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Your Guide to the Provence Wine Region

Bright blue waves and year-round sunshine draw many to Provence. But there’s much more to be explored and enjoyed in this region in southern France. This sun-drenched region is also well-known for its breathtaking vineyards and wine selections. With nearly 90% of its wine production being rosé, Provence is rather pink. We’ve curated a guide to the Provence wine region along with the best wine activities in the heart of southern France.

Your Guide to the Provence Wine Region

How to Get to Provence

Walking Tour of Aix-en-Provence

Provence is easily accessible by plane and train. You can fly into the Marseille airport, where our drivers can pick you up to whisk you off to a darling Provençal village or to bustling Marseille. It’s also possible to fly into Paris and then take the high-speed train to Provence destinations such as Avignon, Aix-en-Provence or Marseille. From Paris, reaching Provence takes around three hours in the TGV train.

Overview of the Provence Wine Region

Provençal vineyards are filled with white varieties such as Rolle, Ugni Blanc and Clairette grapes, per Wine Folly. Red grapes grown in Provence include Grenache Noir, Syrah and Cinsault. We owe much to the Phocaeans who founded Marseille around 2,600 years ago because they packed grapevines in their suitcases, according to Vins de Provence. So even before Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, the region of Provence was the first to produce wine, per Vins de Provence.

Out of all French AOP rosé wines, Provence produces nearly half of these pink wines, according to the Vins de Provence’s 2022 report. And these Provence rosé wines aren’t just for the French to enjoy. In 2022, more than 61 million bottles of Provence rosé were exported, per Vins de Provence. And one of the largest export markets for Provence rosés is the United States, which imported about 23.5 million bottles of rosé in 2022.

When it comes to top appellations in Provence, you must get acquainted with Côtes de Provence as it’s the region’s largest producer and is well-known for its rosé, per Wine Folly. Some of our other favorites are Bandol, which is particularly known for its reds, and Cassis, well-loved for its whites. 

Another hallmark name in southern France is Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Although not technically in the Provence wine region, this appellation is worth mentioning for its close proximity. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is on the southern end of the Rhône Valley and will charm you with its reds, per Wine Folly.  

Itching to discover the world-renowned wineries tucked between rows of lavender and olive orchards? We’ve rounded up some of our best Provence wine region activities that will have you begging for seconds.

Private Luxury Gourmet Tour to Aix Country

Begin your luxurious tour in the charming town of Aix-en-Provence, known for its moss-covered fountains. Wander its cobblestone streets on a private walking tour and discover the secrets of this city founded by the Romans in the second century B.C. You’ll also find yourself enchanted by its many markets, where your food expert will show you around. Indulge in Provence’s many specialities from its tapenade spreads to calisson candies, honey to cheeses.

After you’ve eaten like a true Aixois, our driver will introduce you to the romantic Luberon Valley, one of the top Provence wine region destinations. During the afternoon, you’ll enjoy a cellar visit of a local vineyard followed by a tasting of three wines. Sip on a glass of the Côtes de Provence appellation with a backdrop of rolling Provençal vineyards in quaint villages such as Lourmarin or Ménerbes. Oh là là !

Private Food and Wine Tour to Avignon Country

Turn back the clock with a visit to the medieval town of Avignon. This charming town is a destination in and of itself with its rich historical significance and ancient architecture. Even more, it’s only a stone’s throw away from some of Provence’s best wineries and vineyards. Admire the Gothic architecture of the Pope’s Palace and see the Pont d’Avignon, a bridge that inspired a children’s nursery rhyme any French child could croon with you. The city boasts exquisite restaurants, but for lunch, we recommend that you stroll its markets to taste the region’s best flavors. Following your authentic meal, our wine expert will meet you to sample several glasses of the famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. 

