France’s best wine regions: a guide to the finest touring routes, tastings and terroir

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Wine is the lifeblood of France. Since the Romans first cultivated vines here, winemaking has evolved into a fine art.

Today, France is one of the world’s top wine-making countries, producing around 7 to 8 billion bottles each year, and vineyards stretch out across the country.

The secret of France’s celebrated wines is their terroir: the combination of unique characteristics like geology, geography and climate that give wines their distinct properties, brought out by the winemaker.

Place plays such a pivotal role that wines are generally named for the vineyard’s location rather than the grape, and quality wines from a region, sub-region, commune or village designated AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée; equivalent to the Europe-wide AOP, Appellation d’Origine Protégée) have strict rules around winemaking practices and origin.

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France’s viticultural areas teem with dégustation (tasting) opportunities. Growers and producers usually offer visitors the chance to try before buying, and main centers have details of estates, caves (wine cellars) and cooperatives where you can fill your own container with table wine, along with wine schools and courses.

Here’s a sampler of the best wine regions to visit in France.

Taste terroir in Burgundy

Bucolic Burgundy (Bourgogne in French), southeast of Paris, is distinguished by its climats (defined grape-growing land parcels) that took root during Gallo–Roman days, developed during Charlemagne’s reign when monks made wine here, and now have Unesco World Heritage recognition. Burgundy reds are typically made with pinot noir grapes, with whites made from chardonnay. More than a third of Burgundy’s appellations are top-of-the-hierarchy Grands Crus, aged in oak barrels then bottles for one to two decades.

Along France’s first-ever wine-touring route through the sunlit Côte d’Or (“Golden Hillside”) the…

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