One of my favorite types of trips to plan for clients is a trip where they want to combine a lifelong passion with a vacation.  If you are a wine afficionado, there is no better place to combine this interest with a vacation than the European country of France.  While France is not the actual birthplace of wine, the French have been producing top quality wines since the sixth century B.C., with many current wines tracing their roots (literally) back to these ancient times. 

France is full of world-famous wine regions.  In the southwest, near the Atlantic Ocean on the Bay of Biscay, the region of Bordeaux is known across the world for its superb reds.  Legendary regions (called “appelations” in France) such as Pauillac, Saint-Emilion, Medoc, and Pomerol play host to legendary vineyards like Chateau Mouton-Rothschild.  The tidal estuary of the Gironde River leads into the city of Bordeaux, home to one of France’s largest winemaking museums.  Further inland, wineries dot the sides of the Dordogne and Garonne rivers, with beautiful chateaux and historic forts adding to the atmosphere. 

Continuing east, the Garonne river turns into a manmade canal – the “Canal du Midi” in the city of Toulouse.  The canal continues all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, crossing the famous wine region of Languedoc-Roussillon, part of the French region of Occitanie.  France’s largest wine producer, Languedoc, is known for its whites and rosés.  The village of Limoux, in Languedoc, was once the home of a monk who later became world-famous – Dom Pérignon.  According to legend, the locals shared the secret of making sparkling wine with the monk, who repaid their hospitality by doing the one thing that monks are not supposed to do!  He was unceremoniously booted out, and made his way north to the Champagne region, where the rest is history.  Limoux’s local sparkling wine – Crémant de Limoux – is excellent, though. 

Turning northwards along the Mediterranean, the Rhone River travels through the southern region of Provence, dotted on both sides with world-famous wine regions like Chateauneuf-de-Pape and Côtes du Rhône.  North of the city of Lyon – France’s true gastronomic capital – the Rhone becomes the Saone River, and France’s most famous wine region – Burgundy – appears.   

Home of what many consider to be the world’s finest wineries, Burgundy’s wine production is centered around the charming town of Beaune.  The Côte d’Or (Gold Coast) is the epicenter, boasting such legendary winemakers as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Chateau de Santenay, Puligny-Montrachet, and more.  On a sunny day, with the vines starting to turn bright colors just before the autumn harvest, it’s easy to see why this region got its name.  Incredible accommodations and charming villages cap off this beautiful area. 

France boasts many more famous wine regions – Champagne, Alsace-Lorraine, and the Loire Valley, among others – and offers the wine afficionado plenty of opportunities to explore, to learn, and to indulge in their passion.  Because most wineries are located along rivers and canals, a river cruise or a luxury canal barge cruise offer are excellent vehicles for travelers, serving as floating luxury hotels which allow visitors to see many parts of a region without the inconvenience of packing and unpacking in order to move from place to place.   

France is currently open to vaccinated American travelers, and demand for vacations in France for 2022 and 2023 is already very strong.  If you have a passion for wine and would enjoy experiencing France’s incredible wine regions for yourself, now is definitely a good time to start planning the trip of a lifetime! 

Ted Blank is a luxury travel advisor.  He can be reached at (651) 964-8245 or ted@tedblanktravel.com.

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