The Sunday Telegraph

Sunday, May 5, 2013
The Sunday Telegraph
Your 20-page guide to experiences in the beautiful wine regions
In association
Distributed with The Sunday Telegraph
The vineyards of France conjure images of romance,
sunny open spaces and timeless old villages as well as the
unmistakeably delicious wines. This supplement will inspire
you to come to explore, perhaps combining a few
vineyards visits with all sorts of typically French adventures.
And you can find even more ideas and information at and also at
There are so many choices,
from a grand wine château
to a castle in the trees and
even a converted vat
Cycle through the Loire
Valley, walk in Burgundy,
play golf in Toulouse,
ascend Mont Ventoux
Drive along the Route du
Champagne, hover over the
Loire Valley, unearth secrets
in Savoie and Mâcon
You can experience more
than 2,000 years of history
and heritage in the
vineyards of France
Discover delicious Dijon, eat
and drink your way through
Bordeaux, enjoy Avignon’s
finest Provençal cuisine
Visit beautiful ancient
hamlets and handsome
bastides that show the rich
diversity of wine country
Editor Jackie Holland
Commissioning editor Beverley Glick
Art director Tim Shearring
Design Clive Johnston, Steve Willard
Production editor Caroline Dix
PHOTOS Cover: Alamy, 4 Corners, Getty, Christophe Grilhé, CRTA/
Bernard Dupuy, Alain Doire/Bourgogne Tourisme, CRT Midi-Pyrénées
Dominique Viet; p2-3: Getty, Jupiter Images, Château de Pizay;
p4-5: Château des Allues, Bruno Preschesmisky/ Relais et Chateau,
Hôtel du Nord, Châteaux dans les Arbres; p6-9: Alamy, Corbis, Monet
Yvon Collection CIVC, Croisieurope, Stevens Frémont CDT Touraine/
Interloire; p10-11: 4 Corners, Christophe Grilhé; p12-13: Jean-Pierre
Eschmann, Alamy, Château Smith Haut Lafitte; p14-17: Alamy,
4 Corners, Getty, Chateau de Marsannay; p18-19: Alamy, 4 Corners
Discover the beauty
Take a holiday in
the iconic wine
regions of France
and you’ll find
scenic splendour,
adventure, fine
food, relaxation
and romance,
says Sarah
Every bottle of French wine
tells a story. Raise a glass
to toast convivial company,
glorious food or a wonderful
holiday amid the tranquil
scenery of one France’s
17 diverse wine regions
and you salute not just the
moment but a particular
pocket of land and its unique
package of history, climate,
folklore, culture, gastronomy
and tradition in nurturing
the grape.
To visit a vineyard —
whether it is a grand
château estate or an artisan
smallholding — is to enter a
magic kingdom abundant in
natural beauty and presided
over by winemakers who
take pride in conjuring
exquisite tastes from their
annual harvest.
No two wines can ever
be the same, even in
neighbouring wineries.
That’s why wine tourism
holds an appeal for everyone,
from the connoisseur to the
absolute beginner. Each day
in the land of wine is a day
of discovery, whether you
set out with a note pad as
a dedicated oenophile or
simply go along to drink in
the ambience and learn a
little more about your
favourite tipple.
Tastings are as authoritative
as you would expect in a
country that is the benchmark
for quality wines, but also
accessible with plenty of
anecdotes and knowledgeable
tips, and often overseen with
a spirit of fun and adventure.
You can view vinescapes
from hot-air balloons, quad
bikes, canoes, hiking trails or
a strategically-placed hot tub;
you can stay in a medieval
castle, a traditional auberge,
a quirky tree-castle, even
inside a former wine vat
converted into a stylish
With such diversity, time
spent among vineyards offers
a novel experience beyond
the standard ingredients of
a restorative break. You can
take peace and quiet, scenic
surroundings and languorous
lunches over dégustation
menus as a given.
Piquancy comes from an
immersion in the viticultural
lifestyle: the strolls through
vines heavy with ripening
grapes, trips around country
lanes in an open-top vintage
sports car and visits to local
cellars, food markets and
restaurants which pair local
food and wine specialities.
Is there any crop tended so
diligently as the grape? From
the rivers, canals and forested
terrain of Dijon and Mâcon in
Burgundy to the sun-baked
Midi-Pyrénées, from
Champagne to Bordeaux
Aquitaine, Beaujolais to the
Rhône Valley, the Loire Valley
to Savoie, there are more than
two million immaculately
groomed acres under
cultivation in France.
It’s peculiarly life-affirming
to absorb the sight of row
upon row of carefully tended
vines that are scrutinised
from spring “fruit set”
through summer colour
change to the autumn harvest.
It is a happy coincidence for
bon viveurs that grapes grow
best in beautiful settings.
Vines need a sun-trapping
aspect on a hill site brushed
by fresh breezes for the
biological business of growing
healthy and strong.
Visually, that translates into
Magnificent: Château
de Pizay in Beaujolais;
below, a cellar of
Cahors wine; far left,
champagne corks
and magic of vine country
Accolade that guarantees quality
Would you prefer
to book luxurious
with spa facilities in
among the vines?
Or simply a stay in
a cosy B&B? Or do
you plan to visit
a restaurant
renowned for food
and wine pairings?
Maybe your heart
is set on experiencing
authentic cellars and
authoritative tastings,
or a combination of
wine tastings with
tours of remarkable
heritage sites.
Whatever your
mood, whim or
budget, be sure
to look out for the
Vignobles &
Découvertes label
when you sit down
to plan your long
weekend or extended
holiday in the lovely
wine regions.
The Vignobles
& Découvertes
accolade — created
in 2009 to improve
awareness of the
diverse opportunities
within French wine
country — is awarded
by the ministers
for tourism and
agriculture on the
recommendation of
the Superior Council
for Wine Tourism to
destinations that
offer a full range of
wine-related services,
a generous-spirited
sharing of local
treasures and knowhow, and a truly
hospitable welcome.
To date, 24
destinations across
France have been
awarded the
Vignobles &
Découvertes label,
including eight in the
Loire Valley alone,
four in Burgundy,
and two in Savoie
and the Rhône Valley
To check the
practical details of
elements you wish
to incorporate into
your wine region
travels or to find
further inspiration
for accommodation,
catering, adventure
activities and cultural
opportunities, go to
an extraordinary range of
idyllic views. Slopes of vines
can cover swathes of gentle
countryside, such as close to
Bordeaux, near Aquitaine’s
Atlantic seaboard, or cling
to vertiginous folds in the
Midi-Pyrénées or among
the French Alps in Savoie.
They can encircle picturesque
12th-century villages as
in Burgundy or set off
architectural glories in the
magnificent Loire Valley.
In many regions, the vines
took root before the current
population’s family trees and
the fruit branches stretch
proprietorially along their
trellises over scenic vistas
close to flowing rivers, plains,
meadows and valleys.
In landscapes that have
been shaped by the centuriesold presence of vines, you’ll
find your holiday hosts –
winemakers or guest-house
owners – keen to provide their
guests with an experience in
tune with the surroundings.
Vineyards stand in land
studded with ancient
monasteries and castles;
the wealthy medieval church
needed to safeguard wine
In the land of wine,
the pace of life
mirrors nature; you
can’t hurry grapes
for the celebration of Mass
as well as for the pleasure
of dining royally. Dukes
and kings built their palaces
and strongholds to protect
their treasured vineyards.
Merchants grew rich on
the trade.
The vestiges of historic
buildings are rewarding to
visit – especially when the
guidebook suggests you
admire the time-mellowed
architecture from the bistro
opposite with a glass of the
local product in hand.
In the land of wine, the
pace of life mirrors nature.
You can’t hurry the business
of ripening grapes, of
fermenting or ageing wine.
And when you slow down
and relax, it is the simplest
things that give pleasure:
the dawn-to-dusk beauty
of sunlight playing on the
patchwork of vines, food
dictated by the season and
local tradition, and hospitality
that extends beyond a warm
welcome to the sharing of
a passion for pinot noir,
chardonnay or merlot.
A holiday in the wine
regions is all about wellbeing,
in more senses than one.
When the French raise a glass
with companions, it is votre
santé, or your good health,
that is toasted.
You will find wonderful spas
everywhere and hoteliers
primed to cater for stress
reduction. You can be at one
with nature by relaxing in
a swimming pool or hot tub
with a view over the vines or
enjoy a quiet evening drink
watching deer come to sip
from a pond.
Where there is good wine,
it goes without saying there’s
excellent food. Michelinstarred restaurants make
traditional cuisine ultra-haute
with imaginative use of
wonderful local produce.
Country bistros abound,
offering good-value fare.
Winery owners, too, take
pleasure in producing
delicious complementary
morsels in their tastings.
If you want to learn to cook,
or expand your repertoire,
there are courses and
day-schools galore.
This supplement offers
you an inspiring range
of ways to discover wine
through its homelands,
or indeed the landscape
through its wine – whether
you are seeking adventure,
romance, eco-tourism,
an activity holiday fuelled
by some gastronomic
indulgence, or a journey
into the unknown.
The take-home memory
of a holiday in the vineyards
of France is that wine rewards
a little reverence.
You will learn to treasure
a glance at the iconography
of a bottle’s label, the first
swirl of liquid in the glass,
the curiosity aroused by its
aroma, the pleasure in its
taste… all the elements
that combine to paint each
fascinating story particular
to a wine’s own terroir.
A votre santé!
Distributed with The Sunday Telegraph
Sleep among the vines on
Fancy staying at
a wine château?
Sarah Edworthy
picks the premier
cru properties to
accommodate you
Sunlight streams through rows
of vines, trained along trellises
heavy with grapes. You gaze
across a scenic vista marked
by a historic church or château,
a mountain horizon or flowing
river, and contemplate the
timeless pleasure of enjoying a
glass of wine in its own terroir.
“Wine is sunlight, held
together by water,” said Galileo
Galilei, the great Italian
scientist. Certainly it seems
as though grapes grow best
in settings that are naturally
beautiful and mood-enhancing.
A stay in wine country brings
you carefree days and gourmet
pleasures – along with vatloads of history, culture, timemellowed architecture and
opportunities for adventure
to suit your mood. To holiday
along a wine trail is the best
antidote to our urbanised
world. Hospitality comes with a
personal touch: winery owners
and sommeliers enjoy sharing
their passion for wine that
reflects the bounty of their land.
Rolling vineyards
For romantic luxury, it’s hard
to beat the Château de Pizay,
which originated in the
11th century and stands in
198 acres of peaceful vineyards
in the heart of Beaujolais
country. Personal tours bring to
life the history of this storybook
castle – now converted into a
hotel and spa resort, with its
handsome facade and greytiled turrets – and of its estate,
which brings together the finest
wines in the region, such as
Beaujolais, Morgon, Régnié
and Brouilly.
