A Wine Tour Of France

A Wine Tour Of France
A Wine Tour Of France

Population 63,587,700
Languages spoken French
Currency Euro (EUR); 1 EUR = 1.28 USD
Average temperature About 63°F in spring and fall
High season April to May, mid- to late September

Given France’s size and vast number of must-see attractions, it can be tough to fit it all in three weeks, never mind three days. So for this trip, we’re focusing on a wine tour. Our itinerary is a little aggressive and contrasts the ideal of taking one’s time while wine touring, but a quick tour trumps no tour at all.

During the flight to Europe, spend some time refreshing your memory with publications like The Wine Bible, Wine for Dummies or Wine Spectator Magazine. You’ll have a fresh recollection of what to try and what to expect so you can make the most of your limited time in France.

All prices are listed in U.S. dollars.

Day 1: Wine and old-world charm

Upon your arrival in Paris, drive about four hours southwest to Saumur in Val de Loire, the Loire Valley. Given its proximity to Paris, you’ll be amazed at how old world the region stands in contrast to the modern capital. In fact, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated this area a World Heritage Site between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes in 2000. Once in Saumur, check in at Hôtel Anne d’Anjou for about $100. To describe the hotel as “historic” would be an understatement: Percier and Fontaine, architects to Napoleon I, designed the decor here.

After check-in, it’s time for a short drive to Domaine des Baumard in the nearby village of Rochefort-sur-Loire. Established in 1634, generations of the Baumard family have produced some the region’s finest wines, especially light, crisp whites that are not to be missed.

Back in Saumur, you won’t have to wander far for dinner. In fact, Les Menestrels is located right in your hotel. Overlooking landscaped gardens, the 16th-century structure houses one of Saumur’s finest restaurants. The fixed-price, French-cuisine menus range from about $40 to $70. We suggest the John Dory fish with chestnuts and smoked mushrooms, another specialty of the Loire Valley. Chances are good you’ll get another chance to enjoy Baumard wine with your dinner.

Day 2: Palate pleasing in Cognac

Because of yesterday’s long flight and drive from Paris, today will be less hectic. You’ll leave Saumur and set out for Cognac, a couple of hours’ drive southwest in the Poitou-Charentes region. Just northwest of the city’s heart is your hotel, Hostellerie Les Pigeons Blancs, a 17th-century inn named for the white pigeons nesting in the mossy stone exterior walls. It’s quite a sight, but we don’t recommend gawking upward too close to the building. Rooms range from about $70 to $140.

Spend your third and final day getting tipsy off the Bordeaux…

Victor Hugo called cognac “the drink of the gods,” so we’d be remiss to come all this way without sampling the wine-derived brandy. By French law, cognac can’t be labeled as such unless it’s produced here. Because of this fact, this rather small area is home to many producers, including Courvoisier, Hennessy and Rémy Martin. The Rémy Martin estate is just outside Cognac and offers regular tours from May through September.

After touring, you’ll enjoy dinner at the hotel. Here we recommend checking out the fixed-price menu, with selections from about $50 to $90. Chef Jacques Tachet’s offerings will make it tough to decide, but his rack of lamb with grated truffles is a can’t-miss. You’ll also enjoy a foreshadowing of tomorrow with Bordeaux for dinner. Of course, you can’t complete the evening without one last cognac.

Day 3: Oh, the Bordeaux

We’ve saved the best for last. This is one of the world’s great wine-producing regions, and the perfect way to finish our whirlwind wine tour. As you take the drive from Cognac, point the car toward the village of Pauillac. This is where some of the best-loved, first-growth wines are born, including Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Latour and Château Mouton-Rothschild.

Château Mouton-Rothschild sees thousands of visitors every year, making it a bit risky to get caught in a pack of tourists. The wine is worth the risk, though. The tour is about $20 if you want to include tasting -- which, of course, you do.

In nearby Médoc, spend your final evening at the celebrated Cordeillan-Bages Hotel. It’s a rare case when a hotel’s restaurant has a stronger reputation than the equally elegant accommodations, but that seems to be the case here. A night here is often an impromptu necessity after diners enjoy too much wine with their meals, but that’s not to suggest the rooms aren’t without charm. Some are contemporary, others traditional, but all are elegant and inviting.

Rates are pricey, so opt for one of their basic rooms for around $185. As for dinner, bring your appetite. Fixed-price menus range from about $60 to $120, and a la carte main courses from about $35 to $60. Decisions won’t be easy, but strongly consider the foie gras on a confit of peaches with a reduction of port wine. Finish the evening in the hotel bar with a glass of Bordeaux, reflecting on your travels.

Travel tips
  • Plan your visit. This means planning more than air and hotel reservations. In many cases, you will need to arrange your trip around the vineyards’ schedules. You might not be able to get in without credentials, so you may have no choice but to take part in an organized tour.
  • Keys, please. Despite the abundance of wine, France hates drinking and driving with a passion, and the penalties are harsh. Spitting good wine is better than jail.
  • When visiting a vineyard, signs saying degustation indicate places for tasting. Wine is for sale when you see en vente directe and/or vin à emporter.
  • Check out the tasting rooms, which are common in villages. They may feature the wines of several vineyards, including some hard-to-visit wineries. What’s more, you’ll be able to enjoy the wine and safely return to your hotel by walking.

Days of wine and… more wine

You could easily spend three days in any of France’s wine regions, so to cover three regions in so few days means you’ll have to pick and choose your sights carefully. Still, a whirlwind wine tour is better than none at all.

From: http://uk.askmen.com/fine_living/keywords/wine.html
A Wine Tour Of France


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