France, Travel Advice

How to Plan a French Vineyard Tour

We love wine, and it is no secret. Daniel even makes his own wine and in 2016 made the wine for a dear friends wedding. So, when it comes to travels, this is one we have been talking about for many years.

Picture the scene, what could be better than camping near a vineyard, trying local wines, eating delicious French food and then moving on to the next town, bottle in hand (or boot of the car, obviously having left a sufficient amount of time for sobering up)?

There are companies and agencies that will charge you a high price for a guided tour. We have talked to various people about this, but, we are trying to do this as cheaply as possible (see our recent blog post about saving money: ​6 Simple Tips for Saving Money for Travel).

What to consider:

  1. Travel.

This is up to you, but we want to ensure we have a car at our disposal. That means we are taking our own car and getting a ferry to Calais. We will therefore have the ability not only to throw our kayak in the back, but to fill the boot full of our favourite bottles from the trip.

If you are planning the same, but don’t fancy a ferry trip, you could fly and rent a car once in France. This is a fine option, but do make sure you have planned for those bottles you might want to bring back! Go for check in luggage.

If you live in the UK, you could also take the Eurostar.

2. Accommodation

Sticking with the saving money theme, and remembering that France in the summer is glorious, we are camping. We actually got a brand new four man (or woman) tent from a charity shop for £10 to replace a two man mud covered tent that struggled round Europe with us a couple of years ago.

The cheapness of camping was an obvious choice for us, and helped to decide what travel option we chose above. However, you could do this in a different way, by opting for B&B’s, AirBnB (they have some great wine tasting experiences), or hostels.

3. Route

What route to take? This is tricky, and it does depend on the next point also. France is nothing if not full of amazing vineyards and wonderful wines. Do your research, think about what kind of wine you want to drink on your travels.

We’re still working this bit out – have you done anything similar? Have any tips? If so, let us know!

The main step we’ve taken so far is getting ourselves a copy of a “Wine Atlas”. This fantastic book shows wines from all over the world and the regions that the vineyards are located in.

Using this, and the knowledge that we’d love to call in and see some friends in the south of France when we’re there, we have started building a route that takes us through France and back.

Initial Route Plan:

  • Starting in Calais (as this is where the ferry docks)
  • Reims

Located reasonably close to the Champagne region, but still a drive away, we’re hoping that this will give us the option to try some great sparkling wine within paying the premium that comes with staying in the world renowned Champagne Region.

  • Alsace

Further east from Reims and towards the German boarder, the Alsace region is known for it’s dry Rieslings and also features Colmar. A beautiful town with venetian canals and painted buildings that remind us of Copenhagen. So far we’ve only seen pictures of Colmar but it is high on our list of places to visit.

  • Lyon (Cote-du-Rhone)

One of our first, and most amazing, adventures together was to a small town near Lyon where we worked as au pairs. We adore Lyon and the surrounding areas so much that, heading back here to sample wines and see friends is the only definite thing on this list.

This is, of course, greatly helped by the fact that our favourite wine region is located within the Rhone (Saint-Joseph).

Just as a side note, you can often get Saint-Joseph wine in Lidl as well as other supermarkets and wine shops in the UK which is great. However, it is rarely as nice as that found close to the source (so much of it is consumed in France that it doesn’t tend to make it out of the country) and never as cheap.

  • Dordogne/Bergerac

Known for being a beautiful and having some fantastic varieties of wine (mostly Bordeaux), Dordogne is on the list simply as an area which we’ve not had the pleasure of visiting yet and which, conveniently, is on our way to the next region.

  • Bordeaux

Bordeaux is an obvious choice for red wine lovers such as ourselves. But, as it is also home to the Bordeaux Wine Museum, it also give us the great opportunity to build some knowledge so that we can be dreadful bores at the next dinner party we are invited to… if we ever get invited to one again.

As mentioned, this is an initial plan. We’d love to visit every place on the list but, unfortunately, this involves around 7 days of driving! (1-4 hours a day). This isn’t exactly the relaxed tour through wine country that we’d hope for so we are in the process of looking into each place in a bit more detail and cutting the list down. Again, if you have any recommendations we’d love to hear them.

Thankfully, as we’re taking a car, we have the option to be flexible, meet people, get recommendations, and alter the route as we go so this is in no way final.

4. Favourite Wines

As mentioned, our absolute favourite is Saint-Joseph. The best wine we have ever tried was Domaine Louis Cheze Saint-Joseph Agnes. This was several years ago now and we can’t wait to get back and try it again.

French Wine Tour

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