The entire production is
bottled at the château and
aged in the 200-year-old cellar.
Guests appreciate the grapeto-glass journey at every turn:
from the poolside view of the
vines to the twirl in the glass in
the gourmet restaurant. For an
adventurous overview, take one
of the microlight, quad-bike or
hot-air balloon trips offered by
local operators.
This region of prodigal
bounties also offers intimate
wine tourism. At L’Auberge
de Clochemerle in Vaux-enBeaujolais (the village that
inspired Gabriel Chevalier’s
novel Clochemerle), Romain
Barthe, a young, accoladed chef,
and his wife Delphine, the
establishment’s sommelier,
pride themselves on marrying
exquisite food and wine.
The light is magical in this
hilly landscape; rows of vines
stretch into the distance,
a life-affirming sight in the
months approaching harvest.
The Barthes extend a warm
welcome to their guesthouse,
where beamed ceilings and
stone walls decorated with
viticulture implements put you
in the right frame of mind for
a visit to the local cellars.
Castles in the trees
Vines were introduced to
Bordeaux and Aquitaine by
the Romans. Today almost
a billion bottles of wine are
produced in all the Aquitaine
vineyards, including the five
premier cru red wines of
Châteaux Lafite-Rothschild,
Margaux, Latour, Haut-Brion
and Mouton-Rothschild.
You don’t have to be “to the
château born” to experience
regal vintages. The Domaine
de Puybeton, near Bergerac
in the Dordogne, offers
accommodation in the form of
“tree-castles”, inspired by the
local Château de Monbazillac
and built high in the branches
of trees in the isolated grounds
of an old feudal castle.
Each is equipped with a hot
tub on its terrace – an idyllic
way to enjoy the panorama.
Nearby are the fortified towns
of Périgord and the prehistoric
sites of the Vézère valley.
Return from an expedition for
a dip in the pool and superb
cuisine. Breakfast is delivered
in a basket, which you pull up
into your tree-castle.
The serene landscape of
Romanesque churches, mills
and fortified farms near SaintEmilion is the backdrop to a
sojourn at Château La Mothe
du Barry where again there is
novelty in the sleeping quarters.
The owners of Vignobles
Joël Duffau have designed
fun accommodation for guests
truly “into” their wine: imagine
opening the door of a former
wine vat – yes, a vast tank built
to house thousands of litres of
wine before bottling – and
discovering a comfortable,
stylish room.
Tempting Midi-Pyrénées
One of the most captivating
settings imaginable is the
region north of Toulouse.
The Domaine de Saint
Guilhem, in the tiny commune
Stately homes:
clockwise from main
picture, Château des
Allues, Saint-Pierre
d’Albigny; tree-castle
near Bergerac; Hôtel
du Nord, Dijon;
Château de Rochegude,
Rhône Valley
of Castelnau-d’Estrétefonds,
owes its name to Guillaume
d’Orange, the eighth-century
Count of Toulouse who was
canonised in 1066 and went on
to become a hero to medieval
Philippe and Esméralda
Laduguie cultivate 18 precious
acres, 630ft above sea level, and
produce three glorious reds
and a crisp rosé.
With breathtaking views
across vines, meadows, cork
oaks, cypresses and the Tarn
valley, their red brick-andpebble winery offers exemplary
bed and patisserie breakfast
and a tranquil setting with
dovecote, swimming pool and
a pond that attracts deer and
wild boar.
The hills are alive
If you’re looking for outdoor
activities and gastronomy, the
alpine lakes and mountains of
Savoie Mont Blanc make an
exhilarating destination for
the more adventurous. The
vineyards hang from slopes or
clutch at hillside pockets that
produce their special growth;
the hotels are inspired by the
harmonious surroundings.
Take Château des Allues,
which is situated in the hilltop
commune of Saint-Pierre
d’Albigny, close to the
spectacular ruined Fortress of
Miolans. The grand manor
house operates as a cosy B&B
in the heart of its own vineyard.
Rooms named Meadow Sweet,
Lemon Thyme, Mallow and so
on are ornately furnished with
Toile de Jouy, chandeliers and
gilt furniture. Stéphane, the
owner, is a fount of knowledge
about local wines and serves
breakfast feasts on the terrace.
One of the charms of the
Château de la Mar, located
in the expansive Jongieux
vineyard, is its proximity to
the two-Michelin-starred
restaurant Les Morainières,
which is housed in an ancient
stone cellar that opens on
to vineyards and bills itself
“the guardian of epicurean
pleasures”. The château,
situated at the crossroads of
the Alps and the Jura, combines
charm, luxury, an exceptional
cellar and spa facilities including
a hot tub in the vineyard.
a wine-lover’s dream holiday
The Church and its
monasteries were staunch
supporters of wine (necessary
for the celebration of Mass) and
nurtured the best vineyards in
Europe. Château de Ripaille,
situated between Evian and
Thonon-les-Bains on Lake
Geneva, was once the residence
of the Dukes of Savoie before
becoming a Carthusian
monastery. Today it is an
award-winning estate which
produces 140,000 bottles a year
and hosts visitors with guided
tours, wine tastings and
sumptuous dining.
Les Cygnes, a charming
waterfront hotel in Evian, is
an idyllic stopover for a visit to
Ripaille, not least because of its
own restaurant and extensive
Savoyard wine list.
Lure of the Loire Valley
Tradition and eco-dynamism
characterise Les Pierres
d’Aurèle, a family vineyard of
14 hectares which produces
wine of the highest quality from
vines aged between 15 and
105 years grown according to
sustainable farming guidelines.
The property – which
comprises the farmhouse and
outbuildings of the Château
Chauverie – has south-facing
guest rooms that offer a
relaxing retreat overlooking
vines and allow guests to attend
convivial on-site tastings of
their finest sauvignon, grolleau,
gamay, pineau d’aunis, côt,
chardonnay and chenin blanc.
Immerse yourself in all-round
enjoyment of the winemaking
process or set off up the road
to explore the vineyards of
Touraine and the charming
châteaux of Amboise,
Chenonceau and Chaumont.
Medieval magic
In the heart of the historic city
of Troyes, La Maison de Rhodes
nestles at the foot of the
cathedral, “tucked along a
stone-paved lane that seems
straight out of a Dumas novel”,
as one appreciator noted.
This half-timbered, palatial
townhouse, whose foundations
date from the 12th century,
once belonged to the Knights
of the Order of Malta. Today it
is a boutique hotel, perfect as
a base for exploring both the
narrow medieval streets or
cycling through vineyards or
the regional natural park that
surround the nearby lakes.
The courtyard and medieval,
ecclesiastical garden are a
haven for a leisurely aperitif
before dinner prepared by chef
René Hachez, complemented
by a specialist wine list.
Gastronomy extraordinaire
Stronghold of the Dukes of
Burgundy until the 15th century
and source of premium
mustard since 1856, when Jean
Naigeon of Dijon substituted
the acidic juice of not-quiteripe grapes for vinegar in the
traditional mustard recipe,
Dijon exudes a warm
introduction to the art of
matching wine with fine food.
The Hôtel du Nord, located
in the historic city centre in a
typically Burgundian building,
is well known for its restaurant
and wine cellar, where wines
are served by the glass. À la
carte menus include the
traditional snails, foie gras,
mousseline of langoustine,
boeuf bourguignon and so on;
the cellar wine bar, with its
quaint barrel-coffered ceiling,
offers informal dégustation
menus of local wines,
charcuterie and cheeses.
Marvellous Mâcon
Jet-setters such as Roger Vadim
and the Aga Khan once graced
the salons of the Hôtel d’Europe
et d’Angleterre, which sits
majestically on the banks of the
Sâone. This was pre-Second
World War, when the seaplanes
of Imperial Airways landed on
the river en route to Egypt and
South Africa, and the illustrious
passengers would pop in to
savour a white Mâcon with
goat’s cheese or charcuterie.
In May this year, the hotel
with the famous shuttered
facade reopens after a full
renovation, and is poised once
again to provide delicious fare
in a glamorous setting with
romantic views across the river.
The regal Rhône Valley
For all the ingredients of the
wine-lover’s dream destination,
look no further than the
Château de Rochegude, with
its vestiges of a flourishing
12th-century life and stunning
deer park.
Located in the very heart
of the Provençal Drôme region
— and perched elegantly on a
hill between the landmarks of
the Rhône and Mont Ventoux
— this mini-kingdom overlooks
a vast plain of immaculately
kept vineyards.
With air-conditioned rooms
restored to four-star comfort
and brimming with personality
and Gallic charm — as well as
extensive cellars treasuring the
best Côtes du Rhône wines,
a stay here gives an excellent
initiation to oenology and to
tastings in the surrounding
Guests are well placed for
visits further afield to Avignon,
the Ardèche caves, the Roman
remains in Orange and more
intriguing terroirs on wine- and
foodie-themed forays, from
Carpentras to the Uzège.
Distributed with The Sunday Telegraph
Take a tour and
get a taste of
the good life
The beautiful French wine-growing regions are ripe for exploring,
as are the delicious reds and whites, says Robert Joseph
Sancerre, Bordeaux, Tavel, Beaujolais…
These, and so many other French wine
names, are almost as familiar to most
of us as authors or composers such as
Dickens, Austen, Bach and Mozart.
We see them every time we go
shopping for a bottle to drink at a dinner
party, in much the same way that we see
those other names as we browse a shelf
of books or CDs. But there is, of course,
a crucial difference: the great wine
regions of the world are living places
that you can visit and explore.
The stones that have been washed
down from the nearby Alps and
smoothed by their passage over
millennia along the River Rhône have
a magic effect on the wines from this
region. They heat up during the day and
act as hot water bottles to keep the vines
warm at night – and help the grapes to
develop richly powerful, spicy flavours
that you never find elsewhere.
Drive along the Route du Champagne
and you’ll notice the dazzling white
chalky outcrops that are occasionally
visible beneath the vines.
That chalk is an essential ingredient
in the making of really great sparkling
wine, giving it a freshness that it could
never otherwise attain.
Or go to Beaune in the heart of
Burgundy’s Côte d’Or in the autumn
and marvel at the patchwork quilt
of subtly different-hued golden
vineyards that give the region its name.
The extraordinarily complex geology
beneath all those little rectangular and
oddly shaped plots is responsible for
the individual characters in the wines
that skilled palates can identify without
seeing the label.
But if France’s soil and climates
vary, so do the types of grapes that are
grown in its numerous vineyards.
