FRANCE WINE TOURS by Arblaster & Clarke
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France has emerged over the past few years as probably the number one destination for international wine tourists. Tasting at the great chateaux, exploring the famous terroirs and immersing oneself in France’s regional cuisine are ‘musts’ for wine lovers.
However, after the New World and compared to other parts of Europe, wine touring in France can be perfunctory and the wine producers who are easy to visit casually are often not the ones that you would like to visit from the quality point of view.
A South American winemaker told me a story of his ‘French wine tours experience’ a few years ago (which he claimed was true). He had arranged a tour of a French chateau. The ‘visit girl’ showed him round the cellars and then ushered him to a door. He thought “aha, the tasting!” and stepped through the door, which shut behind him. He was back in the street. Knowing the source well, the story could have been made up and certainly is mischievous, however, alarmingly it could just be true.
Of course, not all French chateaux are like the one my South American friend claimed to have visited, many are really great to visit, and how things are done does vary considerably region by region. Most importantly, if you are a known buyer, have a good introduction, meet a vigneron who decides he likes you, or most importantly, if you are on an escorted wine tour (especially with us), wine touring in France can more than live up to expectations.
France produces many of the greatest wines on the planet. Take small villages like Sancerre in the Loire or Morey-St Denis in Burgundy, and think of the wealth of fantastic small producers, of the wine-makers with an enormous understanding of their terroir, their vines and their grapes and with the talent to express this in superb wine. Of those wines that completely took your breath away, left you stunned and amazed or just occasionally made your body shimmer, how many were French? – The answer is probably a reasonably high proportion.
If it was none at all, I’m sorry but the fact is that you need to spend more! At the lower end of the market, French wine doesn’t perform that well, and, what is more, it never did; French Vin de Table was dreadful, and those ‘country wines’ that have largely disappeared from international markets, did so because they just couldn’t compete with Australia, California, Chile and South Africa or even with Spain and Italy. So does that mean that it’s only worth wine touring in the great appellations of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone and then visiting only the top producers? Well, if you are on an A&C wine tour you won’t go wrong if you do. You might get to taste wines that completely take your breath away, or leave you stunned and amazed.
However you would miss out; what about Alsace? Bandol? Gigondas? St Bris and the other Chablis satellites? Vouvray? Fronsac? Minervois? Sometimes it is these bourgeois appellations that are the most fun to visit. It is in them that we have stumbled on great hospitality and wines that shriek of place; cru Beaujolais such as Fleurie, that has no pretence; Provencal, southern Rhone wines like Gigondas that seem to smell of the maquis herbs that surround the vineyards or Alsace Gewurz that just couldn’t come from anywhere else.
Another of France’s glories is the cuisine, which remains intensely regional. In France, pairing wine with food is not treated as scientifically as it is in the New World nor is it treated as an art as it is by the Italians, except by a handful of great chefs. Pairing happens systemically. The regional food is what you get in each region with the regional wines. The two have evolved together, so mostly the marriages are good and quite often they are really sensational: – Sauternes with Fois Gras, dry Alsace Riesling with river trout, a great Bordeaux with duck, a top Rhone with a Daube Provençal, a white Rhone or Bandol with Bouillabaise and Champagne or Chablis with Oysters….. Well, they do ship them in fresh daily, and that’s the thing, these regional dishes and combinations really are the daily fare, and that, is awesome.
Arblaster & Clarke’s France Wine Tours
So please do look at our whole French wine tours programme. – The Reserve Collection Bordeaux tours that stay at great chateaux or in Burgundy visit the great estates; the Champagne Weekends the short wine breaks to give you a bite at the Rhone, Chablis or Bordeaux; the longer ‘Classic’ tours by coach or train. Finally the Walking Tours in the vineyards – Alsace, Chablis, Burgundy and Beaujolais crus where you immerse yourself in the French countryside. We hope that you find a tour that suits your style and we look forward to you wine touring with us.
Explore using destinations below or use Types of tours to discover our different styles of wine holiday.
Mostly Cloudy, 16C, Bordeaux
Aix en Provence Opera & Wine
19 - 23 July 2013
Alsace, with a day in Baden
3 - 7 September 2013
Rhone Vineyard Walk
29 September - 5 October 2013
Lyon Wine & City
24 - 27 October 2013