Guided Wine Tour of the Châteauneuf du Pape Appellation

Photo by Eric Masur on Unsplash

After just a short drive from the historically rich town of Avignon, you have some of the best Provençal wine appellations at your fingertips. Your day will begin with a visit to Gigondas as you wander vineyards in this famed appellation. After you sip on a flight of wine, nosh on an authentic dish at a French restaurant in the village. Later, our driver will guide you to another wine tasting with the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. Taste some of this region’s best red and white wines all with a postcard-worthy village backdrop.

Where to Stay in Provence

Domaine de Fontenille
This four-star hotel is located in the lush Luberon Valley and invites you in to a cozy stay in one of its 21 rooms. Savor an authentic French meal made with the freshest ingredients from the hotel’s vegetable garden. Unwind with a yoga class or explore the Luberon horseback during your stay at the Domaine de Fontenille.

Courtesy of Château de Fonscolombe

Château de Fonscolombe
After discovering the wealth of the Provence wine region, rest your head at this five-star hotel. The Château de Fonscolombe will woo you with its 50 elegantly decorated rooms and its manicured gardens just a hop, skip and a jump away from Aix-en-Provence.

Longing to taste the riches of the Provence wine region for yourself? French Side Travel is ready to help you organize a magical trip to savor the best of the Provençal wine. You might enjoy: A Perfect Cultural and Culinary Stay in the Beautiful Provence or Culture and Gastronomy in Provence. Need some help planning your trip?

Your Guide to the Loire Valley Wine Region

Somewhere in between bustling Paris and sun-drenched southern France lies the Loire Valley. This region of France is particularly known for its hundreds of castles. But its Renaissance architecture isn’t all this French region boasts. The Loire Valley is sprinkled with vineyards, which spread across 220 square miles, per Vins du Val de Loire. From Sauvignon Blanc to Muscadet, from Cabernet Franc to Vouvray, we’re exploring the best of the Loire Valley wine region.  

Your Guide to the Loire Valley Wine Region

How to Get to the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley spreads across a 170-mile stretch. This region is accessible by plane at the Tours Val de Loire Airport. But France’s robust train system is also a fantastic way to explore the Loire Valley. We recommend flying into Paris and then taking a train to one of the larger towns in the Loire Valley such as Tours, Orléans or Angers. If you’re looking to explore wine country, it’s best to have a vehicle in order to best discover the region and its terroir. French Side Travel is able to coordinate drivers and luxury transportation for you during your trip to the Loire Valley wine region. That means you can focus more on wine and less on logistics.

Overview of the Loire Valley Wine Region

Credit: DalGobboM via Wikimedia Commons

With around 50 appellations, the Loire Valley is one of France’s largest wine regions. Nearly half of the Loire Valley’s wine production is white wine; about one quarter of its production is rosé wine, according to Vins du Val de Loire. The Loire Valley also produces red wines and sparkling wines.

Within the Loire Valley wine region, there are several sub-regions: the Central Vineyards, Touraine, Anjou-Saumur, and the Pays Nantais, according to MasterClass

Loire Valley Grape Varieties and Wines

The main grape varieties grown in the Loire Valley wine region include: Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne, per Wine Folly.

When traveling to the Loire Valley wine region, be sure to sip on a glass of Vouvray. This white wine is made with Chenin Blanc grapes and can be found in different styles from sparkling to dry, according to Wine Folly.

If you have a hankering for even more white wine, look no further than a glass of Muscadet, which is made of Melon de Bourgogne grapes, per Divine Loire. This wine region produces more than 10 million bottles of this dry white wine each year, according to Vins du Val de Loire.

If you fancy reds, no need to fret. The Loire Valley will swoon with its Côt grapes in the Touraine sub-region.

Thirsty for more of the Loire Valley? French Side Travel offers many wine activities in this wine region. Whether you’re craving a glass of red Chinon or a flute of Vouvray, we have the perfect tour for you. Here are some of the best wine activities in the Loire Valley.

