Wine routes: 8 exceptional itineraries to discover the vineyards of France

Inspiration

Food and Wine

Fabien Voileau/ADT Alsace
© Fabien Voileau/ADT Alsace

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 28 March 2024

Take a tour de France via its vineyards! From Alsace to Provence to Bordeaux and Burgundy, there are as many wine routes to travel by car, bike, boat, electric scooter, on foot - or even by hot air balloon, as there are wines to discover along the way. Taste local products, join in the fun at village festivals, visit vineyards, castles, and their wine cellars… here are eight ways to enjoy gourmet, festive, cultural, sporty and wellness visits - in moderation of course!

Most historic: Alsace Wine Route

The oldest wine tourist route in France labeled ‘Vignobles & Découvertes’, will celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2023. Here’s an ideal way to experience this Alsatian route and follow the 170km historic road which features 51 grands crus from seven grape varieties: from Marlenheim in the north to Thann in the south, admire the castles and flowery villages, several of which are classified ‘Plus Beaux Villages de France’ (the most beautiful villages in France), as you pass by the sunny hillsides. Discover Eguisheim, whose medieval streets wind around a castle. Bergheim, AKA ‘capital’ of Gewurtztraminer with its half-timbered 15th century houses. And Riquewihr where the many vaulted cellars offer several varieties of wine. The villages are surrounded by walking trails such as in Andlau where markers guide budding artists to sketch the landscapes. Or perhaps you prefer to crisscross the hills by bike (including electric), as the cycle route of the Alsace vineyards runs parallel with the road. It’s a gentle way to explore this area that’s in line with the spirit of the Alsatian winegrowers who were the pioneers of biodynamic viticulture since 1925!

Criss-crossing the Alsace Wine Route Cycling on the Alsace wine route Discover the landscape of the Alsace Wine Route

Most oceanic: Bordeaux wine route

Between the Garonne river and the Atlantic Ocean, Bordeaux, with its internationally renowned Grands Crus, forms the largest vineyard of fine wines in the world. Follow its five wine routes, from the Médoc route and its 60 Grands Crus Classés, to the mythical Saint-Emilion-Pomerol-Fronsac road, and nourish your soul as well as your taste buds. There are castles of all styles, bastides (fortified towns), and even a Paleolithic site in Blaye where there is also a UNESCO-classified citadel. Heritage is an integral part of the landscape but there is always the inspiration to discover the world of wine and take your time to relish every moment. Take a donkey ride, explore the contemporary art trails, follow the bike circuits, and even enjoy some time on the beach in the Médoc with visits to cellars and gourmet aperitifs in castles... And the ultimate delight – sensory experiences which combined wine workshops and relaxation, with sessions of sophrology, tai chi or well-being in the spas which blossom in the middle of the vineyards.

Explore the Bordeaux Wine Route in the Médoc Wine tourism experiences in the Bordeaux vineyards

Most unique: Burgundy wine route

From the cradle of Chablis in the Yonne to the Mâconnais, Burgundy wines represent just 3% of the vineyards of France. But its almost 100 appellations of controlled origin (AOC) include more than a third of grands crus, making it the kingdom of superlative wines! Among the six routes to follow by car, boat or hot air balloon, the route of the Grands Crus of Burgundy is the most sought-after vintage. It features rows of vines separated by low walls and dry-stone enclosures which create 1247 ‘climats’, and these micro-terroirs are all UNESCO listed. This is the perfect route to discover the most emblematic wines including Gevrey-Chambertin, the village has nine grand crus and 26 premiers crus, and the Château de Clos de Vougeot, guardian of the memory of the monk winegrowers... En route, unravel the secrets of the French gastronomic meal in the brand new Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie et des Vin de Dijon. And get tipsy on the beauty of the courtyard of the Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune and its multicoloured tile roofs in the purest flamboyant Gothic style…

Wine getaways on the Burgundy Wine Route Visit the Cité de la Gastronomie et du Vin de Dijon

Most sparkling: Champagne wine route

Champagne is both an exceptional wine - and a region. The wine heritage of this area is classified by UNESCO in recognition of its historic hillsides, champagne houses, and cellars in Mareuil sur Aÿ, Epernay and Reims! But did you know that in the Cenozoic era, some 65 million years ago, Champagne was under a tropical sea populated by giant snails? In Fleury-la-Rivière, at the Legrand-Latour Champagne Domaine, combine the discovery of wine with paleontology: the Cave aux Coquillages has an extraordinary collection of fossils exposed on the rocky walls of the cellar which explains the origins of the minerality of Champagne. Then explore the underground chalk cathedrals where the precious bottles age away from light and heat. In Reims, dive 18 metres underground in the classified Gallo-Roman chalk beds (fourth century) at Maison Taittinger, and in Epernay hop on a small train to crisscross the 18 kilometres of cellars of Maison Mercier and admire the carvings and illuminations.

