The Best Wine Regions to Visit near Paris
There are usually two good reasons for visiting France. Paris is one and French wine is another. It’s fine to taste celebrated wines in the French capital’s restaurants. But for a truly authentic and unforgettable experience, you should take a day trip to nearby vineyards. Thankfully, you will find many fine vineyards just out of the line of your eyesight. Besides discovering fine wineries and vineyards to visit near Paris, you will find many attractive places and landmarks along the way.
Wine region of Champagne
One of the most celebrated wine regions to visit near Paris is Champagne. Located at the doorstep of Paris, with Reims only 90 km away from the city, you can reach the region quickly. Champagne features planes with lakes and forested hills. And, of course, expansive areas covered by vineyards where exceptional grapes are traditionally grown.
You can get around Champagne on your own without effort. The region is easy to navigate through thanks to a developed network of walking and biking routes. In addition, you can make use of the Champagne Tourist Route, which comprises signposted routes in length of around 600 km. But if you want to be sure not to miss anything important, simplify the matters and book some of the guided tours on offer.
Besides arranged vineyards that are perfectly maintained, visiting Reims and its Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral is a must. In addition to its artistic value, the cathedral used to be the crowning place of the kings of France. Aside of the Notre Dame Cathedral, a visit to the Mumm Champagne House and its cellars is another worthy addition to your trip.
However, it’s the town of Epernay where the best wine experience in Champagne awaits you. While traveling to this interesting town south of Reims, you will traverse the most significant wine-producing areas of Champagne. When you arrive in Epernay, pay special attention to its wine cellars that occupy premises of Renaissance-style houses. Apart from wine tastings, you will hear interesting stories about techniques used in production of wines.
These would be the highlights of every wine tour in Champagne, and all of them are a part of this tour from Paris. If you prefer, however, something more adventurous, the Champagne Region Bike Tour is also available. During the bike tour, you will admire attractive landscapes of Champagne and enjoy wine tastings.
Before you set off on a tour to the wine-producing region of Champagne, you should be aware of one thing. Know that champagne is a sparkling wine, not vice versa. Although many people refer to champagne when speaking of a sparkling wine, that isn’t correct. Champagne is produced only in the wine region of Champagne, to put it simply, and nowhere else.
In certain stages of the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453), Reims was occupied by the English army. In 1429, French forces, led by Jean of Arc, liberated the city for Charles VII to be crowned in the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Wine region of Burgundy
Burgundy (Bourgogne) is also among the best wine regions to visit near Paris. Although Burgundy is slightly farther from the city than Champagne, you can still reach it within 3 hours by car. Journeys by train to the Burgundy’s capital of Dijon are somewhat shorter, lasting around 2 hours.
In general, wine-producing areas of Bourgogne roughly extend from Chablis in the north to Macon in the south. Besides Chablis and Maconnais (the southernmost one), the region encompasses Cote de Nuits (just south of Dijon), Cote de Beaune and Cote Chalonnaise (north of Maconnais).
Wine production in Burgundy is way different when compared to Champagne. While the area between Reims and Epernay is the finest for grape cultivation in the latter, in Bourgogne it rather depends on a particular piece of land. And that’s the reason why you’ll see many wine estates enclosed within former monasteries. In turbulent past times, the church has recognized the potential of these grounds. Consequently, the institution enclosed the vineyards to protect them from destruction and exploit.
While exploring vineyards of Burgundy on foot, bike or horseback, you shouldn’t leave behind some interesting destinations. Dijon features several noteworthy places such as the Gothic cathedral of Saint Benigne and the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy. Auxerre is another great city to explore. Here, you will get a glimpse into the past since Auxerre’s architecture evokes the medieval times in France.
But first and foremost, Burgundy is a wine region. And Paris by David introduces two interesting tours that allow you to discover the essentials of this diverse province.
All-inclusive Chablis and North Burgundy Tour is a full-day trip from the City of Lights. During this tour, you will taste some of the best wines made in Chablis and tour wine cellars. Also, you will hear stories about the Templars and Cistercian monks.
The personalized Day Trip to Burgundy adds a lunch in a Michelin-awarded restaurant and a visit to Auxerre.
Wine region of the Loire Valley
The Loire Valley combines a number of attractive features that make it a great tourist destination. The Loire Valley castles, beautiful landscapes and vineyards are among the most important ones. And these features are credited the most for this region’s status of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Although the largest UNESCO site in the world, the Loire Valley is easy to discover. All you have to do is to follow the flow of the Loire River, which gave name to the entire region. Furthermore, this renowned region is the longest wine route in France. When you enter the Loire Valley near the historic town of Orleans (Jean d’Arc and Sainte-Genevieve), hills and plains will alternate along the river’s flow.
You may know the Loire Valley mostly as a region with outstanding chateaux (castles). But when you take a trip, it becomes obvious that famous chateaux are next to districts that produce wines. Therefore, you get a unique opportunity to combine the best the Loire Valley has to offer.
The Chateau de Chambord mesmerizes with its architecture and appearance. You will admire its spires and towers symmetrically arranged and reflected from the surface of a nearby river. Inside, pay attention to a staircase that prevents people who ascend to meet those who descend.
The Chateau de Chenonceau is unique in quite a different way. When most royal castles were heavily damaged during the French Revolution (1789-1799), the Chenonceau was left unharmed. The reason – it spanned the Cher River, the Loire’s tributary, making a convenient crossing. In addition, the chateau boasts a marvelous interior and a collection of prized Flanders tapestries. Not to mention paintings by some important artists (Rubens, Poussin and Murillo, for example). Furthermore, the castle’s splendid gardens are a match to legendary Versailles Gardens.
Finally, the Chateau d’Amboise assumes a vantage point offering great views of the Loire River. Once a favorite residence of French kings, it features Renaissance and Gothic elements. Besides admiring appealing design and views, you can pay respects to Leonardo da Vinci here. The Renaissance master’s tomb and workshop are present within the complex.
If swallowing such large bites at once seems hard to you, Paris by David has a solution. The Chateaux of Chambord and Chenonceau with Wine-tasting Trip introduces two of three most popular chateaux of the Loire Valley. Also, you will enjoy spending time in a prestigious vineyard and having lunch. The personalized Three Top Castles Tour adds a visit to the Chateau d’Amboise.
Best times for a visit
In general, April, May and the second part of September are the best times for a visit to French vineyards. So, if you plan a trip on your own, make sure to visit harvest festivals taking place during these periods.