Full-Day Wine Tour of the Loire Valley

Spend the entire day immersing yourself in the enchanting Loire Valley wine region. Located near the Château de Chenonceau, this domain ferments its wines in troglodyte cellars, or underground caves. Later you’ll wander another winery not far from the Château Royal d’Amboise. Here you’ll stroll its vineyards and troglodytic cellars. Your wine-themed day will also include a deep dive into the Vouvray appellation known for its glossy hue. Speak with the winemakers themselves as you uncover their craft.

Private Domain Tour and Meal in a Troglodyte Cave 

Discover the charming town of Chinon and delve into the local culture in this Loire Valley village. You’ll begin your visit with a trip to a domain as you wander the estate and its wine cellar. Your day will include a wine tasting of two whites, one rosé and three red wines. Your wine tasting will be followed by a gourmet meal either in a troglodyte cave or, if the weather is on your side, along the Vienne river. 

Guided Tour of Vouvray, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and Chinon Appellations

With more than 50 appellations to explore in the Loire Valley, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Let us help by introducing you to three of our favorites: Vouvray, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and Chinon. Your personal guide will introduce you to three different wineries in the Loire where you’ll discover the winemaking journey. Then wander the underground cellars and sip on a variety of wines produced in the region.

Where to Stay in the Loire Valley

Relais de Chambord
A mere four minutes from the Château de Chambord, this hotel is at the heels of royalty. With 16th century roots, this four-star hotel offers 55 unique rooms, including a boat suite. After a day of castle exploration, you can dine at one of the hotel’s restaurants. We’re certain that you’ll be tempted by its herb-crusted venison at Le Grand Saint-Michel or a café gourmand at Les Armes du Château.

Les Sources de Cheverny
Settle in with a stay at this cozy chic five-star hotel. Nestled between Chambord and Chenonceau châteaux, les Sources de Cheverny will enchant you with its 49 rooms and suites. Be tempted by its wooded suite overlooking the lake and featuring a Nordic bath. After a full day of winery tours, unwind at the hotel’s thermal bath or hammam all with the perfect backdrop of the forest.

Enchanted by the Loire Valley wine region? French Side Travel is ready to help you plan a magical trip to experience the best of the French wine. You might enjoy: The Gorgeous Loire Valley by Bike or Luxury Trip to Paris, Normandy, and Loire Valley. Need some help planning your trip?

Your Guide to the Bordeaux Wine Region

The city of Bordeaux is known for its cannelé pastries and its regal Haussmanian-style architecture. But above all, Bordeaux is synonymous with wine. Named the wine capital of the world, this town is especially known for its red wines and boasts 53 appellations per Wine Folly. From the Left Bank Médoc to the Right Bank Libournais, from Bordeaux Blanc to Sauternais, we’re diving into the world of Bordeaux wines. And we’re breaking down the Bordeaux wine region with its classifications and terroir, plus the best wine activities in Bordeaux.

Your Guide to the Bordeaux Wine Region

How to Get to Bordeaux

Nicknamed “le petit Paris,” Bordeaux boasts beautiful architecture, exquisite restaurants and certainly quality wine. Located in western France near the Atlantic Coast, the city is accessible by plane and train. The Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport offers international flights, and the city is only a short 2-hour TGV train ride from Paris.

Grape Types and Classifications

wine producer | French Side Travel

The Bordeaux wine region utilizes six main grape varieties, per Vins de Bordeaux. The principal red grape varieties include Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. We recommend sipping on wines from the Left Bank Médoc and Right Bank Libournais regions. Bordeaux may be known for its reds, but don’t overlook its whites. The main white grape varieties are Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Be sure to taste some Bordeaux Blanc and Sauternais wines.

There are five established Bordeaux wine classifications such as the Grand Crus Classés en 1855 and the Grands Crus de Saint Émilion.  We owe the former to Napoleon III, who started this classification for Bordeaux wineries following the 1855 World’s Fair, per Wine Folly. Since the creation of this classification, the criteria has barely budged and still remains an important litmus test in the wine world. “One hundred and fifty years after its drafting it remains one of the most authoritative references in the world of wine,” says Dewey Markham Jr. on the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855 site.

