Uncorking French Wine Regions


We are all about #FranceWeek here at The Jetlag Experience! In honor of Bastille Day, I am blogging my heart out about this country I simply adore. I honestly can’t think of what there isn’t to love about France…other than the fact that I can’t get there in just a couple of hours. If you didn’t know, my love of France began in 7th grade and never stopped. France even inspired my professional tagline:


Those really are the first words that come to mind when I think of all parts of France (not just Paris). I will be talking about French food and culture later this week, but for now I want to talk a bit about one of my absolute favorite topics: French wine!

Most people know that France is famous for their wines. You may or may not be familiar with all the types of French wines—and trust me, they can be quite confusing. I introduced several reasons why I’m passionate about French wine in this review I did of The Funky Door’s Summer Passport Series. Feel free to give that article a read, but today is a little more practical and deals specifically with French wine regions. There are entire books written every year on French wine alone, so please know going in that this is meant to describe the French wine regions from a tourism standpoint—not a wine connoisseur’s perspective. In other words, don’t expect a comprehensive breakdown of French wine! I’m not a sommelier! This is just a travel designer’s glance at some places worth visiting.

A Note on Geeking Out

I custom-design European food and wine-themed tours everyday, so this topic is one that I deal with all the time and may be a little bit obsessed with. I love getting my clients access to wineries and local spots that they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to visit. –>Admittedly, this topic isn’t going to be of interest to everyone. If you’re already bored with it but you know someone who would love this read, will you do us both a favor and use a share link at the bottom of this post to send this to them?? That can totally be your good deed for the day.

SIDEBAR // Before I scare you off, let me tell you this little secret about myself: I L.O.V.E. wine and I love learning about wine…but there is definitely a hole in my brain that keeps me from scaling to a level of full-on wine geek. When I talk about wine, I try to keep it pretty simple. Wine should be a lot more fun and a lot less serious, in my humble opinion. Yes, there are things you can do to greatly enhance your enjoyment of wine. But, if you’re too put off by, like, 3% of wine drinkers, you’re probably not even giving it a chance. I hope that you always find my wine content (and my “wine-tineraries”) to be completely approachable!!

And NOW…without further adieu…your quick guide to the best French wine regions!

Take a look at this (very elementary) map I made of the French wine regions. I tried to make it so the text spread along the space that each region encompasses.


First off, what I want you to know (if you don’t already) is that Paris is not a wine region! There are no vineyards for you to visit there! There are some outstanding wine-tastings you can do in the city, but this is not where you go to visit châteaux, ok? When my clients want to go on a wine tour throughout various regions of France, I like them to end (rather than begin) their time in Paris. For one thing, it’s better for jetlag to spend some time in the country when you first arrive. But, more importantly, Paris is the perfect place to go apply the first-hand knowledge you’ve gained on your tours! So save Paris for last!

French wine regions // Burgundy

My personal fave, this region is most famous and beloved for its pinot noir, but it serves up some stunning whites (including sparkling Crémant du Bourgonge) as well. Burgundy is technically a province made up of many {really different} wine regions. Here’s what you need to know about Burgundy….

  • In my opinion, there is almost nowhere else on earth that knock-your-socks-off food pairs so exceptionally well with knock-you-off-your-feet wine. It is said, “Let Paris be France’s head, Champagne her soul; Burgundy is her stomach.” These words should serve as a warning to anyone venturing to the region: come thirsty and bring an appetite.
  • This is a terrific area for bike-riding! Trains connect the towns, but you’ll need a car to get around. For tasters who prefer to swallow their samples (myself included), I suggest hiring one of many qualified guides for a day or half-day to take you around to various chateaux. (Hint: the guide will also arrange the visits for you, so no need to call ahead with Google Translator).
  • This is a superb area to rent a gîte or country home/villa and stay for a week. The area is beautiful and there is much to explore by land or river. Slow down. Enjoy Burgundy’s charms.
  • Don’t miss: wine tasting at Château de Chassagne-Montrachet or Louis Jadot & food tasting at Michelin-starred Maison Lameloise (Chagny) or country-tabled Le Goret (Beaune); the Route des Grands Crus; Patriache Père et Fils—a massive wine cellar with informative presentations and loads of tastings (Beaune)[patriarche.com]; The magnificent Château du Clos de Vougeot.