Varieties such as chardonnay, cabernet
sauvignon, merlot and sauvignon blanc
are now to be found across the world
but the wines they produce in their
Gallic homeland still have flavours
that are uniquely French.
And these familiar varieties are just
the start. France has a bewildering array
of other obscure but characterful
examples such as jacquère in Savoie in
the east of France and len-de-l’el in
Gaillac in the south-west.
For many people, however, it is
arguably France’s winemakers who
really offer the best reason to head off
in search of the vineyards. Walking into
a cellar full of bottles and barrels of
maturing wine can be like stepping into
an artist’s studio and taking the chance
not only to learn the background to his
paintings but also to see the canvases on
which he is working.
You can ask the winemaker all sorts of
impertinent questions about when and
Trail highlights:
Hermitage la Chapelle
vineyard overlooking
the town of Tain; chalk
cellars beneath Reims;
Château Margaux
how he or she enjoys drinking their
own wine, the temperature at which it
should be served, the dishes it would
accompany and how long to keep it
before opening.
All the stuff, in other words, that you
could never discover from even the best
wine merchant. And those conversations
can add a touch of magic to the bottle
when you open it at home a few weeks
or possibly several years later.
Visiting French winemakers is easier
than it has ever been. When I began
researching for my book French Wines
(Dorling Kindersley) in the late Nineties,
a basic knowledge of French and the
science of winemaking often seemed
to be a prerequisite.
Today, a younger generation of wine
producers has gone travelling to
California and Australia and not only
come back with the ability to speak
English but also understanding that
tourists often want a little more than
the chance to taste and buy.
So, now, across France’s wine regions
there are wineries offering exhibitions,
gardens and vineyard trails that add
an extra dimension of fun to any visit.
This trend has been encouraged by a
scheme called Vignobles & Découvertes
(see page 3 for more details), which
provides a visible seal of approval to
the best wine tourist experiences.
Alongside the wineries and growing
number of Maisons du Vin – vinous
tourist offices – an array of enterprising
companies has blossomed, offering
novel ways to enjoy the wine regions
of France.
Hover over the Loire Valley
produced in
their Gallic
have flavours
Among the most unforgettable of these
is the possibility of floating over the
vineyards in a hot-air balloon. There
are firms offering flights in all of the
main regions but the area I’d most
recommend starting with is the Loire
Valley, where France Montgolfières
( will carry you
silently above spots such as Catherine
di Medici’s 16th-century Château de
Chenonceau. Officially France’s most
visited château – with some 850,000
tourists per year – this is also one of the
most dramatic in the way that it spans
the River Cher.
Ballooning doesn’t come cheap, but
the memories will be priceless and,
besides, think of the savings you could
make on all the wine you’re going to buy
directly from the producers.
This is especially true in the Loire
Valley, many of whose best wines can be
hard to find in the UK. Just down the
road from Sancerre, for example, there’s
the far less well-known village of
Quincy, whose producers use the same
sauvignon blanc grapes to make wines
that are often just as good and at least
a pound or two less per bottle.
Then there are the reds. If you are
getting tired of oaky 14 per cent merlot
and shiraz, head to Chinon or Bourgueil
and try some of the crunchily fresh
wines that are produced there from the
cabernet franc, another variety that is
rarely properly exploited outside France.
Float your boat in Bordeaux
If looking down on the vineyards doesn’t
tempt you, how about drifting past them
in a boat? One region where you can do
this in style while learning a lot about
the wines is Bordeaux. This is a much
bigger area than most people imagine,
stretching to the north, south and east of
the city of Bordeaux itself, and divided
between a set of sub-regions, each of
which produces its own style of wine,
depending on the soil and climate.
The Médoc, to the west of the Gironde
estuary, is home to villages and small
towns such as Margaux and Pauillac –
and illustrious estates such as LafiteRothschild, Latour and Margaux, all of
which owe their style to the combination
of gravelly soil and cabernet sauvignon
grapes. To the south-east, on the
other side of the estuary, the wines of
Saint-Emilion and Pomerol are all about
the pairing of merlot and the clay
on which it thrives.
Until the late 19th century most of
the region’s wine was carried along
the rivers to the city of Bordeaux itself
before being shipped off to the rest
of the world. Today, Croisieurope
( offers seven-day
cruises along those same waterways,
starting in Bordeaux, heading up the
Gironde to Pauillac, where you can visit
the cellars of Château Lynch-Bages
( and sample
gourmet delights in the village of Bages
( before heading
back along the Dordogne to Libourne
where you can hop off and visit the
châteaux of Saint-Emilion.
The cruise also takes in less well
known – and rather more affordable
— bits of Bordeaux such as Blaye and
Cadillac, home to some delicious whites.
A pilgrimage in the Midi-Pyrénées
The only downside to ballooning and
cruising is that neither requires much
physical activity. When you combine
them with all the great meals you are
almost inevitably going to eat, there’s
a significant danger of adding an inch
or three to your waistline. For anyone
who’d rather combine some exercise
with their wine touring, there’s a perfect
solution to the east of Bordeaux in the
region of Midi-Pyrénées. This is not only
home to some of France’s oldest wines,
such as cahors, bergerac and jurançon;
it’s also bang on the ancient pilgrim’s
path to Santiago de Compostela.
There are actually two separate
wine-related routes, one of which – the
so-called Arles path – leads through the
old appellations of Gaillac, Saint Mont
and Madiran, while the other – the Le Puy
– takes you through Cahors, Coteaux du
Quercy, Armagnac and Côtes de
Gascogne. To follow the entire 700-mile
pilgrimage takes a lot of commitment,
and around 12 weeks of pretty solid
walking, so modern pilgrims often do
it in stages, possibly over a decade or so.
Alternatively, you could take an easier
option and simply cycle between points
on one of the routes. The very first
pilgrim was the Bishop of Le Puy-enVelay, who made the trek in 951, and
today, most pilgrims follow in his
footsteps. To cycle from Le Puy to the
beautiful walled town of Cahors would
take you about a week and introduce
you to some of the wildest and most
dramatic countryside in France.
Keen campers can obviously carry
everything they need on their backs but
those of us who like hot baths, clean
sheets and fresh clothes on our holidays
can take advantage of a firm called
Transbagages ( who
will transport your suitcase to your
hotel, where it will await your dusty but
exhilarated arrival.
Once in Cahors, you can sample some
of France’s most traditional reds, made
from malbec, a grape many people now
tend to associate with its more recent
home in Argentina.
Cahors used to be described as
“black” wine and was known for being
intensely dark, tough stuff that needed
to be drunk with hearty portions of rich,
local confit de canard. Today, it’s a lot
fruitier and more accessible but, if
you fancy something a little lighter,
go off-piste and try a red gaillac or
honeyed white jurançon.
Discover the real Champagne
If you think you know about champagne,
think again. Just forget your favourite
brand of fizz for a moment and start to
imagine Champagne as a place and a
collection of people – 5,000 individual
producers who all make and sell their
own wines.
To find these little growers —
récoltants-manipulants — simply follow
the Route du Champagne that winds
through the region’s towns and villages
and look out for the signs hanging over
their doorways.
Visiting the growers isn’t just about
picking up bargains. It also illustrates
why there are so many different styles of
champagne. The fizz around the village
of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger to the south
of Epernay, for example, is fresher,
creamier and lighter because the only
grape grown there is chardonnay.
To the north-east of the town, the
flavours of the wines in Bouzy are much
richer and fruiter, thanks to the fact that
this is pinot noir territory.
To explore the region and to compare
what the different parts of it have to
offer, buy a Champagne pass
( for €25
or €50 that will buy you entry into
either five or 10 different locations.
These range from the surreal inland
Lighthouse in Verzenay, where you can
climb 100 steps to get a view of the
ocean of vines; to Pommery’s 11 miles
of underground cellars dug into the
chalk by the Romans; and the village of
Urville in Aube, where you can visit the
cellars of Champagne Drappier, whose
cuvées have graced the finest tables in
the world, including those of General de
Gaulle and Luciano Pavarotti.
Secrets of Savoie
If Champagne is France’s best-known
wine region, Savoie, close to the Swiss
border, is a well-kept secret.
Very few bottles produced here reach
British shelves, despite the numbers of
keen skiers who return to Britain from
resorts such as Chamonix and Val
d’Isère with happy memories of
drinking the local apremont or abymes
with their raclette cheese.
The quality of the food and wine in
this area, together with the spectacular
landscapes, make it a great place to
come during the warmer months of the
year, long after the snow has melted.
Visitors to the region’s 110 wine
cellars can taste their way through
around two dozen different styles of red,
white and sparkling wines made from
local grapes such as the white jacquère
and red mondeuse.
The mountainous country and
moderate climate make for wines with
lighter, fresher, more delicate styles and
lower alcohol levels, arguably at their
best outdoors in the summer. For an
introduction to the region and its wines
— and the chance to wander around a
lovely old multi-turreted manor house,
aim for Lake Geneva.
Close to its shore, near the spa town
of Thonon-les-Bains, you’ll find the
Château de Ripaille where monks made
wine in the Middle Ages.
The white, made from the chasselas
grape, is fresh and subtle and will go
down brilliantly with anyone who hates
oaky and overly fruity wines from the
New World.
Dijon cuts the mustard
To the north-west of Savoie, Dijon, the
traditional capital of Burgundy, is one
of those towns we tend to notice on the
autoroute signs on our way south.
We briefly think that it would be nice
to stop by to buy some mustard one day.
Well, next time, break the pattern, take
that sortie and make your way to the
Maille mustard shop on the rue de la
Liberté in the heart of the town.
You can stock up on a wide range
of mustards here including some that
are made with blackcurrant – yes, really
— and come in lovely, mock-antique
hand-painted pots.
Armed with your purchases, drive
south into the Côte d’Or – the golden
slope – along the Route des Grands
Crus. Covering just under 40 miles from
north to south, this itinerary takes in
most of the region’s three dozen wine
villages and towns. This is the nearest
you’ll ever come to travelling through
a three-dimensional wine list.
You barely have time to blink between
leaving Gevrey-Chambertin and arriving
in Clos Vougeot and Vosne Romanée
before moving on to Nuits-SaintGeorges, Beaune, Volnay, Pommard,
Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet.
There are hundreds of little cellars
to visit here with bottles that can cost
a lot less than in the UK. Few, however,
could be considered cheap.
For good, affordable burgundy, my tip
is to buy Bourgogne rouge or blanc —
the region’s humblest wine – from a
top producer, or head off-piste into
less-well-known villages such as
Chorey-les-Beaune or Saint-Romain.
