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Burgundy, Champagne, Beaujolais, Chardonnay… France produces some of the most famous wines in the world.
Their names alone conjure images of rolling vineyards, majestic chateaux and sun-kissed slopes, so a driving holiday promises glorious scenery, as well as the chance to taste your favourite wines.
France has many wine producing regions, each with its own speciality and ‘terroir’ - environmental characteristics such as soil type, altitude, slope and orientation to the sun. These shape the type of grapes that will thrive in the region, giving us fruity Beaujolais from the Burgundy region and light, dry Muscadets from the Loire.
Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) wines are strictly controlled by grape and region, Vin de Pays wines comes from wider, less-regulated sources and Vin de France wines are from anywhere in France.
Explore the map of wine regions of France.
Champagne is the northern and most celebrated of France’s wine regions and home to some of the finest champagnes in the world. Reims is home to Pommery and Taittinger. There are tours available of the Pommery cellars and Elizabethan-style estate, and at Tattinger House you can discover the history of the cellars and taste the famous champagne. Reims also boasts the oldest Champagne House in the world, the Maison Ruinart, which was founded in 1729. Its 40-metre deep chalk cellars are a UNESCO-listed monument.
The Alsace region sits in the north east of France. The grapes grown here are similar to those found in German wines, and many of the world’s finest Rieslings and Gewurztraminers are produced in the region. You’ll taste primarily white wine in Alsace, both sweet and dry varieties, although recent years have seen a focus on dessert-style wines. Region has its own 170km Wine Route through picturesque villages and countryside and there are celebrations and open cellars held in October.
The Loire Valley is perhaps most famous for its majestic chateaux such as Chambord, Chenonceau and Amboise. However, it also boasts some of the most picturesque vineyards in France, where fine wines such as Saumur, Sauvignon, Chinon and Muscadet are produced. It’s a wonderful region to tour with your car. The scenery is spectacular and there are many wine festivals in truly memorable settings. Why not try wine tasting under the stars at the Chateau de Chenonceau, subterranean wine tasting in illuminated Troglodyte Caves or attend the September Festivini Festival in Saumur for fun guided walks and torch-lit vineyard tours.
Burgundy is one of the most famous wine producing regions in France, famous for Pinot noir, Beaujolais and Chardonnay. In 2015, the Burgundy vineyards received UNESCO World Heritage status. The region also offers some of France’s most beautiful scenery, and you can drive along its famed Routes des Grand Crus or the Grand Vins de Bourgogne. If you enjoy Chablis, visit to La Cave du Connaisseur in Chablis.
Drive south through Burgundy to the Beaujolais region and city of Lyon, the gourmet capital of France. The region’s namesake wine is a light and fruity red made from the Gamay grape and Beaujolais Nouveau is drunk at just six weeks old. Autumn is a wonderful time to drive through Beaujolais, when its hills and the banks of the Seone wear cloaks of red, russet and gold. On the third Tuesday of November, Beaujolais Nouveaux day is celebrated in wine-producing villages such as Brouilly, Villie-Morgon, Fleurie and Moulin-a-Vent.
Bordeaux is the largest wine-growing region in France with its 120,000 hectares of vineyards and more than 8,500 wine producers or ‘chateaux’. The region’s most famous wines include Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and in the Medoc area you can taste prestigious vintages called ‘Grand Crus’. Bordeaux is one of the most rewarding regions of France to explore with your car. It's the world’s largest urban World Heritage site, and the vineyards of medieval St Emilion were the first to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
South West is one of France’s best-kept secrets. South of Bordeaux and close to the Pyrenees and stunning Atlantic coastline, the region grows the same varieties of grapes that thrive in Bordeaux, and produce similar tasting wines. However, wines from the South West are less expensive than those produced by its illustrious neighbour.
The Rhone Valley is France’s second largest wine-producing region. Almost 80% of wine from the Rhone Valley is red, half of which is the famous Cote du Rhone AOC. The Rhone Valley offers a wealth of medieval and Renaissance architecture as well as world-famous wineries such as Hermitage, Cote-Rotie and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Its 14 wine routes wind through the most spectacular French countryside, and highlight famous cities such as Lyon, Vienne, Avignon, Nimes and Valence. These wine routes reflect the sheer diversity of the Rhone Valley terroir. In the north, the valley produces robust reds and aromatic whites, and in the south full-bodied reds and fruity rosés.
Located on the Mediterranean south coast of France, Provence is best known for its light rosé wines, the most famous of which are the classic Cote de Provence and Coteaux d’Aix. This is one of the most famously picturesque regions in France, with its rolling lavender fields and ancient olive groves. The celebrated wine route from Toulon to the Massif des Maures highlights some of the best scenery in Provence. Stunning vineyards, romantic Provencal landscapes and the heady delights of chic Saint Tropez make this an ideal tour for wine lovers.
Languedoc Rousillon is the largest wine-producing region in the world. It’s estimated that one in 10 bottles of wine produced in the 20th century came from the Languedoc Rousillon. Most producers use ‘blends’ of grape varieties instead of single varietal wines. Many of wines produced here are the less-stringently regulated Vins de Pays. Its most famous wines include the white Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, and the red Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Genache Noir.
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