French wine regions // Champagne

As you’re probably aware, this region is not only the namesake of your favorite sparkling beverage, it is the standard-bearer for the traditional method of sparkling wine production. As such, no other wine can be called “Champagne” unless it was made here. What you need to know:

  • Reims (pronounced “raunce”)is your best home base. You don’t need a car in town, but you will need one to reach the Champagne houses (or else hire a guide!! duh!!). Taxi service is available as well, but you get better value and service from a guide (for not much more $).
  • You only need a day or two here (unless you want to spend time exploring the towns and the World War I battle sites in nearby Verdun). It is a perfect 36-hour stopover between Paris and Burgundy.
  • Take the TGV from Paris and be here in under an hour!!
  • Unlike some other regions where many of the châteaux allow you to pop in for a taste, you should make a reservation at any caves you wish to visit here other than Taittinger (which has a very impressive cellar). As a side note, you won’t be doing any tastings at the vineyards; here, they take you to the caves.
  • Don’t miss: Anything, especially the biggies. Unless you’re using dollar bills as toilet paper, you probably aren’t sipping these sparklers very often. Make appointments well in advance to visit Moët & Chandon (where you can sample Dom Perignon) and Veuve Cliquot. Sadly, Krug is not open to the public for tours.   Hit Pommery for its 11 miles of cellars (100 feet underground). Other goodies are Mumm, Martel, and Ruinart for its ($$) vintage Champagne samplings.
  • Don’t bother going anytime other than May-October. Period.

French wine regions // Bordeaux

Possibly more famous than the first two on my list, Bordeaux has finally gotten on board with wine tourism. In fact, they’ve even built what is being dubbed an “amusement park for wine lovers.” It is almost impossible to come here and taste bad wine; on the contrary, some of the finest wines in the world are produced in this region, and visiting gives you the opportunity to sample many of them.

  • Get here in about 3.5 hours by train from Paris, but please don’t try to make the round-trip in a day! It simply isn’t worth it.
  • Be strategic. There are sooooo many wineries and restaurants to enjoy—of exceptional quality, mind you—that you’ll need to do your research. Don’t plan on visiting everywhere unless you have a week, and even then you’re bound to miss something. Divide your time geographically: begin in Bordeaux, venture over to St-Émilion, and then make your grand finale winding up the Médoc. If you can only visit one area, make it the Médoc, and don’t you dare miss Pauillac.
  • If it sounds intimidating, hear this: it isn’t! Get one of many excellent tour guides, a chauffeur, or a river boat (if you must). RememberI can help you with these things!
  • Bordeaux has a regional airport that offers service to many other areas and countries. If you plan to extend your trip elsewhere in Europe, this might be the place from which to connect.

All the other French wine regions

Let me be clear—the other wine regions are excellent and deserve your tourism! I refer to them as “all the others” because, in my opinion, the wines are not the raison d’être. This is with the exception of the Rhône Valley, of course, which is easily visited from a base in Provence. You should visit the Rhône, Provence, the Dordogne (in the Southwest), the Languedoc, and the chateaux of the Loire Valley—and you should drink lots of their delicious wines while you’re there!—but you should visit them for other reasons. **I’ll be talking about those reasons on Facebook this week, so be sure and LIKE  The Jetlag Experience if you haven’t already.

So, which of these regions is first on YOUR list? I’d love to plan a perfectly customized French wine tour for you—either individually or as part of a small group. Reach out to me anytime for more info.


Au revoir!