France is the most visited country in the world and is also its leading wine producer and whilst that could simply be a coincidence, for many people wine is a key component of their holiday, if not the very raison d’etre of the entire trip.
Of course, France is a vast country, the largest in the EU in fact. And within its 550,000 square kilometres there are a huge number of wine-growing regions. Many of these lend themselves magnificently to a walking or cycling holiday and in fact the hardest part of organising such a trip can be deciding which area to focus on. Well, fear not, because we are here to take a look at some of the best wine trails in France and as well as being an oenophile’s delight many offer cultural, historical and natural riches that will be sure to clear any hangovers should you find overindulgence an irresistible temptation, nay, obligation of such a holiday.
One of the world’s most popular wines and one synonymous with celebration is Champagne and the Champagne region, about 140 kilometres east of Paris, is a great option for a wine-focussed break in this magnificent country. Seeing some of the smaller boutique producers as well as the giants that adorn almost every wine list, visiting the picture-perfect villages and eating some fabulous local food is a real delight.
Another great option lies around 350 kilometres south east of Champagne near the German border. Those wanting to discover the Alsace wine trail will find no shortage of vineyards to visit, with seemingly every delightful village producing its own wine. The wonderfully maintained vineyards and sun-dappled forests make for incredibly pleasant walking, whilst the terrain is generally flat and frequently punctuated by crumbling, romantic castles and Gothic churches. For bird-watching fans there is plenty to marvel at too, with several species of birds of prey and large storks all certain to be seen.
Heading further south you have Provence, and whilst this may not provide wines of the quality of some areas of France, the area remains strongly linked with rose production. The region gets around 300 sunny days and a glass of chilled Provencal wine is sure to quench the thirst. Walking or cycling in this area offers up many possibilities, with France’s finest Roman remains at Vaison-la-Romaine, the ubiquitous lavender fields and farms and Orange’s two world heritage sites all wonderful diversions from the vineyards such as Cairanne, Gigondas and Vacqueyras.
The Loire is also home to numerous vineyards of course, producing a plethora of excellent wines. The most famous of these is undoubtedly Sancerre and fans of the Sauvignon Blanc-based tipple should certainly come to sample their favourite wine at source. The verdant river valleys make for gentle walking whilst shaded forest tracks provide welcome respite. As well as wine the region is perhaps best known for its chateaux, and those at Chambord and Blois – and many others besides – are sure to beguile and bewitch in equal measure.
We’ve touched on just a small number of the finest wine regions here but with Bordeaux, Chablis, the Dordogne, Burgundy and even dramatic, time-forgotten Lot all offering oenophiles plenty to go at, why not get your wine adventure planned today?