Distributed with The Sunday Telegraph
Tour and explore:
clockwise from main
picture, Saint-Emilion;
bike along the Loire
Valley; champagne
is always a signal for
celebration; follow the
signs in Beaujolais
The marvels of Mâcon
About an hour’s drive south of Beaune,
the gradual appearance of Roman roof
tiles on the houses means that you’ve
entered the hills of the Mâconnais and
crossed the invisible line between
northern France and the warmer south.
Not far from the river-town of Mâcon,
you’ll actually find the winemaking
village of Chardonnay. To be honest,
chardonnay from Chardonnay is no
better than many from the surrounding
villages but it does have the same kind
of appeal as bringing home cheese
from Camembert.
True white burgundy fans might also
make a little pilgrimage to the source of
Pouilly-Fuissé, probably the best of the
region’s wines. Or, to be more precise,
two sources, because Pouilly and Fuissé
are a pair of neighbouring villages.
Every summer, countless confused
tourists stop their cars at the fork in
the road with a signpost offering the
choice of both. Fuissé is the bigger
of the two and the place to find the
excellent Au Pouilly Fuissé restaurant.
The Mâconnais and Beaujolais overlap
and there’s a set of eight wine routes,
collectively known as Routes des Vins
Mâconnais-Beaujolais, that link six
dozen or so wine villages (route-vins.
com). In one of the top white Mâconnais
villages, Saint-Véran, producers can
choose to sell their wine under the name
of their own village appellation or as
beaujolais blanc, a rarity that’s always
fun to pull out for wine-buff friends.
Rich pickings in Beaujolais
Beaujolais nouveau is much easier to
find than Beaujolais blanc but it’s
rapidly going out of fashion. Today, the
focus is increasingly on the region’s
more serious wines produced in the
10 “cru” villages of Brouilly, Chénas,
Chiroubles, Côte-de-Brouilly, Fleurie,
Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin à Vent, Régnié,
and Saint-Amour.
All of the wines are produced from
the same gamay grape as the most basic
beaujolais, but the granite soil, the
sunnier slopes and the greater care
taken in their production all contribute
to some wonderfully rich, cherryish
wines that actually repay ageing for
a decade or more. To explore the
differences between these wines –
fleurie really does taste “flowery”, for
example – follow the 28-mile Route
des Vins Mâconnais–Beaujolais No 7
south from Fuissé.
Drinking and driving is a
dangerous combination, however,
even if you’re only sipping and spitting,
so you might prefer to let someone
else take the wheel. Beaujolais Tours
( offers coach tours
around the region, leaving from the
centre of Lyon every Tuesday and
Saturday afternoon.
Riches of the Rhône Valley
My first stop is usually in the little town
of Ampuis, home to the great reds of
Côte-Rôtie. This is the place to learn
all about the syrah grape, known in
Australia as shiraz.
One of the explanations for their
extraordinary rich, spicy flavours lies
in the vertiginous, sun-baked slopes
on which the grapes are grown. At the
summit of one of these, overlooking
the town of Tain-l’Hermitage, you’ll
There are
hundreds of
cellars to visit
with bottles
that can cost
a lot less than
in the UK
find a tiny church that was home to a
13th-century knight called Gaspard de
Stérimberg, who became a hermit on his
return from the Crusades and was made
globally famous by a wine sold as
Hermitage la Chapelle.
This is a perfect place to pause at
dusk. Take the little D532A out of town,
following the signs for the Belvédère de
Pierre Aiguille. After a few miles of
steeply climbing road, you’ll see the
sign to La Chapelle.
You can also visit the cellars of Delas
Frères across the river in Tournon-surRhône, where you can taste five Côtes
du Rhône crus and order a good lunch
(reservations required; groups of
10-45 only).
At the northern end of the Rhône,
Hermitage has joined Côte-Rôtie to
become the kind of wine to save for
more special occasions but these are
the exceptions to the regional rule.
Côtes du Rhône is one of the world’s
most reliably affordable wines, thanks to
a combination of the near-ideal climate
and the juicy appeal of the grenache
grape, which is widely grown here.
As elsewhere, you do your own
exploration among the villages —
Cairanne and Rasteau are two of my
favourites, along with the gloriously
named Vinsobres – but you can taste
a huge range of the region’s wines in
Avignon at the annual vintage
celebration, Millévin.
This year it will be held on Thursday,
November 21, offering a good reason to
take a long weekend in southern France.
Throughout the day, dozens of
producers will pour their 2013 wine
while local caterers will be offering
oysters and plates of cold meat.
In a wonderful Gallic touch, a €3
entry ticket to the evening festivities
in the Place de l’Horloge buys you a
tasting glass… and a free disposable
Meanwhile, treat yourself to a family
weekend in the Tavel wine region.
Three days and two nights in the Saint
Vincent Rooms costs €304, including
winemaking and wine tasting lessons,
and games for children. You will also a
receive a commemorative glass.
A veritable
feast for all
the senses
For the modern traveller with a gourmet palate, there
is no place like France. Every region has a fine culinary
heritage with wines to match, says Jeremy Dixon
Let your taste buds
explore delicious Dijon
If your knowledge of Burgundian
cuisine is limited to the classic
boeuf bourguignon, a few outings
to the restaurants of Dijon is
just what you need.
While considering your
options from the menu, enjoy a
traditional kir, a blend of aligoté
wine and crème de cassis.
Decision-making should be
easy, for everything tastes good
in Burgundy. Even a simple
steak is a revelation when the
beef has been reared on the lush
meadows of the Charolais and
the condiment is fresh Dijon
mustard. And how about a small
glass of Côte de Nuits with that,
or a fine, velvety Vosne-Romanée?
For thrilling creations in a
wonderful setting, reserve an
outside table in Dijon at the
Michelin-starred Le Pré aux
Clercs (,
facing the former dukes’ palace.
A favourite of diners is the
volaille de Bresse rôti, purée
aux truffes de Bourgogne (roast
chicken with truffle purée).
Bresse poultry is considered
the finest in France.
If it is authenticity you seek,
look out for restaurants offering
la pôchouse, Burgundy’s
legendary fish stew, or the more
rustic oeufs en meurette, a unique
dish of poached eggs in pinot
noir sauce. Try La Maison
Millière (,
with its intriguing trompe-l’oeil
courtyard garden, for heartwarming home cooking.
Top ingredients:
clockwise from main
picture, the vines of
Champagne in the
setting sun; enjoy
gourmet cuisine in
a vineyard; roquefort
accompanied by a glass
of sauternes; Bresse
chickens, originally
from the Rhône-Alpes
Plan a sun-drenched getaway
in the Rhône Valley
Family-friendly Duras
welcomes nature-lovers
Just half an hour’s drive from
Bergerac airport, Duras is one of
Aquitaine’s lesser-known gems.
The pretty, medieval town rises
above the surrounding
countryside where local artisans
produce a tempting array of
wines, food and, most
importantly, a warm welcome.
On August 11, 2013 the
winemakers of Duras will hold
their annual wine festival at
the Château de Duras
Discover sumptuous merlotrich reds, fresh dry whites,
delicate rosés and golden dessert
wines. Enjoy guided strolls
through the vineyards; sample
fine local food including pâtés,
rillettes, confit and foie gras; and
relax and listen or get up and
dance to live traditional jazz.
Now in its 23rd year, the
festival attracts 15,000 visitors.
Many stay on for a few days to
immerse themselves in the
rural charm of the region.
Domaine des Hauts de Riquets
( offers
foraging walks and cookery
classes every Tuesday during
July and August. Guests learn
to identify edible plants, fruits,
berries and flowers before
returning to the farmhouse to
cook and enjoy a wild gourmet
lunch accompanied by the
domaine’s wines. Other options
are also available including
a guided walk, wine tasting
and cellar tour from as little
as €8 per person.
Nearby, the Berticot wine
estate’s organic trail (berticot.
com) is open all year. Visitors
can explore the importance of
sustainable agriculture at 12
educational stations. Children
love inspecting the insect hotel,
weather centre and bat and
blue tit shelters. Guided tours,
a wine tasting and picnic take
place on Organic Wednesdays
throughout the summer. €16 for
adults and €8 for children.
Sample fine
local food
pâtés, rillettes
and confit
If you fancy a change from the
Great British menu, head to the
Rhône Valley and soak up the
heady aromas, fresh flavours and
dreamy light of southern France.
South of Lyon, the wine town
of Tain-l’Hermitage is famous
for fine syrah and aromatic
viognier. Restaurant Umia on
the Gambert de Loche estate
( provides a perfect
setting to explore dazzling wine
and food combinations.
Chef Frédéric Bau and his wife
Rika combine classical French
cuisine with innovative Japanese
influences. Set menus from €18
delight for quality and value.
Restaurant Le Dolium in
Beaumes-de-Venise ( is known for
mouthwatering seasonal dishes
featuring local market produce.
A two-course menu of courgette
flowers stuffed with a featherlight chicken and mushroom
mousse followed by a trilogy of
pork from the Ventoux can be
savoured for €25. A Michelin Guide
Bib Gourmand rating underlines
the attractive value on offer here.
Chez Sylla in Apt (www.sylla.
fr), east of Avignon, is an unusual
collaboration between the Sylla
Distributed with The Sunday Telegraph
You will smell
the trolley of
local cheeses
long before it
arrives and
won’t be able
to resist
wine cellar and local cheese
specialists Cabécou et Poivre
d’Âne. Guests can sit down to
a platter of cheeses, salad and
sourdough bread accompanied
by samples of fine AOC Ventoux
and Luberon wines. Rounding
off with mignardises (bite-sized
desserts) and coffee, the total bill
will be just €15.80.
Thursday is the best time to
visit Domaine la Réméjeanne in
Bagnols-sur-Cèze (domainela if you wish to
learn the secrets of biodynamic
agriculture. As well as crafting
superb Côtes du Rhône wines,
the estate produces olive oil
and figs. Weekly guided walks
include a cellar tour and wine
tasting culminating in a superb
Provençal buffet that showcases
the family’s home-grown wares.
Eat, drink and luxuriate
in Champagne
Champagne is synonymous with
luxury, so combining a visit to
the vineyards with a spa break
at Hostellerie La Briqueterie in
Epernay makes perfect sense.
Staying there, however, is not
a prerequisite for dining at its
elegant Michelin-starred
restaurant. Chef Michael
Nizzero’s previous posting
was at Michel and Alain Roux’s
Waterside Inn in Berkshire.
His three-course lunch menu for
€40 is remarkable value given it
includes a glass of champagne
and an amuse-bouche.
Starters include pan-fried
foie gras with tangy cabbage
and caramelised orange, while
a main of line-caught whiting,
local asparagus and verdurette
sauce surely beckons another
glass of bubbly.