What’s a Cru?

Credit: Photo by Maxime Kirschner on Unsplash

Cru refers to “a great or superior growing site or vineyard, a concept linked to the French notion of terroir,” writes Lauren Mowery in a Wine Enthusiast article. “Soil, climate, altitude, aspect and the right variety create a synergy recognized as a cru.”

Earning the Cru label varies throughout France, but in the Bordeaux wine region, it’s linked to a certain château or domain, not just the vineyard, according to Wine Enthusiast. Regardless of how the classifications define their tiers, the Grand Cru label establishes a mark of quality.

Whether you’re a red or white wine lover, the Bordeaux wine region awaits. We’ve rounded up some of the best wine activities in Bordeaux.

La Cité du Vin

You might be thinking, I’ve already been to dozens of museums. France abounds with museums of all types from art to history, culture to castles. La Cité du Vin isn’t like just any other museum. From its geography to grape varieties, its history to packaging, this wine museum dives into the oenological industry and culture. Whether it’s virtual grape-treading or sniffing different notes, the museum’s different rooms invite you into an immersive experience. Hear from winemakers from multiple continents and learn about the terroirs across the globe. Best of all, your visit ends with a complimentary glass of wine with a panoramic view of Bordeaux. French Side Travel can also secure private workshops for you and your group’s visit to the Cité du Vin.

Guided Visit of a Château in the Graves Appellation

Spend the afternoon exploring one of only a handful properties to be classified in both red and white wines according to the 1953 Graves classification. This domain dates back to the 1700s, and today you can admire its acres of vineyards, which are lined with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sémillon grapes.

Indulge in a private tour of this domain as you discover its history, winery and vineyards. After you’ve visited this elegant estate, the chef will prepare you a gourmet lunch with delectable wine pairings. 

Full-Day Visit to Saint-Émilion and Pomerol

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Delve into the rich wine region of Bordeaux with a private guided tour as you discover the Saint-Émilion, Fronsac, and Pomerol appellations. In addition to tasting the Saint Émilion appellation, you will discover the Saint Émilion terroir as your driver shows you the region and its vineyards. Begin your day with a visit to the château of a Saint-Émilion grand cru classé producer. Learn all about the six generations of this family-run business and explore the vineyards and underground cellars. Later, you’ll enjoy a private tasting featuring Saint-Émilion grand crus, reds from Pomerol, and even a white confidential cuvée.

Bordeaux Grand Crus Workshop

Delve into the world of Bordeaux wines and their gradation techniques. From Saint Émilion to Pomerol, you’ll learn the ins and outs of these world-renowned wines with an oenological expert. Your private workshop will include tastings of three Grand Crus. Santé !

Guided Tour of the Médoc Wine Region

Immerse yourself in the world of the Médoc appellation. Enjoy a drive through the vineyards before you visit two châteaux. The first domain on your itinerary produces Margaux deuxième grand crus and will charm you with its architecture dating back to the 1600s. After exploring this estate, you’ll enjoy lunch in charming town of Pauillac before visiting two more domains.

Wine and Cheese Pairing Workshop

Start your gastronomic adventure in the heart of Bordeaux. This sommelier-led workshop will introduce you to the theory and hands-on activities as you learn how to pair different wines and cheeses.

Where to Stay in Bordeaux

InterContinental Bordeaux
If you’re in search of a regal experience while in Bordeaux, look no further than a stay at the InterContinental. Their 130 rooms and suites could’ve jumped right out of a movie scene; its Opera views, crown moldings and thoughtful decoration are sure to delight. For true wine lovers, we must recommend booking a stay in the Wine Bar Suite. Yes, you read that right: a room with its own private wine bar with Grands Crus by the glass service. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant also has taken residence in the InterContinental. Book a romantic, chic dinner for two at Le Pressoir d’Argent Gordon Ramsay, where you can feast on a Michelin-decorated menu. You might want to start studying the menu as there are over 500 wines to choose from.

