Visiting French wine country

I posted this in the What Wine Are You Drinking thread, but the first reply suggested I start a new thread.

I am beginning to plan a September trip for two to French wine regions, most likely Bordeaux, Bourgogne, and Champagne. Looking for suggestions of wineries to visit (especially smaller ones), private tour guides, good/great restaurants, and charming villages. Plans are to stay at AirBnBs.

Any other information also appreciated.

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I would take a look at the ‘logis de France’ which is a guide to good value
restaurants in France.

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Have you thought about using a company that specialises in organising wine tours? They can take a lot of the work out and usually have very good relationships with the wineries so you can visit places you might not get into on your own. The most famous is Arblaster & Clarke but Grape Escapes get good reviews as well

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Google Chrome keeps giving me a warning when I try to visit the website. Grape Escapes looks interesting, but I wonder about flexibility. Also, we want to stay in an AirBnB (with two bedrooms).

I recommend seeing these two documentaries that are on YouTube. You have just to tap the same titles in french.
Envoyé spécial and Racines et des ailes make good quality french tv documentaries .

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Before I start these are personal views and others may disagree.

Firstly, I would miss out on Champagne. The towns and villages are not very inspiring and there is not much in the way of worthwhile visits. Given all the money there must be about, Epernay is disappointing.

I don’t know how long you are planning to go for but Bordeaux and Burgundy are a fair way apart so you miss time travelling and with this in mind I would either plan to do Bordeaux and the Languedoc (this could be combined with Cognac and Armagnac if you are interested) or Burgundy and the Côtes du Rhône. If you did the latter a couple of days in Lyon is to be recommended.

I would like to offer a recommendation but both options would be excellent and the choice is difficult. Maybe your personal wine preferences will help.

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Alsace (particularly Colmar) is lovely. I strongly recommend a visit. The territory has changed hands between France and Germany so much over the centuries (until recently, at least), and there’s an interesting mix of cultures.

Alsace wines are unique - the Riesling in particular is dry and flinty. Most are white, but rosės and even reds can be found.

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I couldn’t agree more and if there are any bargains in good quality French wine (there’s a contradiction in terms) they are to be found in Alsace.

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Camlan’s comments about distance are valid unless you’re planning a long tour.

If you’re driving, Epernay is a great stop off on the way to Burgundy. Burgundy’s too far to do in one go so why not? It isn’t pretty, particularly, as it’s a working town. You can do some the big champagne houses in town and a fair few unheard of ones too. Getting out to do a tasting or two at a vigneron (grower-producer) is much better though and nice driving the route touristique. Some decent spots to have lunch at too. Google is your friend.

If you do Bordeaux, Loire is on the way. You don’t need to go as far as roussilon-languedoc although I’d love to go. This may sway your decision, from 2026 you’ll be able to Eurostar it all the way down to Bordeaux so no worries about getting bottles back. Just load up a massive suitcase😂 and off you go

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Do try and go through Loire Valley if you can. Numerous small producers and amazing Chateaux. Chenonceau through to Saumur. Explore the Caves at the latter.

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The most known is the trip along « La Loire « and all the castles . Wine and castles ( Chamborg, Chenanceau…) tour.

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When I was on a gap year, I went on a road trip with my brother starting in Brussels and ending on the south Atlantic coast of France. Camping the whole way there and back with the exception of some nights in Paris. His French wife guiding the whole trip through multiple parts of wine country and chateauxs. Champagne was certainly nice, but Bordeaux made a real impact on me. As a proper city, if you need a place with more than just vinyards and chateauxs, I highly recommend it.

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I would start In Champagne and then work you way through Chablis and then down into Burgundy

Lots of the large houses In Champagne offer tours and tastings and lots of the smaller producers in the 300 plus villages, difficult getting into the smaller Grand Marques as not all are open to the public and in September it could well be harvest

Chablis lots to visit and taste

Burgundy again is difficult, I would base yourself around the superb town of Beaune, two not to miss new Oliver Lefaive in Puligny and Chteau de Pommard, lots of small shops, I can help at Domaine Chanson in Beaune

If you know a friendly wine merchant they might be better able to get introductory tour,

Hope this helps

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When I’ve been in French wine areas, mostly I’ve simply looked out for signs with a vineyard name and the word dégustation, and gone and knocked at the door… The one exception was last September when I armed myself with maps of the vineyards in the areas I was in, from tourist information offices, and plotted a route to pass some, reading notes to help pick which of the huge number to try. We had loosely planned to include the Bordeaux area, but didn’t quite make it, only covering Loire valley and Bergerac regions. Back in 2000 we visited the Champagne area, staying in a gîte south of Reims. We visited the Champagne area back in about 2000, staying in a gîte south of Reims. I don’t remember the names of any off-hand - when I have a chance I’ll see if I can find anything to jog my memory… Off hand I don’t remember the names of any vineyards we visited - when I have a chance I’ll see if I can find anything to jog my memory… (We came back with 96 bottles of Champagne that time - sadly the evil that was Brexit meant that last summer we were a lot more limited with what we could bring back - the limit per person for sparking wine is 12 bottles per person, and that is assuming no fortified wine or spirits, and 24 bottles of still wine.)