The seasonal tasting menu
deserves several hours to itself,
so plan accordingly. Highlights
include veal sweetbread tartlet
with morels, pecan nuts and
gourmande vinaigrette.
You’ll smell the trolley of local
cheeses long before it arrives and
won’t be able to resist. Perhaps
follow this with a lighter dessert
such as the poached strawberries
and rhubarb, infused with
lemon verbena and a dollop of
Fontainebleau cheese cream.
A gastronomic walk
in the Savoie
It is tempting to over-indulge
when you’re surrounded by
classic cuisine, fine wines,
cheeses and patisseries — so
hats off to the winemakers of
Savoie Mont Blanc for adding
a gastronomic walk to the
region’s calendar of festivities.
On the last Sunday of July
around 2,000 gourmets spend
a day walking from vineyard to
cellar, fortifying themselves after
each leg of the journey with
wine, cheese and other regional
delicacies. You could be among
them. It’s a delightful and guiltfree way to discover the scenery
and hospitality of the Savoie.
The walk this year covers
the beautiful stretch between
Chambéry and Albertville
through villages such as
Les Marches, Apremont and
Saint-Baldoph, all of which lie
below the dramatic 300ft cliff
face of Mont Granier.
Yet this event is just a glimpse
of all that the region affords the
adventurous wine-and-food
lover. With 110 cellars, 23 grape
varieties and 31 Michelin-starred
restaurants, Savoie Mont Blanc
has plenty of options to quench
thirst, satisfy hunger and engage
curious minds.
Taste the best of Gaillac
with a star-strewn chef
The farms, vineyards, orchards
and gardens of Gaillac in the
Midi-Pyrénées grow excellent
produce. Much of it is unique
to the region and highly prized.
The rose-pink garlic of Lautrec,
for example, is renowned for its
keeping qualities. Then there are
foie gras, cassoulet, roquefort
cheese and the cornmeal-based
millas, much like Italy’s polenta.
The historic vineyards of
Gaillac yield distinctive and
delicious wines. Its little-known
grape varieties include the sturdy
red duras and the poetically
named white len de l’el.
All this wonderful diversity
comes together in Pascal Auger’s
restaurant at the 14th-century
Château de Salettes, where an
impressive two-course lunch
starts from €27. The estate’s
own wines are excellent and
the natural accompaniment to
Auger’s creative cuisine.
Auger, who gained Michelin
stars at his two previous
restaurants in Bourges and
La Rochelle, notched up another
soon after arriving at de Salettes.
He recommends his starter of
grilled foie gras with cinchona
jus, leek and grapefruit; and as
main course his melt-in-themouth fillet of lamb in a
vegetable shell with pea coulis,
beetroot and a sprinkle of rocket.
Blissful, menu-free dining
in the Loire Valley
In a world of seemingly endless
gastronomic choice, dining at
La Table du Square in Anjou
is a liberating experience: the
seasons, local markets and
chef determine your menu.
Placing yourself in the expert
hands of chef Nicolas Cousinou
and restaurateur Yohann
Ducloux enables you to relax
and focus on the delicious
contents of your plate. Nearly
all ingredients are sourced from
within a 60-mile radius. Early
morning forays into markets
enable Cousinou to acquire the
best seafood, vegetables, fruit,
cheeses and meats. His dishes
are then created accordingly.
Set among the vineyards of
Domaine Saint-Pierre in the
region of Coteaux du Layon, the
restaurant offers uninterrupted
views of the beautiful estate.
This is primarily chenin blanc
country, but creamy chardonnay,
sea-fresh sauvignon blanc, pale
rosés and fruit-rich reds are also
made at Domaine Saint-Pierre.
Allowing Yohann Ducloux to
recommend a glass for each
course results in heavenly
matches. The final surprise
comes at the end: a palatable bill
of just €15 for two courses, or €18
for three. (
Discover the magic
of cooking in Macon
For those who wish to learn
French cooking for themselves,
the Robert Ash Cookery School
in Macon, south Burgundy, offers
six-day, all-inclusive courses.
Students learn to prepare
30 different dishes under the
tutelage of award-winning chefrestaurateur Ash. There are also
excursions and tastings in what
is billed as a “culinary tour”.
Distributed with The Sunday Telegraph
Make your discoveries on foot,
Imagine ambling through the French countryside at
your own gentle pace and stopping for a glass of wine
or a game of golf. Adam Ruck has all the details
What better way to enjoy the
pleasures of France than on an
unhurried bike ride — or walk,
if you prefer — between wine
villages, pausing to accept
roadside invitations to come
in and taste? Exercise sharpens
the appetite and replaces guilt
with the satisfying sense of
a reward well earned.
There is no need to be a
Master of Wine to enjoy a visit
to a vineyard, nor is it necessary
to buy in bulk. After all, your
carrying capacity on foot or
bike will be limited. So long
as you show an appreciative
interest in the place, the
product and the process, you
will be welcome and the proud
vigneron will be generous with
his time and his wine.
Buy a bottle for your picnic
among the vines and you will
part as friends.
Part of the fun of wine
touring is the discovery of
small-scale producers who
set out their stalls beside the
road. If you don’t speak much
French, visits to local wine
museums and maisons des
vins may be more rewarding.
Prestigious grand cru châteaux
and champagne houses offer
more formal guided tours, but
these may need to be arranged
in advance.
If golf is your poison, a game
won or lost calls for a good local
bottle afterwards, among other
fruits of the terroir. Bordeaux
may be the best area for
combining wine tourism and
golf, but there are plenty of
good courses elsewhere —
along the Loire at Sancerre, on
the Tarn at Albi and in Savoie
among lakes and mountains.
Fresh-air fun: far right,
hiking near Mâcon;
right, the Burgundy
Canal is ideal for
travelling by bike or
barge; horses are still
used for ploughing at
Château Smith Haut
Lafitte in Bordeaux
Loire Valley
There’s not one wine region
but half a dozen here, with the
beautiful (if steep) landscape
and flinty wines of Sancerre
and Pouilly-sur-Loire out on
a limb upstream — they are
closer in taste and geography
to Burgundy than Val de Loire
château country.
The Loire Valley’s invitation
to the cyclist is La Loire à Vélo,
a 400-mile trail from Nevers to
the sea, west of Nantes, on a
mixture of minor roads and
dedicated cycling pistes. The
railway follows the Loire, so
trips could scarcely be easier.
Drop your car, pedal along
the riverbank until you’ve had
enough, hop on a train and
return to the start — bearing in
mind the rail gap between Gien
and Orléans. Or do the whole
trip by train (
Nantes, Angers, Tours, Blois,
Orléans and Sancerre have
direct trains to Paris (change
for Eurostar).
See for
information on bike shops,
maps, guide books, sights and
bike-friendly hotels.
There are Maisons des Vins
at Sancerre, Saumur and Tours,
and the small city of Chinon —
the red wine capital of the Loire
Valley — to discover.
From Dijon to Mâcon via
Beaune, the big-name Burgundy
wine villages line up neatly in
a row at the foot of the most
famous slopes in the world of
wine: the Côte de Nuits and
Côte de Beaune, where the
names of Pommard, Meursault
and Puligny-Montrachet set the
juices flowing.
Cycling holiday options
abound. Freedom Treks
( offers
a self-led “Best of Burgundy”
itinerary that takes the 110-mile
journey at a leisurely pace,
leaving plenty of time for
digressions up into the hills
and sightseeing at Dijon,
Clos de Vougeot and Beaune,
where the medieval hospital
(Hôtel-Dieu) is a must.
Cross the road to the Marché
Aux Vins, pay a modest entry
fee and take your time tasting
burgundies great and small
beneath the vaults of an old
convent. The wine-tasting lunch
formula chez Olivier Leflaive at
Puligny-Montrachet is a superb
way to enjoy the local wines
The Canal de Bourgogne
between Dijon and Tonnerre
(10 miles from Chablis) is
deservedly popular for barge
holidays and towpath cycling.
The website
has information on barge
charters and a “wine and water”
cruise between Dijon and
Vandenesse, with excursions
to the Côte de Nuits. See also
Walking holidays in northern
Burgundy include a nine-day
hike from Auxerre to Vézelay
via Chablis with Headwater
Southern Burgundy
produces the affordable wines
of Mâcon, Pouilly-Fuissé and
Saint-Véran and is the proud
home of the first French “voie
verte” cycling trail: between
Charnay-les-Mâcon and Cluny
via vineyards, the escarpments
of Solutré and the Bois Clair
tunnel, which is periodically
closed to protect its bats.
The route continues prettily
north to Givry and along the
Canal du Centre towpath from
Chalon to Chagny.
Inntravel (
offers a tempting leisurely
cycling tour from Cluny to
Beaune, using hotels in Cluny
and Puligny-Montrachet and
a chambre d’hôte in Givry.
South of Mâcon, the
Beaujolais hills tend towards
the mountainous, with peaks
exceeding 3,000ft. Highpoint
Holidays (highpointholidays. offers a variety of guided
and independent walking
holiday options graded from
gentle (Beaujolais Wine Trail)
to tough (High Beaujolais
Hills). The local tourist office
has information about the
wine, the grape and Duboeuf’s
theme park/wine museum
at Romanèche-Thorins.
Easily reached by train, air
or motorway, Bordeaux is the
obvious place to start and finish
a cycling tour of the changing
landscapes and tastes of the
different appellations.
Cycle Bordeaux
( offers
a Wine Lovers’ Tour through
Saint-Emilion, Entre Deux
Mers, Sauternes and Graves,
with a glimpse of the Canal du
Midi and the Landes pine forest.
Château des Vigiers near
Saint-Emilion offers tours and
tasting by appointment
( Or you can visit for a wine
and spa break at Les Sources
de Caudalie among the vines
of Château Smith Haut Lafitte,
and golf breaks based in a wine
château’s luxurious annexe.
Alternatively, stay at Golf du
Médoc, a new spa hotel near
Margaux, with fairway views
from the bedroom and two
outstanding courses (
If you want more, tackle the
water hazards of Pessac, and
Gujan, close to the oyster parks
and fashionable beaches of
Arcachon, which also has a
busy holiday course. See
The northernmost of French
wine regions is easily accessible
from the UK and most of the
famous champagne houses in
Reims and Epernay offer
guided tours by appointment –
of ancient cellars decorated
with Gallo-Roman reliefs and
ornately decorated barrels.
Freedom Treks (freedomtreks. offers four-day and oneweek cycling tours that are
not too taxing and include
Reims, Epernay and Vertus.
After you’ve admired the
millions of bottles, calculated
the stock value and absorbed
the details of remuage and
double fermentation a couple
of times, and seen Reims
cathedral, it’s good to get out
into the vineyard hills.