Hotel de Pavie
A bit outside of Bordeaux, Hotel de Pavie is worth the trek. This five-star hotel is located in Saint-Emilion and best be on every wine aficionado’s bucket list. Hotel de Pavie has worn many hats over the years: convent, dance hall and hotel restaurant. No matter your style, this hotel has a variety of rooms and suites located in their Bell Tower, Village and Suite houses. Enjoy a meal at Chef Yannick Alléno’s La Table de Pavie. This Michelin-awarded chef will tempt you with his caviar paired with a smoky eel sauce or roasted pigeon paired with a walnut purée. But the likelihood is that you came to Bordeaux for the wine. This hotel restaurant’s sommelier is here to help you. You can opt for a food and wine pairing with a variety of different wines.

Learning about the Bordeaux wine region making your thirsty for a glass of red? French Side Travel is ready to help you plan the perfect trip to experience the best of the French wine industry. Check out our Guide to French Wine. Here are some itineraries we think you might enjoy: A Road Trip Through Bordeaux and Dordogne’s Nature and Wine Country or The Essence of Bordeaux and it’s Region. Need some help planning your trip?

The Beginner’s Guide to French Wine

Rouge, rosé ou blanc — if only it were that simple! With more than 3,000 wines crafted in France, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. From sunlight to temperature, barrel storage to grape variety, there’s so much that goes into the creation of what goes into a wine glass. And within a country as diverse as France, each of its dozen or so wine regions offers a unique taste and perspective on this timeless beverage. We’re going back to the basics of winemaking with our beginner’s guide to French wine and our favorite wine activities.

The Beginner’s Guide to French Wine

History of Wine

wine cave | wine tasting | Wine Tour

Grape fermentation is nothing new; in fact, it can be traced all the way back to 4000 B.C. Along with many mentions of wine in the Bible, evidence has been found in Egyptian records mentioning winemaking from 2500 B.C., according to Britannica. Since then, wine has grown to many corners of the globe. In France, the retail wine industry generated 4.64 billion euros in 2021, according to Statista. On average, the French drink 47 liters of wine per capita.

Red, Rosé or White

The three main categories of wine are fairly straightforward and can be found across wine regions in France. But within these categories, the possibilities abound, considering that there are more than 10,000 existing grape varieties.

Several popular grape varieties often used in red wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah, per Food & Wine. Bordeaux is particularly known for its red wines.

Among many others, white wine grape varieties include Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat and Sauvignon Blanc, according to USA Wine Ratings. The wine regions of Alsace and Loire Valley are well-known for their white wines, per .

Unfortunately, pink grapes don’t exist yet! In order to achieve that gorgeous rosé color, winemakers must have the red grapes’ skins touch wine but not for long, per Wine Folly. “Where some red wines ferment for weeks at a time on red grape skins, rosé wines are stained red for just a few hours,” according to this Wine Folly article. For a crisp glass of rosé, we recommend heading to Provence or the Riviera.

AOP: Is This Wine Legit?

old cellar of winery, in Burgundy

Not all wines are created equal. And that’s why France and Europe have adopted the AOC and AOP labels respectively, according to the Ministry of Economy. In short, these labels are stamps of authenticity. So many foods, beverages and local products are based on tradition, geography and heritage. And this label seeks to protect the genuinity of these products. For example, a sparkling white wine cannot be called champagne unless it’s produced in the Champagne region of France.

In France, there are more than 400 registered AOP labeled wines. As you’re browsing wine labels, keep your eyes peeled for the AOC or AOP label to ensure that it’s legit.

French Wine Masters: Sommeliers

It’s clear that wine isn’t just any beverage. The wine industry demands expertise on many factors: grape varieties, tannins, age, region, climate. Enter sommeliers, or trained wine experts. The sommelier or sommelière is responsible for understanding the different types of wines and liquors. They often work in Michelin-starred restaurants or wine bars and guide diners in their wine choice and pairing, per Onisep. France has specific studies and diplomas based on sommellerie, but there are different levels of sommeliers, such as commis sommelier and chef sommelier. 