Explore the Champagne Wine Route

Most colourful: Provence Wine Route

Provence makes you think of the sound of Cicadas of course, but also of colours: the blue of the sky and the sea, the green of its vines and vegetation... and the pink of its rosé wine! When you think of the wines of Provence, it’s the iconic, fresh rosé that springs immediately to mind. 150 million bottles are produced in Provence each year, and the region is the leading French producer of AOC rosé wine. But the colour chart of Provençal wine routes is as varied as the landscapes - from the shores of the Mediterranean to the green interior of Provence. In Cassis, take a kayak or sailboat ride in the famous creeks, the Calanques, and learn about the white wines of Provence including the Cassis AOC, a deliciously fruity wine. And in the Massif des Maures, between Saint-Tropez and Hyères, immerse yourself in the vineyards of the Côtes-de-Provence La Londe, to discover delectable rosés and red wines. And as you go, discover the heritage of the region: the Roman amphitheater of Fréjus, a classified city of art; the Cistercian abbey of Thoronet; the mansions of Arles, the sunny city at the gates of the Camargue, and Aix-en Provence, at the foot of the Sainte-Victoire mountain, a land of painters and AOCs where rosé, white and red wines are produced…

Explore the Provence Wine Route

Most royal: Loire Valley Wine Route

Discover the longest wine route in France: 800 kilometers from the mouth of the river Loire in the heart of the Berry region. There are no less than five vineyards (51 appellations of all colours) that nestle along the curves of the royal river: Nantes, kingdom of Muscadet; Anjou; Saumurois; Touraine, country of the AOC Chinon and Bourgueil; and the Centre-Loire, from Sologne to Sancerrois. This is a rich area to discover a variety of activities including bike rides, walks, gabare trips (traditional flat-bottomed boats) or electric scooter rides to explore the riverbanks populated by birds and wildlife, troglodyte cellars dug into the tufa (limestone), French-style formal gardens and legendary castles where you can enjoy the vineyards. In Chenonceau, enjoy tastings under the stars on summer evenings, and in Chambord, you can adopt a vine! 14 hectares featuring five grape varieties including Romorantin which was introduced by King François 1st in the sixteenth century, have been replanted to be farmed organically. Take a tasting of white wine which has a golden colour and aromas of peach and pear. Cheers!

Visit the Tourist Cellars in the Loire Valley Explore the Loire Valley Wine Route

Most unusual: Occitanie Wine Route

With 260,000 hectares (including 36% of all organic plots of French vineyards, and combining 87 appellations - including 51 PDOs, the vine shapes the nature of Occitanie. From the wines of the south-west to the sun-drenched wines of Languedoc and Roussillon, this wine routes offers an incredible variety of flavours to explore as you roam. Take a walk guided by winegrowers on the mountainside in Banyuls. OEnorandos® in the Hérault has some twenty labeled walking routes that take in arty cellars, winegrower architecture and scenic points of view. Enjoy aperitifs with winegrowers on mini cruises, enjoy a concert in Gaillac in the Tarn, take a promenade towed by gentle draft horses at the foot of the Cévennes... The most unusual? A tasting of organic Languedoc wines on the roof of the Abbey of Valmagne, one of the most beautiful in Occitanie… or a visit to the only vineyard in France classified as a historical monument. Located in the Gers, its grape varieties are more than 200 years old having survived the phylloxera disaster that affected many vineyards in France.

Explore the Wine Route in Occitanie

Most intimate: Corsican wine route

Sciacarellu or vermentinu... These names of Corsican grape varieties remind you of the melodies of polyphonies, the sound of traditional Corsican songs, heirs of a thousand-year-old custom that dates to the Phoenicians (4th century BC). To appreciate the diversity of Corsica’s wines, robust reds, rosé, sweet muscats and whites, simply travel around the Island of Beauty in the footsteps of the 9 AOC vineyards nestled mainly along the coasts. Explore the terraced vineyards of Cap Corse on horseback; or take a hike and aperitif at sunset on the hillsides of the Ajaccio region. Visit the perched vineyards of Bastia and learn about the island’s wines with a renowned sommelier. Or head to the hills of Patrimonio, where the most famous wines are made from niellucciu, a red grape variety... En route, indulge in tastings of local products, cold meats, and tasty cheeses that Corsica is famous for, meet with passionate winegrowers and discover unique sites such as the Calanches of Piana or the needles of Bavella.

Explore the Corsican vineyards

By France.fr

The magazine of the destination unravels an unexpected France that revisits tradition and cultivates creativity. A France far beyond what you can imagine…

See more