There’s a good choice of
hikes here including a five-mile
vineyard tour from Hautvillers,
where the ingenious abbot
Dom Pérignon is credited with
the invention of champagne.
The website has ideas for chambre
d’hôte accommodation in the
vineyards. The champagne-
by bike or even on a boat
producing Domi-Moreau family
at Mancy offers guests free use
of a bicycle. Au Coeur des
Vignes, a small B&B on the
edge of Epernay, also has bikes
and can suggest rides.
If you thought Savoie wines
were strictly for ski holidays,
think again — or, better still,
visit the beautiful region of the
Alpine lakes, between Geneva
and Chambéry, and explore.
An ideal base — budget
permitting — would be the
stylish Albert Premier hotel,
spa and “chalet hamlet” in
Chamonix, at the foot of Mont
Blanc. Sommelier Christian
Martray has built a remarkable
collection of Savoie wines for
the restaurant (two Michelin
stars) and bar; he organises
monthly wine weekends and
tasting lunches and can
recommend visits to his
favourite suppliers in
Apremont and Chignin with
a personal introduction.
Also in Chamonix, has chalets for
rent (catered or not) and can
recommend wine visits.
The range of activities is vast,
from climbing, hiking, biking
and kayaking to cable-car
excursions. The golf is good
in Chamonix itself and also
at Evian beside Lake Geneva,
at Talloires/Annecy and at
Aix-les-Bains, a traditional
members’ club with a fine
restaurant. Expect scenic
backdrops wherever you play.
Armagnac is a beautiful and
untouristy corner of south-west
France, less often visited than
tasted at a late stage of the
evening. The eco-museum
at La Bastide d’Armagnac
Bordeaux is
the obvious
place to start
and finish a
cycling tour of
the changing
explains the production of the
spirit and every cyclist should
bend the knee at nearby NotreDame de Géou, now known
(since 1959) as Notre-Dame des
Cyclistes. See for
more information and
suggestions for tasting visits.
In the north of this region,
Cahors is famous for its
magnificent fortified medieval
bridge and dark malbec wines.
The vineyards hug the sluggish
meanders of the river Lot and
this is one wine region you
could explore by water. See
france/lot/index.html for details
of chartering a canal boat.
There is a fine golf circuit
to be made from Toulouse
(playing Palmola and Seilh),
to Albi, Mazamet and Bigorre,
for mountain golf and views of
the 9,439ft Pic du Midi. Toast
your birdies with floc de
gascogne – grape juice fortified
with armagnac, pleasantly
sweet and, like revenge, best
served chilled.
Rhône Valley
Saddle up at Lyon or Vienne
and let the mistral blow you
down the Rhône to Tainl’Hermitage, where the house
of Michel Chapoutier welcomes
visitors by appointment.
The setting is stunning, with
a pedestrian/cycle bridge
across the river to Tournon and
the Saint-Joseph vineyards.
Chapoutier’s biodynamic
wines are superb.
The Viarhona cycle route
becomes difficult to follow after
Valence — a cue to leave the
river for a beautiful ride over
the Col de la Tartaiguille and
through scented lavender fields
to the herb markets of Nyons.
You can even whiz through
TerraVentoux vineyards on a
Solex electrical bike with wine
tastings and picnic for £25
Another option is to follow
the gentle wine road down the
western flank of the beautiful
Dentelles de Montmirail,
a miniature mountain range
and adventure playground.
The wine trail leads through
the golden villages of Séguret,
Sablet and Gigondas to
Beaumes de Venise.
Several of the larger towns in
the Rhône Valley will have bike
hire outlets if you wish to just
try one of the routes for a
couple of hours or a day. Some
even offer electric bicycles if
you don’t want to get too tired
or sweaty. You can discover the
13 itineraries of the Rhône
Valley at
On wheels, feet or in a boat,
France offers so many options
to explore its vineyards and
every other wonderful aspect.
A journey that
offers a taste
of the past
Through the vineyards of France, you can take in more than
2,000 years of history and heritage, says Jeremy Dixon
Whet your appetite for
culture in Champagne
If France offers a cultural feast,
Champagne provides the perfect aperitif.
A Champagne Pass (champagne.oenopass.
net/en) gives you entry to up to 10
champagne houses and sites of interest
along the Champagne Wine Route from
Reims to Epernay and beyond to Troyes.
Champagne is associated with joy,
celebration and luxury. And its influence
has for centuries flowed over into the
realms of art, architecture and design.
Les Arts de l’Effervescence. Champagne!
is the title of an international exhibition
at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Reims,
exploring the relationship between
champagne and the arts. From glassware
by Lalique to posters by Bonnard and
Toulouse-Lautrec, 370 items have been
assembled for the exhibition from
across Europe and the US.
Join special guided tours of the
collection and the champagne region
and attend talks on a variety of related
themes. But hurry, as you only have until
May 26 to visit. The full programme can
be found at
Reims, the capital of Champagne, is
home to many famous names. A visit to
at least one should be an essential part
of any itinerary. Even if you’re teetotal,
you cannot fail to be impressed by a tour
of the labyrinthine chalk cellars, deep
beneath the city. Dating from Roman
times, they extend for miles and house
millions of bottles of champagne.
At the centre of the Marne region,
Reims was precariously close to the
Western Front during the First World
War. The city’s splendid Gothic
cathedral, Notre-Dame de Reims,
was severely damaged by German
bombardments. However, as the site
of the coronation of the kings of France,
its historical significance ensured its
faithful restoration and eventual listing
as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Among its attractions are the famous
13th-century statue of the Smiling Angel
and a profusion of magnificent stainedglass windows, including two modern
additions by artists Marc Chagall (1974)
and Imi Knoebel (2011).
Château de Saumur:
view of the imposing
castle surrounded
by vineyards
Mâcon’s Hameau Duboeuf brings
wine alive for all the family
Savour Burgundy’s
past and present
While a succession of kings were
being anointed in Reims, the Duchy
of Burgundy, 180 miles south, remained
independent until annexed at the end
of the 15th century. Today the region is
home to the world’s most acclaimed
chardonnay and pinot noir.
The capital Dijon is the gateway to
the Côte de Nuits, the northern half
of the Route des Grands Crus in
Burgundy. It’s a pretty town of cobbled
streets, varied architecture and fine
examples of toits bourguignons, tiled
terracotta roofs glazed in green,
yellow and black and arranged in
geometric patterns.
The city is a charming base from
which to explore the nearby scenic
vineyards of Gevrey-Chambertin and
The Dijon Côte de Nuits pass (see is valid for one year and
gives free admission to 11 activities and
places of interest. You can take a guided
tour of Dijon and enjoy sweeping views
of the city and surrounds from the
15th-century Tour Philippe le Bon.
You can taste wines from some of
Burgundy’s leading appellations, too,
at Château de Marsannay. Established
by Cistercian monks 900 years ago,
this famous castle is today the
headquarters of the Confrérie
des Chevaliers du Tastevin.
The Confrérie’s purpose is one of
publicity and promotion of the customs
and traditions, wines and gastronomy
of Burgundy. Many of its 12,000
members worldwide are not actually
wine growers or merchants but
prominent scientists, writers, statesmen
and actors, united by a love for all
things Burgundian.
Clos de Vougeot aside, Burgundy is
not known for grandiose châteaux, but
rather for its down-to-earth rural charm.
Look out for its many smaller clos –
simple walled vineyards – whose rustic
appearance belies some of the finest
winegrowing terroir in the world.
In the little villages along the wine
routes you’ll encounter charming
vignettes of days gone by, from beautiful
wisteria-draped lavoirs, or covered wash
houses, to stone cabottes that provided
shelter for vineyard workers. And keep
an eye out for signs inviting you to visit
a local cellar for an impromptu tasting
or dégustation.
Keep an eye
out for signs
inviting you for
an impromptu
As you head south through Burgundy,
the spine of the Côte d’Or hills gives
way to gentler undulations, punctuated
by two striking rocky outcrops (called
roches). Solutré and Vergisson rise up
like “petrified ships overlooking a sea
of vineyards”, wrote poet and politician
Alphonse de Lamartine, Mâcon’s most
famous son.
Solutré is a classified site under
French law to protect its rare flora and
fauna and artefacts that date man’s
presence here to 53,000 BC. It became
an icon of the French nation in the
1980s, when President François
Distributed with The Sunday Telegraph
Only in France
could you
encounter a
theme park
dedicated to
wine and
the vine
Mitterrand made annual visits by
helicopter to ascend the peak on foot.
Today, the surrounding area is more
widely known as a source of some of
Burgundy’s best-value white wines,
not least the creamy, citrus-scented
If you’re travelling with the family
and feel torn between wine tasting and
keeping the children amused, you’ll find
a solution just south of Mâcon in the
village of Romanèche-Thorins. Only in
France could you encounter a theme
park dedicated to wine and the vine
and, furthermore, fun for all the family.
The man behind it, Georges Duboeuf,
produces more than 30 million bottles
of wine annually, earning him a small
fortune and the nickname “the king
of Beaujolais”.
Hameau Duboeuf is one of a kind,
allowing you to explore 2,000 years of
winemaking history with 3,000 artefacts
from the worlds of arts, crafts and
technology. It also has a sizeable
working winery with a viewing platform
from where you’ll gain an entertaining
and scientific insight into winemaking.
Your visit culminates with a tasting of
fruit-filled beaujolais wines.
Other attractions include a
dynamic cinema, where viewers sit in
comfortable pods that move in time
to the rhythm and images on screen.
It affords the whole family a thrilling,
bird’s-eye view of the region with its
rolling hills and golden-hued villages
and flies you over the Roche du Solutré.
And if that’s not enough, there’s
mini golf, giant chess, train rides and
Napoleon III’s immaculately preserved
imperial railway carriage. At the end
of the day, head back to one of region’s
hotels, gîtes or camping sites for a
well-earned rest.
From parody to paradise
in the Pays Beaujolais
guide to
For more on French
culture — and all
aspects of visiting
France — check out
the websites
and gotofrancenow.
com, which feature the
latest news, inspiration
and information on the
best places to visit,
restaurants, activities
and events.
Immediately west of Hameau Duboeuf
are the village and vineyards of Fleurie.
It’s a name well known in Britain, yet
wine drinkers are often surprised to
learn it’s beaujolais. Fleurie is one of the
region’s 10 crus or superior vineyards
with the right to its own appellation.
Other renowned beaujolais crus
include the Valentine’s Day favourite,
Saint-Amour and ageworthy Moulin à
Vent, where the original 15th-century
windmill, after which it is named, still
stands incongruously among the vines.
These crus villages lie in the high,
hilly north of the region where pink and
blue granite-rich soils lend distinctive
quality and structure to the wines.
