In the past few years, wine tourism has grown significantly with millions of tourists now traveling to wine regions around the world to visit wine estates, learn about wine and of course, taste it. French vineyards are no exception. France is a double key player on this trend: it already is the most visited country in the world and it is at the top of the wine tourism list with its famous châteaux, Grands Crus Classés and top wine estates known the world over. Most wineries have stepped up their game to satisfy tourists and wine lovers alike and thanks to their innovative activities they help create unforgettable memories. Today, all around France, travelers can enjoy contemporary visitors’ centers, interactive guided tours, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences like taking part in the grape harvest or spending an afternoon with the estate’s winemaker himself, learning his craft.
Wine tourism has also boosted activities that complement the classic wine tastings and workshops at the property: nowadays, many French domains offer the possibility of overnight stays (who would pass on the chance of spending a night at a wine castle?), spa treatments onsite (to benefit from all the rejuvenating components found in grapes) and hosting wedding ceremonies among the vineyards. Their gastronomic approach has also evolved and it is now as refined as their wines: gourmet restaurants overlooking their vineyards and Michelin-starred chefs are the rule.
So why not spend your next weekend tasting the best French wines in some of the most picturesque vineyards of the world? French vineyards rank high up on the wine tourism list and each winery is a destination in itself. Exclusive wine tasting holidays in the best French wine estates and tours of their cellars and vineyards are the perfect activities for a wine holiday in France. Now it is your turn: take a pick and choose which one you will visit first.
Here are some of the top 30 Must Visit Wineries in France
1. Château Mouton Rothschild
Château Mouton Rothschild spans 90 hectares (222 acres) of vines to the north-west of Bordeaux, on the edge of the Médoc peninsula, itself situated, as its name indicates, in medio aquae, amid the waters: those of the Gironde estuary to the east and of the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The Médoc vineyard, which dates back to Roman times, now covers around 16,500 hectares (41,000 acres). The vines are planted on a narrow strip of land 80 km long and 5 to 10 km wide, close to the river, which irrigates the soil in depth and moderates differences in temperature. Bordering the northern limit of the Landes forest, the Médoc benefits from the mildness of the ocean climate while also being protected from its excesses.
Discover more about one of Château Mouton Rothschild’s best wines: Château Mouton Rothschild 2016
2. Maison Billecart-Salmon
The champagnes of Maison Billecart-Salmon are above all created thanks to the knowledge of the men who rigorously cultivate an estate of 100 hectares, obtaining grapes from an area totalling 300 hectares across 40 crus of the Champagne region.
The majority of the grapes used for vinification come from a radius of 20km around Epernay, where the Grand Crus of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay co-exist, in the ethereal vineyards of the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs.
Discover more about one of Maison Billecart-Salmon’s best wines: Billecart-Salmon : Le Clos Saint-Hilaire 2002
Domaine Guigal was founded in 1946 by Etienne Guigal in Ampuis, a small ancient village and the cradle of the Côte-Rôtie appellation. It is home to a unique vineyard where vines and wine have been celebrated for 2400 years. Arriving in 1924 at the age of 14, the founder vinified 67 harvests in Côte-Rôtie and took part at the beginning of his career in the development of Etablissements Vidal-Fleury.
Discover more about one of E.GUIGAL’s best wines: GUIGAL CÔTE-RÔTIE LA LANDONNE 2015
4. Château Léoville Las Cases
One of the oldest Medoc estates, Domaine de Léoville belonged to some of the wealthiest and most influential noble French families before it was acquired by the Las Cases family. The estate was split up between 1826 and 1840 as a result of the French Revolution. (Expropriation of emigrants’ property and constitution of egalitarian redistribution). Château Léoville Las Cases was created, thanks to a kind of birthright, from 3/5 of the original estate and the heart of the domain.
Discover more about one of Château Léoville Las Cases’s best wines: Château Léoville Las Cases 2016
5. Champagne Jacquesson
Founded in 1778 Champagne Jacquesson now managed by Chiquet family who own 51%. House is located in Dizy in the Marne Valley.