Within the global wine industry, there are several covetable certifications with two being: Master of Wine and Master Sommelier. “The Master of Wine program is more academic as compared to the Master Sommelier program,” says master sommelier Mathias Camilleri in a Michelin article. “The Master Sommelier program focuses on the dining experience in restaurants and trains sommeliers to understand, recommend and serve the guests in the most optimal conditions.” 

Regardless of the MW or MS titles, both require multiple exams, which prove to be no easy feat. It takes a minimum of three years to earn the Master of Wine certification, and only 417 people have earned this title since its inception in 1953, according to the organization’s site. There are four levels to becoming a master sommelier. Fewer than 300 people have earned the MS title since the creation of the Court of Master Sommeliers in 1969, per CMS.

With wine harvested all across France, there’s much to be explored and tasted in the French wine industry. French Side Travel offers a smorgasbord of wine-related activities and would be delighted to organize your trip. Here is just a smattering of our favorite wine activities in France:

An Evening of Rosé Tasting Paired with Nice Street Food 

Spend the soirée with a sommelier and cookbook author as you discover the refreshing rosé wines produced in Provence and the French Riviera. Taste several types of rosé and pair them with local street food. Bon appétit !

Wine Harvest Morning 

person cutting grapes from vineyard

Roll up your sleeves because this activity will put you to work as you discover the intricate wine-making process. Grab your boots and some pruning clippers, and head out to the vineyards where you’ll pick from the vines. Then return to the cellar and discover how they will be fermented and transformed.

Picnic at Château des Jacques 

Savor a glass of French wine in the midst of its terroir. Spend the afternoon over a picnic at the Château des Jacques, which is located in the Beaujolais region. Snack on sausages, bread, fruit and, of course, a bottle of Beaujolais.

Bordeaux Grand Crus Workshop

summer highlights in the bordeaux region

Delve into the world of Bordeaux wines and their gradation techniques. From Saint Émilion to Pomerol, you’ll learn the ins and outs of these world-renowned wines with an oenological expert. Your private workshop will include tastings of three Grand Crus. Santé ! Check out our Guide to the Bordeaux Wine Region.

Private tasting at Philippe Le Bon Tower 

city Dijon and its church

Located in the Burgundy wine region, Dijon is home to the Philippe le Bon tower. Enjoy the panoramic views of this town from this tower as you sip on a glass of white from the Domaine de la Cras. Your exclusive evening will also include a sampling of apéritifs and appetizers.

Where to Stay in France

Hotel Villa La Coste in Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade
Calling all wine lovers and art aficionados. Hotel Villa La Coste is a luxury hotel in Provence boasting five stars and 28 villa suites. You could spend hours wandering this luxury hotel grounds with its spa, library, vineyard, bar and restaurants. The hotel is situated in the Château La Coste domain, which also boasts various art exhibitions. We’re sure you’ll be tempted by its Pool Villa Suite, complete with a private patio and pool. This luxury hotel also offers an art and architecture tour and wine tasting during your stay.

Les Sources de Caudalie in Bordeaux
Tucked south of Bordeaux, les Sources de Caudalie is a five-star palace hotel located in the Château Smith Haut Lafitte vineyards. Escape from the city center with a stay in one of these 61 rooms and suites in Martillac. You can’t miss a visit to its Vinothérapie Spa where you can enjoy a Crushed Cabernet scrub. Not only will you drink well, but you’ll also dine well at its Michelin-starred restaurant La Grand’Vigne.

France’s various wine regions offer an array of activities to be savored and enjoyed. French Side Travel is ready to help you plan the perfect trip to experience the best of the French wine industry. You might enjoy: Burgundy’s VIP Wine Tour Experience or Luxury Gourmet & Oenological Trip to Beautiful Provence. Need some help planning your trip?

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