Yet, just like lighter beaujolais and
beaujolais villages wines, they are made
entirely from the fruity and friendly
gamay grape.
The southern Beaujolais terrain is
gently rolling with sun-drenched vines
and terracotta roof tiles as far as the
eye can see. In summer, the distinctive
warmth of the Mediterranean wafts
up from the Rhône Valley, accompanied
by the song of cicadas.
This is the land of pierres dorées,
the golden coloured stone used in the
construction of quaint village houses,
wineries and churches. It’s also the
setting for Clochemerle, Gabriel
Chevalier’s classic comic novel about
the building of a public convenience
in a tiny village and the petty infighting
that ensues.
Clochemerle is based on the real
village of Vaux-en-Beaujolais. This
picture postcard hamlet now has an
award-winning Clochemerle mural
and retains its elaborate wrought-iron
pissoir proudly in the main square.
Another colourful creation closely
associated with the region is the puppet
Gnafron or Le Père Lagrolle. Inspired by
Punch and Judy, he came to life in the
fun fairs of Lyon in the 18th century.
As an inveterate beaujolais lover, he
was adopted as the winemakers’
emblem and, in 1931, his statue was
erected in Beaujeu, the region’s capital.
Come September, hundreds of highspirited, often itinerant workers file into
the rows of vines to harvest thousands
of tons of grapes. Winemaking in
Beaujolais requires intact bunches and
so it remains one of the few French wine
regions where picking must be carried
out by hand.
Locals and visitors celebrate the end
of the back-breaking harvest in October
with the Fête du Paradis, a colourful
spectacle of parades, music, dancing,
speciality foods and of course wine.
Paradis means heaven, but most
aptly, also refers to the sweet, crimson,
part-fermented grape juice that trickles
enticingly from the presses during
the winemaking process.
The end of the harvest is traditionally
one of the most joyous periods in the
calendar for French winegrowers (except
perhaps in disastrous vintages) and, for
the festive atmosphere alone, it’s a truly
wonderful time to visit.
Before you leave, set your alarm for
just before sunrise. If you look east from
any of Beaujolais’ high vantage points,
you may catch a glimpse of the mighty
Mont Blanc silhouetted against the
morning sky.
This is the focal point of the Savoie
region. It’s best known to us Brits for
its ski resorts but there, too, await
plenty of wine, culture and heritage.
Surprising off-piste
finds in the Savoie
The Savoie is a region of contrast,
offering vigorous outdoor activities
all year round, as well as many quieter
cultural pursuits, fine food and wine.
The dramatic mountain scenery
with its glaciers and waterfalls is
dominated by the 15,780ft-high
Mont Blanc. Skiers from around the
world are drawn to Méribel, Courchevel
and Savoie’s other famous winter resorts
for the hundreds of miles of runs and
cross-country trails.
Far below, tranquil valleys are dotted
with elegant lakeside towns, such as
Annecy and Aix-les-Bains.
Gastronomically, the Savoie has
as much claim to greatness as any
French département with no fewer than
31 Michelin-starred restaurants. Its
cheeses, too, such as tomme, beaufort
and reblochon are widely appreciated –
the latter especially for its role in the
skier’s staple dish, tartiflette.
And who would have thought that the
Savoie produced such a vast array of
wine? Not only white, but red, rosé and
sparkling. All within a vineyard area a
mere two per cent the size of Bordeaux’s.
The majority of the white Vin de Savoie
is made from the local jacquère grape
and has been likened to a pure and
refreshing Alpine version of muscadet.
Lac du Bourget, the largest natural
lake in France, caters for all kinds of
holidaymakers. Art lovers must visit
the Faure Museum in the spa town
of Aix-les-Bains. Alongside many fine
Distributed with The Sunday Telegraph
Historical beauty:
saints and angels
of Reims Cathedral,
clockwise from top;
vineyards overlooking
the Bourget lake;
Château de Cassaigne;
Da Vinci’s flying
machine at Le Clos
Luce Castle; vines at
Château de Marsannay
Impressionist paintings is France’s
second most important Rodin collection
with more than 30 sculptures.
Nearby, in a sumptuous setting by
the lake, is the serene and majestic
Abbaye d’Hautecombe, which attracts
150,000 visitors a year. This great
national monument dates from the
12th century and was restored by a
Milanese architect in the 18th century.
Its Chapelle des Princes houses the
tombs of the Savoy dynasty who ruled
the region for hundreds of years.
Among them is Boniface of Savoy,
one-time Archbishop of Canterbury
(1245-1270). The last king of Italy,
Humbert II of Savoy, was also interred
there in 1983.
The breathtaking surrounds of
the Lac du Bourget also afford ample
opportunity for outdoor pursuits from
adrenalin-fuelled paragliding and
mountain climbing to more leisurely
horseback riding and hiking.
— Gascony’s hidden gem
For its sheer concentration of historic
sites and beautiful scenery, FlaranBaïse-Armagnac in the Gers is a prime
short-break destination. It’s also a
designated Grand Site of the greater
Midi-Pyrénées region.
You can fly direct from the UK to
Toulouse and head north-west to the
Gascon town of Condom, then follow
the contours of the verdant Baïse Valley
as it winds on to Auch and the walled
town of Valence-sur-Baïse. Here you’ll
discover the glorious Abbaye de Flaran,
one of south-west France’s bestpreserved Cistercian abbeys. Founded
in 1151, it flourished in the Middle Ages
and is now a major cultural centre.
The abbey offers educational events,
concerts and exhibitions, with notable
works by Monet, Matisse, Renoir,
Cézanne, Braque and Picasso.
The buildings and grounds, too,
are works of art, from the original
romanesque church to the fragrant
medicinal garden, a superb Gothic
cloister and 14th century Chapter House.
It’s a beautiful and evocative slice of
Gascon history.
The abbey is set in the heart of the
armagnac vineyards, where dozens of
small producers welcome visitors all
year round. One estate in particular is
of major local importance. Château de
Cassaigne, built in 1247, became the
country residence of the bishops of
Condom until the French revolution of
1789. This magnificent property hosts
open-air summer concerts in the
courtyard, while its 20 acres of deer
park provide a perfect setting for picnics.
As you enter the château’s cellar,
insulated by 7ft-thick walls and vaulted
ceiling, you’ll be struck by the heady
aroma of armagnac emanating from
stacks of mellowed oak casks. You can
end your visit with a tasting of these
spirits and delicious regional specialities
such as prunes soaked in armagnac.
Condom, whose heritage reflects the
power of the former bishops and the
wealth created by the armagnac trade,
is an attractive centre. The 18th-century
town houses, wineries and cellars of the
old quarter are overlooked by the Gothic
cathedral of Saint-Pierre.
If all this cultural heritage takes its
toll, enjoy a non-alcoholic restorative —
a cruise along the river Baïse. Once used
for transporting armagnac, it remains
a navigable waterway passing through
37 miles of tranquil valleys, colourful
crops and rolling woodlands.
Bergerac, another great
vineyard region of Aquitaine
When Eleanor of Aquitaine wed Henry II
of England in 1154, the former kingdom
of Aquitaine came under English rule
and remained so for 300 years. One of
the great legacies of this period was the
flourishing wine trade that developed
between its capital, Bordeaux, and
London. Almost overnight, England
became a country of claret-lovers.
Wine enthusiasts from around the
world flock to Bordeaux and SaintEmilion in the summer, unaware that
just down the road lies “the other great
vineyard of Aquitaine”, Bergerac. The
grapes and indeed the wines are very
similar to Bordeaux’s, with a splendid
variety; however, prices are often easier
on the pocket. With both Saint-Emilion
and the Dordogne valley within easy
reach, it’s a prime base for the tourist
seeking a gourmet experience.
Bergerac’s most famous wine,
monbazillac, is regarded as one of
Spanning the
river Cher,
the majestic
Château de
Chenonceau is
France’s finest dessert wines. Since
1993, when machine harvesting was
abandoned in favour of picking grapes
by hand, quality has soared.
As wine writer Hugh Johnson notes,
the best young monbazillacs are “more
exuberant, more sprightly than the
best young sauternes”. With age, they
take on a nutty complexity all their own.
The Château de Monbazillac is the
region’s most important wine producer.
It’s a splendid blend of medieval
fortress and renaissance exuberance.
It’s one of several splendid castles in
and around Bergerac, once an important
trading post and rest-stop for pilgrims,
and if you visit one heritage site, you’ll
get reduced admission at eight more.
Take a look in the museums, but make
sure you go along to the Maison des
Vins in an atmospheric cloister in the
town’s old part, where an interactive
exhibition — with tastings — will tell you
all about the local appellations.
Unlike most of Bordeaux’s
châteaux, which are private residences,
monbazillac offers guided tours of the
interior and is open all year round.
The 17th-century grand siècle
furniture and decor really bring to life
the ceremonial and historical rooms
on the ground floor. There’s a collection
of artefacts from the French Wars of
Religion (1562–1598) and, always
popular with children, a concealed
well dug into rock in the Devil’s Tower.
You’re free to wander through the
château’s cool, vaulted cellar. Just don’t
be tempted by the many thousands of
bottles of golden monbazillac. You are
best advised to save that for the visitor’s
centre, where you can enjoy a
complimentary tasting. To cap it all,
the château’s garden terraces afford
stunning views across the valley.
Reduce speed and enjoy a
languid break in the Loire Valley
As much for lovers of wine, architecture
and history as for incurable romantics,
the Loire Valley is a piece of heaven.
France’s longest river rises in the
Cévennes and, after a pleasant journey
of some 620 miles, retires reluctantly
to the Bay of Biscay, west of Nantes.
The Loire Valley, from around Orléans
to the Atlantic, has such an exquisite
array of royal châteaux and fine wine
regions that it has now been added to
the list of Unesco World Heritage Sites.
In opposite directions, south-east of
Orléans, lie the wine areas of Sancerre
and Pouilly-sur-Loire. Both produce
what is regarded as the world’s
benchmark for sauvignon blanc. Only
an expert, on a good day, can tell them
apart. Louis XIV started the fashion
for sancerre, guided by his adviser
César Mellot, whose ancestors still
produce wine in the region today.
The environs of Tours have an
abundance of stately châteaux and
wines to match. The vouvray appellation
covers a range of dry, through off-dry,
sweet to sparkling styles. Its chenin
blanc vineyards perched above chalky
“tuffeau” cliffs give the wines vibrant
acidity and a stony, floral, even waxy
character, and are the jewel of Touraine.
Spanning the Cher, a Loire tributary,
the majestic Château de Chenonceau
became a favourite residence of
Catherine de Medici. It’s a breathtaking
structure, also worth visiting for its
collection of Old Masters and rare
Flanders tapestries.