Main 28ha holdings are in Grande Vallée de la Marne and in the Côte des Blancs. Since early 2000s Chiquet brothers strategically focused on 1er Cru and Grand Cru vineyards only and sold out the rest. They have also been reducing their yields to get a better quality of the fruits. Annual production is about 260K bottles now.
Discover more about one of Champagne Jacquesson’s best wines: Jacquesson : Dizy Corne Bautray 2008
6. CHÂTEAU PAVIE
A beautiful ensemble of stone and flowers faces the vineyard landscape. The entire space is organized around a monumental hall, and from the entrance the tone is set with a subtle measure of modern restraint and Bordeaux classicism.
The central area plays with space and natural light. Like the vines, the large glass façade captures the sun’s rays, offering a magnificent view of the hillside vineyard. This is “the most beautiful spot in Saint-Emilion,” according to some. “From one side you can see the village while the other offers a view of neighboring vineyards towards the Dordogne and the Entre-deux-Mers region beyond.”
Discover more about one of CHÂTEAU PAVIE’s best wines: CHÂTEAU PAVIE ST.-EMILION 2016
7. Château Lafite-Rothschild
While the first known reference to Lafite dates to 1234 with a certain Gombaud de Lafite, abbot of the Vertheuil Monastery north of Pauillac, Lafite’s mention as a medieval fief dates to the 14th century. The name Lafite comes from the Gascon language term “la hite”, which means “hillock”. There were probably already vineyards on the property at the time when the Ségur family organised the vineyard in the 17th century, and Lafite began to earn its reputation as a great winemaking estate. Jacques de Ségur was credited with the planting of the Lafite vineyard in the 1670s and in the early 1680s. In 1695, Jacques de Ségur’s heir, Alexandre, married the heiress of Château Latour, who gave birth to Nicolas-Alexandre de Ségur. The wine histories of the fiefs of Lafite and Latour were thus joined at the outset.
Discover more about one of Château Lafite-Rothschild’s best wines: Château Lafite-Rothschild 2016
8. CHÂTEAU COS-D’ESTOURNEL
Cos d’Estournel is ideally situated at the heart of an undulating landscape in the northern Médoc. The estate’s rolling contours served as inspiration for its name; ”cos” is derived from the word for “hill of pebbles” in the old Gascon dialect.
A plateau of deep gravel comprises the core of the site. Gravelly and clayey, the two hills that slope downward from this point benefit respectively from eastern and south-southwestern exposures. These geologic features are completed by a clay vein running diagonally through the vineyard.
The exposure and soil of each plot—and even each row of vine plants—alongside environmental concerns and respect for nature determine selection of grape varieties and growing techniques. A perfect mastery of the geology of the estate’s terroirs and each individual plot allows its teams to select the most appropriate varieties for the different soils. Merlot is found to the east, on clay-limestone soils, while Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on the highest parts of the plateau, where drainage is ideal.
Discover more about one of CHÂTEAU COS-D’ESTOURNEL’s best wines: CHÂTEAU COS-D’ESTOURNEL ST.-ESTÈPHE 2016
The history of the Haut-Brion lands goes back to the first century AD, as evidenced by a Roman coin featuring a portrait of Emperor Claudius, recently found in one of the gravel slopes of the Château Haut-Brion vineyard. Few centuries later, the Haut-Brion terroir was given its name and was recognised as a “Cru” wine in 1521, according to the Gironde Departmental Archives. A few years passed before Château Haut-Brion became the Grand Cru wine we know now, thanks to the work of Jean de Pontac, who defined the boundaries of the current vineyard and built the Château we can admire today.
Discover more about one of Château Haut-Brion’s best wines: Château Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 2016
10. Château Pétrus
Château La Fleur-Pétrus is one of the most renowned vineyards of Pomerol. This historic estate, situated exclusively on the plateau, was named in the 18th century for its position across the localities ‘Petrus’ and ‘La Fleur’. Established in Libourne since 1937, Jean-Pierre Moueix perceived early on the excellent quality of the Pomerol appellation. Château La Fleur-Pétrus was his very first acquisition in 1950. Quickly after, he purchased Château Trotanoy in 1953.
Discover more about one of Château Pétrus’s best wines: CHÂTEAU PÉTRUS POMEROL 2016
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