Editors Note: Today’s guest post is from accomplished wine writer Wink Lorch, who is also the owner and creator of NileGuide’s newest content partner, Wine Travel Guides! Written by a team of wine experts, this content is choc-full of expert recommendations and tips for planning a wine-centric trip in France, Italy, or Spain. Visitors accustomed to the tourism-focused wineries of Napa will need Wink’s expert advice to navigate the wine producers of Europe. And now, on with Wink’s post!
The first time you drive past the great châteaux of the Médoc in Bordeaux, through the famous villages of the Côte d’Or in Burgundy, or enter the smart reception area of a Champagne House in Reims or Epernay, I defy you not to gasp in wonder and awe.
In both lesser-known and great regions of France, until recently the concept of wine tourism was simply not understood by many wine producers. If you’ve only visited large winery tasting rooms in the USA (especially California), Australia or South Africa, then your first visit to a wine region in France might well come as a surprise.
Let’s turn the concept of hospitality on its head: in California, you are most likely to be greeted at the well sign-posted winery tasting room with something like: “Hi, and what can I give you folks to taste today?” In France, you might struggle to find the producer you’ve flown half way across the world to see, with a complete lack of signposts and no English spoken by the local villagers. A little effort in planning is what it takes to have a fantastic trip.
Arm yourself with a good road map (or GPS) and make most of your tasting appointments in advance by email or phone. Give yourself Sunday off to rest, eat and absorb local culture – very few French wine producers welcome visitors on Sundays. Many wine regions in France now have officially marked wine routes (Route du Vin), with booklets available at local tourist offices listing wine producers details and sometimes local restaurants, hotels and dates of annual wine festivals.
In Champagne, and increasingly in Bordeaux, tastings at the grand wine producers are strictly by appointment (often far in advance) and there is often a charge. In most other regions, appointments are often preferred, but contacting a few days ahead is fine. Tastings may well be free, though do offer to pay if you can’t buy or better still, ask if they can give you the name of a distributor back home.
As with all travel, don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten track to find the best experiences – this way you will meet traditional, family-run wine producers who might, if you are lucky, invite you into their home and give you the most memorable wine tasting of your life!
Ready to plan your trip? Check out Wine Travel Guides content, featured on NileGuide’s Wine Travel page, and in Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Jura, Languedoc Roussillon, Loire Valley, Rhone Valley, Provence, Savoie, South West France, Rioja, and Tuscany.
About Wine Travel Guides
Our writers at Wine Travel Guides give you the inside track to even the most remote regions of France, giving details of wine producers who welcome visitors (even if only by appointment), great places to stay, eat and shop in each wine region and detailed information about the local wines. Combined with NileGuide, we make a great team to plan your trip so that your wine tour to France can become an unforgettable experience.
[Photo: Engee Giggles]