It was nearby at the Château
d’Amboise that Leonardo da Vinci
came to work at the invitation of King
François I. The adjacent Clos Lucé
is where Da Vinci ended his days and
it houses a museum of his inventions
and drawings.
One of the prettiest renaissance
châteaux in all of France is Azay-leRideau. Rising elegantly from the Indre
river, its carved stone lacework and
English-style landscaped garden create
what author Henry James described as
“a most beautiful and perfect thing”.
Further west, the imposing Château
de Saumur towers over vineyards best
known for flirtatious sparkling wines
and the still reds of Saumur-Champigny.
Children will enjoy a visit as much as
adults, not least for its dungeon.
They’ll also love the Cadre Noir
riders who put on superb displays of
horsemanship at Saumur’s National
Riding School. The public are admitted
to morning training sessions as well as
the spectacular shows in the evening.
};;; anjou-loire-valley.;
Distributed with The Sunday Telegraph
Timeless beauty of ancient hamlets
A visit to one of France’s beautiful small
towns and villages is an essential part
of a vineyard tour, says Jeremy Dixon
Oingt’s hills of gold
Beaujolais. The name alone suggests
that this little corner of southern
Burgundy was always considered
attractive. Yet its beauty intensifies once
you enter the Pays des Pierres Dorées.
“The Land of Golden Stones” is an
enclave of around 39 wine villages all
with a lovely warm, ochre complexion.
At its centre the ancient hamlet of
Oingt ranks among Les Plus Beaux
Villages de France.
As you approach Oingt at sunset, its
thousand-year-old walls take on the
patina of burnished gold. Enter through
the handsome Porte de Nizy and
wander the narrow, medieval rouelles,
gleaming from their 21st-century
makeover. The locals are proud of
their heritage, and it shows.
Surprises await around every corner
in the form of little shops, restaurants,
artists’ studios and workshops. There’s a
Museum of Mechanical Music featuring
barrel organs, pianolas and music boxes
and a charming collection of antique
cars and wine-making equipment at the
Musée de la Guillardière.
The pretty L’Église Saint-Mathieu is
the village’s 11th-century church whose
interior houses seven sculptures
representing the original Lords of Oingt.
The highlight of any visit is the Tour
d’Oingt, a 12th-century dungeon tower.
Although it’s now a museum of fossils,
ceramics and historical documents, its
main attraction is undeniably the
magnificent view over the Azergues
valley from the rooftop terrace. The Tour
d’Oingt is open until October 1 on
weekends and public holidays and
every day between June and August.
Serene Yvoire on Lake Geneva
The gentle lapping of water is all you
can hear as the solar-powered L’Aquarel
glides you around Lake Geneva. It’s
the most idyllic way to appreciate
the picturesque village of Yvoire.
Founded on a hill beside the lake
in 1306, it’s set against a breathtaking
mountain backdrop. You can but
wonder why it took until the Nineties
to be declared one of Les Plus Beaux
Villages de France. The houses and
streets are a picture, too, adorned with
brightly coloured window boxes and
well-tended gardens.
Swathes of tourists arrive in the
summer months so you may prefer the
quieter moments of autumn when the
golden chestnut leaves are reflected
in the calm, silvery waters of the lake.
With credentials like Yvoire’s, it’s
beautiful anytime.
Yvoire took on strategic importance
during regional wars of the 14th century
but thereafter became a quiet village
of farmers and fishermen. Today, parts
of the castle, ramparts and fortified
gateways are constant reminders of the
long and occasionally turbulent history
of the village.
Fed by the Rhône river, Lake Geneva
is the largest body of fresh water in
western Europe and there’s plenty to see
and do in and around it. Take a guided
tour of the village and step back in time
in the House of History or stroll through
Rovorée La Châtaignière, 60 acres
of lakeside park and bird sanctuary.
The Labyrinth and Garden of the Five
Senses in the castle’s former kitchen
garden, restored in medieval style, has
been classified by the French Ministry
of Culture and is a wonderful place to
spend a summer’s afternoon.
A favourite restaurant for those in the
know is Les Jardins du Léman, which
specialises in local wines and produce
including fish from the lake. And the
view from the terrace is stunning.
Time waits for everyone in Séguret
Peace and quiet:
clockwise from main
picture, the medieval
village of Yvoire; Roche
du Solutré, Mâcon; the
gargoyled fountain in
Séguret; Oingt in
southern Beaujolais
If you enjoy the soft, spiced-raspberry
character of Côtes du Rhône and Côtes
du Rhône Villages wines and the
penetrating warmth of Provençal
sunshine, you’ll have more than one
reason to go out of your way to Séguret,
one of the most beautiful villages in
France. Nestling at the foot of the jagged
Dentelles de Montmirail between
Avignon and Montélimar, Séguret can
be blissfully quiet outside the peak
season. It’s the classic Provençal village
with all its ancient charm intact: narrow,
paved streets lined with potted oleander
bushes; stone walls and shuttered
windows softened by the russet tones
of Virginia creeper; the tinkling of a
gargoyled fountain; and the pristine
water of the covered village wash house.
Take the small path that leads to the
castle ruins for panoramic views of the
Dentelles de Montmirail, vineyards and
the iconic Mont Ventoux, depicted in
many styles by Cézanne and other
painters. The local grenache-based
wines are rich and seductive and were
granted their official Côtes du Rhône
Villages Séguret AOC in 1967. The village
was fortified in the Middle Ages and it’s
worth visiting the 12th-century Portail de
la Bise and the Huguenots’ Gateway for
its imposing carved wooden doors with
massive metal hinges.
To shelter from the sun, head for
refreshments in Place des Arceaux,
beautifully shaded by century-old plane
trees. Time is of little importance here,
as suggested by the quirky one-handed
clock on the village belfry.
Head to Les Riceys for
France’s rarest rosé
There are hundreds of small récoltants
manipulants making their own, often
splendid and great-value wines in
in the heart of wine country
striking Roche du Solutré. This dramatic
limestone bluff, which rears above the
vineyards, is recognised by Grand Sites
de France for its unique geology and
archaeology. Prehistoric artefacts found
here suggest it has been an important
site for tens of thousands of years.
There is a museum at the foot of
the rock, cleverly disguised by a dome
covered with vegetation so as not to
detract from the natural scenery.
The site is also a botanic garden
with trails that let visitors discover
its rare plant species and learn about
prehistoric hunting techniques. From
the top a magnificent view awaits.
Cordes-sur-Ciel, a hilltop
village worth the climb
It’s an unforgettable sight when
autumn mists shroud the base of Puech
de Mordagne and the hilltop town of
Cordes-sur-Ciel appears to float in
the sky above. Yet the story of this
beautifully preserved medieval bastide
in the Midi-Pyrénées is no fairy tale.
It’s said to be have been the first
bastide (fortified town) built in southern
France and provided protection to the
religiously persecuted Cathars. Its
population was decimated by the Black
Death and Cordes suffered further
destruction and upheaval during the
Hundred Years War and the Religious
Wars a century later.
In between times, however, the
resourceful inhabitants of Cordes
flourished. They produced pastel, the
source of the strong natural blue dye
indigo, which they exported throughout
Europe. This lucrative industry was later
replaced by mechanical embroidery and
at its peak Cordes boasted 300 looms.
One of the town’s last commissions in
the mid-20th century were the famous
Lacoste crocodiles.
With its breathtaking location and
impressive medieval streetscapes,
Cordes has a lot to offer travellers
with an appetite for history, scenery,
architecture and indeed for food and
wine. Local specialities include foie
gras, confit de canard, wild boar stew,
fabulous saucisson, truffles and wild
mushrooms, pink garlic and blue
cheese. And to wash it all down, you
have the richly satisfying wines of
nearby Gaillac.
Being a popular tourist destination,
Cordes offers a number of excellent
restaurants. If you’re into self-catering,
the town’s weekly market is one of the
best for miles around.
Feast on cheese and wine in
medieval Sancerre
Champagne. You’ll find 40 such leading
domaines in Les Riceys and their doors
are open to tourists.
The picturesque village of Les Riceys
lies in the extreme south of Champagne
amid 44 valleys, forests, plains, slopes
and steep hills. It presides over the
region’s biggest vineyard area of
predominantly pinot noir.
With three distinct AOC wines,
Les Riceys is unique. Champagne
AOC designates the sparkling versions;
Côteau Champenois AOC the still wines
and finally there’s the very rare, yet
highly rated Rosé des Riceys AOC.
King Louis XIV developed a taste
for this legendary rosé’s deep pink
hue and gooseberry aroma, thanks to
the builders from Les Riceys who
worked on the Château de Versailles.
The village of Les Riceys has an
affluent feel to it with a number of
champagne cellars, fine restaurants,
churches and a large, leafy, wellmanicured park. The 15th-century
renaissance church of Saint-Pierre
surprises with its cathedral-like interior
and impressive stained-glass windows.
Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, Burgundy’s
centre for aromatic aniseed
Anyone familiar with the Lasse
Hallström film Chocolat, starring Juliette
Binoche and Johnny Depp, will have
seen images of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, a
village classed among the 100 loveliest
in France. It’s just 38 miles from Dijon,
Les Riceys has
an affluent feel
with a number
of champagne
cellars and fine
the capital of the Côte d’Or, and a
rewarding day out if you’re staying
in the region.
Don’t expect to find a chocolatier,
for Flavigny is famous for another
confectionery — anise-flavoured sweets.
They were originally made by
Benedictine monks in the 8th century
abbey. The Troubat company continues
the tradition in the former abbey today
and conducts guided tours for visitors.
The wonderful aroma of aniseed greets
you as you arrive in the village.
Dramatic rock of Solutré-Pouilly
In the very south of Burgundy, near
Mâcon, the attractive wine village of
Solutré-Pouilly is overlooked by the
Perched at the top of a 1,000ft hill,
the medieval village of Sancerre is
wonderfully unspoilt. Wander its
alleyways and you’ll see ancient doors,
lilac shutters, wrought-iron balconies
and steeply pitched roofs.
From the top of the Tour des Fiefs
you can look down on a panorama of
undulating vineyards, with the River
Loire meandering just two miles away.
At the Maison des Sancerre, an
impressively hi-tech museum, you can
find out more about the vineyards in the
area and the famous wine named after
the village. Winemakers are keen to
share their passion so you’ll have plenty
of opportunity to taste and learn.
Cellar visits can be arranged through
L’Aronde Sancerroise, just off the main
square, which represents 20 vignerons.
Nearby is the village of Chavignol,
where you can buy delicious goats’
cheese to enjoy with a glass of Sancerre.