 10 minutes
By plane to Angouleme
Languedoc: Languedoc-Roussillon - Straight Southern France, by the Mediterranean Sea
Languedoc-Roussillon, France's largest wine growing region, represents more than one third of the country's total vineyard area. Recently, excitement has surrounded the wine producer with new growths, new wines, and a new sense of status.
Vin de Pays are making their way to the top with world class varieties such as Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Each label bears their title followed by the location, department, and region the drink was made in.
In addition to bearing such a popular drink, the region is a prominent producer of Vins de Table, everyday table wines. These drinks mostly accompany french meals and are sold under a brand name. These drinks are a blend of grapes from all over France.
The finer the A.O.C. red wines are created among the Cote du Roussillon of the eastern Pyrenees Mountains, the Corbieres foothills and mountains, the Fitou Mediterranean coast-line, and the Minervois country-side. Languedoc-Roussillon is another wine well known for its vins doux naturels (natuarally sweet wines) such as Muscat de Rivesaltes, Muscat de Frontignan and Banyuls.
The warm region bordering Provence has an unexpected amount of tourist destinations. There is a variety of things to do and sites to see including the Nimes, the Roman Amphitheater as well as the temple to Monpellier, a university town full of gardens and majestic mansions. The town of Carcassonne is reminiscent of a medieval fantasy land made of towers and ramparts. 18th century Perpigran are complemented by red patterned roofs, and the domed bell tower of Collioure.
By Car from Paris to Monpellier, 759 km, 8 hours via A 6 to A7 to A9
By TGV train from Paris Gare de Lyon to Montpellier: 5 hours
By plan to Bezier, Montpellier, Nimes, Perpignan
Loire Valley: Loire Valley - Southwest of Paris
Loire, France are renowned for their white wines from Sauvignon Blanc and Chasselas grapes. Even a small amount of red and rose wines from the Cabernet Franc Variety.
Tourraine has the most resilient of the grands chateaux with Amboise, Chambord, Chenonceu, and Blois. Meanwhile, the best reds of the Loire valley are made in Chinon and Bourguell in Carbet Franc.
By car from Paris: Tours, 237 km 2 hours, via A10; Nantes, 284 km, 3 hours and 30 minutes, via A11
By TGV train from Paris Gare Montparnasse to: Tours, 1 hour and 10 minutes, Nantes, 2 hours
By plane to: Tours or Nantes
Rhone Valley: Rhone-Alps-Lyon and Grenoble Areas, Southeastern France
Map of Rhone Valley Wine Region: Rhone Valley wines are made up of 90 percents red wines with the famed rose of Tavel considered an important exception. The long, hot, yet sunny harvest season produces wines with a higher alcohol content than other French wines. Vineyards extend across 225 kilometers starting south of Avignon to Avignon, and are divided into north and south regions.
The northern vineyards zigzag throughout steep hillsides and hang precariously to narrow terraces. Individual wine producers mix wines from the Syrah grape which provides a rich ruby color and bouquet. Common appellations, Cote Rotie and Crozes-Hermitage, are the oldest vines in France.
The Southern vineyards are unique from their northern cousins. Un like northern vineyards vines which are confined to river banks, southern vines are part of a patchwork of lavender fields and olive, almond and pear orchards. Red wines are created primarily from Grenache grapes, and can be combined. For example, the Chateauneuf-du-Pape, is made from nearly 13 different grape variations.
By car from Paris to Vienne: 49 1 km, 4 hours and 15 minutes, via 16 to 17; Avignon, 688 km, 7 hours, via A6 to A7
By TGV train from Paris Gare de Lyon to Lyon: 2 hours, Avignon, 3 hours and 30 minutes
By Plane to Lyon or Avignon
Provence Wine Region: Provence-Marseilles and Aix-en-Provence Areas, Southeastern France
Corsica Wine Region: Corsica - Island Southeast of France, in the Mediterranean Sea, Home of Napoleon
Over 2000 years ago, the Phoenicians had their first vines planted in France making it the oldest wine producing region. Today, this historical province boasts vine0laced hills, poetic villages, picturesque ports, and unforgettable backcountry.
Multiple grapes are used in the production of Provencal wines although the primary variations for reds and roses are Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. Whites are mostly produced from Clairette, Ugni Blanc, as well as Semillon Grapes. Considering the vineyards small size, many of the wines are produced in popular cooperatives.
Petit Rose, also known as The Cotes de Provence, is the most plentiful of Provencal wines.
Behind the Cote d'Azur's star city, lies five other A.O.C. regions. The first region, Nice, harbors the Bellet vineyards where vines are planted among an array of plowers. Bandol Reds are among the most quality of Provence, and contain high percentage of Mourvedre. White wines of Cassis are planted on slopes facing the sea. The tiny Palette appellation, south of Aix-en-Provence and well protected from the Famed Mistral wind, developed red, white, and rose wines of age-old renown. Furthermore, the Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, named after the town's Cours Mirabeau plane-tree-lined boulevard, produces primarily red wines.
Corsica, is just a ferry-ride away from Toulon, Marseille and Nice. The most spirited island of Corsica, the "Belle Ile," was the birthplace of Napoleon. The A.O.C. Vin de Corse wines, mostly reds from Nielluccio, Sciacarello, Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah grapes, are harvested on the hilly coast. The rustic interior is filled with snow-capped mountains and deep gorges.
By car from Paris to Marseille, 973 km, 8 hours, via A6 to A7; Nice, 932 km, 10 hours, via A6 to A8
By TGV train from Paris Gare de Lyon to Marseille: 4 hours and 25 minutes; Nice, 7 hours
By plane to Marseille or Nic; Ajaccio or Bastia
By Ferry to Corsica from Toulon, Marseille, or Nice, 30 to 12 hours