Three Perfect Destinations for French Wine Lovers
Viticulture is a vital component of France’s national identity. As a nation, France produces more wine than any other country in the world, with the occasional and notable exception of Italy. For passionate connoisseurs and newcomers alike, Bourgogne, Bordeaux and the RhÃ´ne stand out as remarkable destinations to immerse yourself in French wine culture.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Burgundy’s wine culture predates the Roman Empire. Subsequent involvement in viticulture by the Church led many labels to adopt the names of religious orders like Saternay, Chambertain, Meursault or Pommard.
The small town of Beaune is home to some of the best labels in France and is a gorgeous spot from which to explore Burgundy as a whole. The CÃ´te-d’Or department town of 22,000 people is the de facto wine capital of the region.
Legend has it that the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines made in Beaune were so good that the Catholic Church took over all the vineyards and production in the region. Indeed, many of the wine-making facilities are in old monasteries.
Wine enthusiasts in Burgundy can educate themselves on the region at local wine museums, take wine-tasting lessons from seasoned sommeliers and purchase vintage bottles from local shops and producers.
Burgundy offers many cheap hotels as well as charming villas, surrounded by vineyards that stretch out as far as the eyes can see.
With over 115,000 hectares of vineyards and some 8,000 chÃ¢teaux, or producers, Bordeaux is the top wine region in France. High-end estates like PÃ©trus, Cheval Blanc, Mouton Rothschild and Haut-Brion flourish in Bordeaux and rank as some of the most expensive wines in the world. Hotels in Bordeaux offer the best advice on where to go and when.
The UNESCO World Heritage City of Bordeaux is the superb capital of the region. Recent efforts by Mayor Alain JuppÃ© to revitalize the city’s historic architectural landscape have been met with near-universal approval. Wine lovers should definitely tour Les Chartrons, a famous neighborhood rife with knowledgeable wine merchants.
Home to exquisite appellations like CÃ´te-RÃ´tie and ChÃ¢teauneuf-du-Pape, the RhÃ´ne Valley has a wine history that can be traced back to at least 600 BC. The two most popular grape varieties cultivated in the northern RhÃ´ne are Syrah (red) and Viognier (white). Wines produced from these grapes impart special characteristics highly appreciated by connoisseurs around the world.
In addition to the northern RhÃ´ne, the other sub-regions of the southern RhÃ´ne and CÃ´tes du RhÃ´ne proffer a wide range of magnificent appellations to discover. ChÃ¢teauneuf-du-Pape AOC is in the southern RhÃ´ne for one and while a modest area, CÃ´tes du RhÃ´ne Grenache vines produce some quality rosÃ©s.
All in all, the RhÃ´ne valley offers some of the most bucolic scenery in France and indeed, some of the most extraordinary wine and food experiences.