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Thanks! I’ll take you up on that once our plans solidify.

And thanks to everyone else.

We are planning two weeks, including a few days in Paris in the middle. I know Bordeaux is somewhat distant from the other regions, but my favorite wines come from there.

So we’re thinking of something like this.

Day 1 - arrive A.M on an overnight flight NYC to Paris. Drive down to Bordeaux. One or two stops on the way (if time permits). Alternative is TGV.
Days 2-4 - explore Bordeaux
Day 5 - drive to Burgundy, with a stop or two on the way.
Days 6-8 - explore Burgundy
Day 9 - drive or train to Paris
Days 9-11 - Paris
Day 11 - drive or train to Champagne
Days 12-14 - explore Champagne
Day 15 - to Paris and back to NYC

Is that crazy? None of this is set in stone.

“…Is that crazy?..” no, but the notion of driving in the Paris region after an overnight flight from NYC may count as a step in that direction! I would definitely take the TGV to Bordeaux. Hire a car from Bordeaux and take it from there. Personally, St Emilion is a favourite and Perigeaux too. Personally I think 2 weeks is too short for the itinerary you have in mind and if your favourites are in the Bordeaux region then, as others have hinted, drop Champagne and Burgundy this time round. After the Bordeaux region the Loire Valley will neatly take you back towards Paris.

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Thanks. I have been known to overprogram vacations before. However, I’m not sure I’ll get around to a second trip. And if I did, it would likely be to the U.S. West Coast.

I think a good part of our tasting will be done on guided tours, perhaps even private guided tours, which should reduce the stress. And the Paris stay should give us a break, before the tastings in Champagne.

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Having just done that part of the trip (Dover to Paris then driving on through Spain to Portugal) I can say the tricky part is getting out of Paris after that it is an easy drive down to Bordeaux.

Driving in Paris or through Paris even using or getting out to the Peripherique (ring motorway around Paris) takes nerves of steel a good Sat Nav or co-pilot.

The further South-West of Paris you can pick up the car the better - I love driving in France but Paris is very difficult.

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Bear in mind we won’t be in Paris; we’ll be at the airport. Would we do better circling around the city? For example, staying to the east and then connecting to the A10 at, say, Orleans?

Seems to me there are two significant variables (beyond road conditions): how well we sleep on the flight and how early do we arrive.

Respectfully, only one variable - your ability to match French driving - don’t even try, particularly if you haven’t driven in Paris or the surrounding area before!

politely yes your itinerary is crazy
your proposal is more like three or four weeks, unless you have been in france and driven there before definitely unwise to step off a plane into a car; french driving is very, very, repeat very different to elsewhere - i spent nearly twenty years in and out of paris so suggest this for a visit of two weeks

  • day 1 - 3 arrive Paris and o/n for two nights - whilst in Paris take a couple of buses - great way to get around and watch how the traffic interacts - it may put you off any French driving. Try bus route 73 which goes via Etoile (Place de Charles de Gaulle) - catch it at say Rue du Rivoli / Louvre / Place de la Concorde, direction La Defense and then hop off and return - watch the traffic at Etoile - if you think you can drive there, you can drive in Paris - pay careful attention as to how cars and buses drive differently.

  • day 4 take tgv to Bordeaux - great city lots to see and major wine city

  • day 5-7 trips in and around Bordeaux inc bordeaux wine museum, St Emillion and left bank - medoc et al - hire a car - speak to Bordeaux tourist office re organised tours

  • day 8 tgv to Paris - o/n

  • day 9 paris o/n - if you want to see something worthwhile , Giverney (Monet) or Versailles

  • day 10 tgv to Reims - hire a car

  • day 11-12 Reims area explore

  • day13 tgv to Paris

  • day14 Paris

  • day 15 fly home

in paris particularly, be slightly cautious of apartments/rooms being let thru’ websites - each paris apartment usually has a concierge who acts as a gatekeeper, who most likely will not speak english, so make sure you know exactly what you are arranging and how it will work, because you are unlikely in Paris to get any help - that’s the french. If you are only in Paris for a few days at a time, best to consider an hotel which will help you - figuring out Paris for the first time, unless you speak the lingo, is no easy task. Note that at least in Paris, apartments are on the small side. Make sure anywhere you book is in the 10th arrondissement or definitely lower numbered one, else you will spend too long travelling. Parking - “aucune chance”!
French wine is wonderful and champagne …. what’s not to like……but the above itinerary will allow you to see lots and not just vineyards or chateaux, which once you have seen a couple, while they are all different, you don’t need to keep repeating.
In Paris as well as Versailles, Giverney, there is also Musse d”Orsay - regardless of whether you are a museum person, that is one not to miss; also possibly the Musee du Louvre…then in Paris the restaurants…first rule do your homework, second rule if English menu is prominently displayed, move along, third, recheck homework (more than 10,000 restaurants in Paris), can offer some thoughts if you wish.

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