When it comes to countries that are associated with wine, France is in the upper echelon. It's the second-largest producer of wine in the world after Italy, and it's the number one exporter of wines by value. The range of terrains and ideal weather conditions for grapes means that you can visit world-class wine regions all around France, from the well-known Champagne region in the north all the way to Provence in the south.
Whether you're traveling to one wine region or driving throughout the country to visit them all, there's no better place to learn about viticulture and winemaking than France.
Château Lynch-Bages, Bordeaux
Château Lynch-Bages is the quintessential French winery. The building is in a 19th-century mansion surrounded by nearly 250 acres of vineyards, nestled in the famous Bordeaux region. Red wines dominate in Bordeaux, and here you can try the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc grapes that are processed.
Wine has been produced on the estate since 1749 and an on-site museum transports visitors to a bygone era of making wine using horse-drawn carts, rope-pulley-bucket systems, and manual crushing of grapes. On the same property, you can visit the Château Cordeillan-Bages, the four-star hotel and Michelin-star restaurant that accompany the winery. Spend a night living in luxury in one of the staterooms and pair your superb meal with an aged wine grown straight from the nearby vineyards.
Champagne G. Tribaut, Champagne
The sparkling wine producer Champagne G. Tribaut has been welcoming visitors to their winery on the fringes of the town of Épernay for over 40 years, right in the heart of the historic Champagne region about two hours east of Paris. The warm welcome and obvious passion for their products make hosts Ghislain and Marie-Jose the perfect people to take you around this wonderful family winery. Homemade cooking accompanies the champagne tastings here, and while they supply many of the big names in champagne production, their own smaller production line produces some very tasty champagne, too.
Château Soucherie, Loire Valley
The stunning building that is home to the Château Soucherie winery is one of the most opulent country homes that you will encounter in France. Set on a rise overlooking the Loire Valley and rows of Cabernet Franc grapes, the region is most known for its white wines. The team at Château Soucherie manually handles nearly every part of the grape growing process, meaning their wines are less processed and every bottle has that je ne sais quoi quality of being made by experts, not machines.
This is a winery that has long been held within the same family and the grand surroundings make this a wonderful place to enjoy a glass of wine. There are also rooms available in the chateau if you want a rest from driving and fancy sampling a little more of the chateau's produce.
Domaine Weinbach, Alsace
Domaine Weinbach has been producing wine in this location for over 1,000 years, and the terraces that you see today are the same terraces that held the wine produced by the Capuchin monks here as far back as the ninth century. Located in the Alsace wine region near the German border, the Domaine Weinbach winery is just outside of the charming town of Colmar, or about an hour south of Strasbourg.
It's one of the only regions in France where wines are named for the varietal as opposed to the area where it's located, and the Riesling and Gewürztraminer varieties are among the most popular. The grapes at Domaine Weinbach are all organic, so you can be assured you're enjoying some of the best of the Alsace. The wine tasting may be free, but it is hard to resist buying a bottle or two of their wonderful product directly from the winery before you leave.
The House of Rémy Martin, Cognac
Wine isn't the only beverage produced in the vineyards of France, and any lover of spirits has to try cognac at the House of Rémy Martin, one of the most iconic brands of this luxury drink and located right in the city of Cognac itself. Here you will be able to take the tour of the winery that produces the tasty spirit that is twice distilled before being aged for two years in oak barrels—a process that turns the wine into brandy. Only brandies produced in this region and following the specific guidelines for production can be considered "cognac."
You can see that while some aspects have seen technological advances, the importance of the wooden barrels is still apparent. The tour here certainly takes in a much larger commercial operation, but is still well worthwhile, with a lovely restaurant in the main house where you can enjoy great food well-suited to the flavor of the cognac.
Château La Coste, Provence
Château La Coste is a modern winery that stands out from the large country houses that make up the majority of French wineries. Located in the Provence region of the south—which is most famous for its rosé wines—this winery is constructed with modern architecture and contemporary sculptures around the premises. You can even round out your day of wine tasting with an Art & Architecture Walk around the vineyards to take in the sights while enjoying a glass of your wine of choice.
All the wines produced here are fully organic, while the tastings of the great range of wines here are accompanied by tasty local delicacies.
Coquillade Village, Rhone Valley
A luxury hotel surrounded by around eight acres of vineyards, Coquillade Village is a great spot if you are looking for a break from the road, with a lovely spa and swimming pool to help you relax after your drive. Their wines were awarded the European Ecolabel in 2012, meaning the winery has done extensive work to protect the environment during their production process.
The surroundings are spectacular, creating a lush valley around the Rhone River through southern France. Even though the Rhone Valley sits right on top of the Provence wine region, the two areas are distinguished by their grapes, not geography. While Provence is known for its rosés, the Rhone Valley specializes in red wines from Syrah and Ganache grapes, varietals that are great for fledgling enophiles since these wines are generally less expensive but still rich and flavorful.