If you’re anything like us, then you love the taste (and price!) of wine when you’re traveling in Europe. And it doesn’t get more French than sipping wine or Champagne on a café terrace anywhere in France or buying a bottle from your favorite wine shop in Paris.
For those who want to learn a little bit more about what’s in their glass, however, you needn’t look far, nor should you rack up a huge bill in doing so.
Skip the fancy tours and do what the French tourist do, heading directly to the source of the wine, whether it’s red, white, or bubbly.
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From the vineyards of Bordeaux to the Champagne cellars around Epernay, it’s easy to experience the local wares in a unique way on your next trip to France.
Sparkling white wine made anywhere else cannot dare call itself Champagne, and on a visit to a cellar somewhere in the region, east of Paris, you’ll learn why. The big houses like Pommery and Veuve-Clicquot offer standard visits and tastings, accessible directly from the train station in Reims.
For something even more special, there are smaller houses out there that you might want to explore.
Consider supporting family-run, independent Champagne makers like AR Lenoble who offer generous tastings and pairings in their center just outside Epernay, though you’ll need a car to get there! Tastings start around €35 — a good deal considering how pricey Champagne can be, and how good AR Lenoble’s is!
It’s perhaps the most well-known wine outside of France, but beyond the name, what do you actually know about it? Is a Bordeaux Supérieur better than a Médoc or a St-Emilion? So many questions!
Travel to this southwestern France city and you’ll realize that there are no vineyards to be seen within walking distance, and the idea of renting a car and driving out to visit them is doable, but not the cheapest option.
Fortunately, the tourism office offers trips to the vineyards and chateaus to learn all about it, with the most affordable starting at €42 for a bus ride and a half-day excursion to two properties, all in French and English.
It may seem like a touristy thing to do, but it’s one of the best ways to get out there and learn a bit en route. You could always attend the annual Marathon du Médoc if you really want to experience Bordeaux’s best wines while on the run, but that’s another level of dedication that you might not be ready for yet.
Related: Our favorite chap hotels in Bordeaux | Visiting Bordeaux on a budget
More known for its castles than its wine, the Loire Valley, just southwest of Paris, produces some of France’s most beloved wines like Chinon and Touraine. Many small producers in the area throw their doors wide open to tourists who want to visit and learn more about their vintages.
The office of tourism has a great resource for visitors — some translation needed on the site, sorry! You can reserve tastings, including pairings with cheeses, for mere euros. Try a wine you may have never tasted, like Vouvray, which also comes in a sparkling version that rivals Champagne!
Burgundy wines are known to be refined reds, but there are whites to discover as well! The Bourgogne region, southeast of Paris, boasts some of France’s most sought-after wines, and a visit to local vineyards between the towns of Dijon and Beaune are worth a stopover for any wine-lover.
Adventurous cheapos might want to hop the bus 113 that, for just €1.50, travels between towns with winemakers including Gevrey-Chambertin, Vosne-Romanée, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Ladoix-Serrigny, and Aloxe-Corton. A little planning will go a long way to taste the best of Burgundy in these towns.
Otherwise, stop into Beaune and follow the office of tourism’s menu of local wine tastings where some are just a few euros.
The name might not be instantly familiar, but this region around Lyon is popular for its Beaujolais, the first wine of the season that has become something of a marketing tool. Heard of that one, right? Still, the region produces many fantastic reds, and the office of tourism provides all the options on their website.
Some visits and tastings are even free — but it’ll be hard not to leave with a bottle or two. These winemakers know what they’re doing! Don’t feel obligated, but at the same time, going home with a bottle of anything, straight from its production site, gives you a better story to tell than just picking up some anonymous bottle in a supermarket!
Your wine tasting tips
Have you visited any wineries in France? Let us know where you go to sip your favorite wines.