The French wine tourist pathways are numerous and well-known out of the country. Winalist tells you about main wine routes in France for your next holidays or weekend getaways, to consume without restraint!
What is a wine route?
In France, the first vines were planted by the Greek the 2nd century BC, when our country was still called “Gaul”. The Romans then developed wine production and the wines’ quality improved over years to formed different identities according to where and how they are produced. To get their wines more famous, French winemakers invented tourist routes allowing travelers to both enjoy discovering a wine region and its local treasures to drink.
By car, by bike or walking, a wine route is a tourist trail one can take to discover the vineyards of a given wine region and their productions through diverse activities. There are at least as many wine routes as wine regions in France; Winalist presents you the 3 main ones. We start with the oldest one:
The Alsace Wine Route
After World War I, winegrowers began to produce white wines made from typical varieties of grapes. Three of these wines have been nationally recognized and protected by the government with the “AOC” label (the certification granted to certain French geographical indications for wines and foodstuff) in 1962: Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru, and Crémant d’Alsace.
You can tell a wine is from this area looking at its bottle because in Alsace, all wines are served in the “flute” of Alsace.
Invented in 1953 the Alsace wine route spreads over 105 miles, covers about 15 000 hectares over 119 municipalities. And you can’t miss the trail: not only is it the only route you will find on Google Map but once there, the path is all marked-off with numerous signs.
The Alsace wine route gives access to 38 wine trails that wind through the area from North to South and lead to breathtaking views of the vineyards. You will discover flower-filled villages several times awarded “French favorite village” (village préféré des français) with half-timbered houses, fortified walls, castles, old churches and tasting cellars! Besides, from April to October every year, the villages there alternatively organize wine festivals to make the route even more joyful!
The Bordeaux Wine Route
Oh, Lord! That is thanks to English people that Bordeaux wine took off. In the Middle Age the region of Aquitaine was under their rule. They fall in love with “clarette”, a light red wine, and fostered the development of the wine industry and trade in the area.
Nowadays Bordeaux wines can be enjoyed in China, and the vineyards also produce famous dry or sweet white wines, as well as rosé wines made from red grapes. The Bordeaux region represents 57 AOC (designation controlled), thousands Houses of wines, hundreds of trading houses stretched over 120,000 hectares of land, rivers, vines, and pines. To discover this region, the 6 wine routes are more than just a journey through vineyards, but stand for the whole wine map of Bordeaux vineyards.
(1) The castles route: in the Médoc area, in the North of Bordeaux, close to the ocean, you can find the main “Grands Crus classés” (top ranked vintage wines) and many “crus bourgeois” (very fine wines).
(2) and (4) Route des Graves: at the edge of the Landes forest. The Sauternes (4) comes from this little area where many castles offer bed and breakfast in a tremendous environment.
(3) The bastides route: between the Dordogne river and the Garonne river (called “Entre-deux-Mers”) this area abounds with fortified towns called “bastides” and abbeys to visit!
(5) The heritage Route: in the East of Bordeaux on the bank of the Dordogne river, this trail will lead you to the medieval village of Saint-Émilion (listed as a World Heritage Site by the Unesco).
(6) The hillsides route: in the North of Bordeaux, this path provides visitors with great views on the Gironde estuary. The route also walks you to antic villages, Roman churches, Gallo-Roman vestiges and to the famous citadel of Blaye, built by the 18th century military engineer Vauban.
The Burgundy Route
The family of Burgundy wines extends its territory on 29,500 hectares, has 101 AOC and four thousand wineries. In the Middle Ages, monks were the first to structure some wine production around their abbeys. Now, Burgundy wines are known outside the French borders but are to be discovered in their habitat through 4 major routes – to take separately or in a row. From North to South:
The Yonne vines route: not too far from Paris, a bit before Dijon, this route goes through the cities of Auxerre, Tonnerre or Vézelay. The Chablis wine is native from this area.
The Burgundy vintage wines route: from Dijon to the Côte de Beaune, this pathway will lead you through this Golden slope area (“Côte d’or”) that produces the most famous wines. You will discover old villages, hospices and castles like the Clos de Vougeot.
The great wines route: make you discover the chalonnaise slope bordered by the Centre canal and the Saône river.
The Mâconnais-Beaujolais wines route: marked by “Suivez la grappe” (follow the grape) signs, this route leads you to numerous vineyards and the beautiful city of Mâcon. You will also discover the Rock of Solutré, one of Burgundy’s most famous natural sites.
For wine lovers or people looking for great walks, the wine routes are an authentic and original way to discover what lies behind a good bottle of wine. These trails will bring you to places to rest, restaurants, cellar visits or tastings that you can find on Winalist. Enjoy the discovery!
Also published on Medium.