Traveling to French viticultural regions is one of life’s greatest pleasures, especially for those who love food and wine. Although the majority of jetsetters plan their trips during the summer months, we at Taste France Magazine find that fall is one of the greatest times of year to discover vine-growing regions. Temperatures are cooler, plants are in full-bloom, and the smell of fermentation is constantly in the air. Oh, and did we mention less crowds and cheaper prices?
As much as we love wine-ing and dining in France’s major cities, venturing out to off-the-beaten-path appellations always promises a good time. We’ve rounded up seven quaint, wine-focused villages across France to discover this autumn. Pack your bags, grab a sweater, and make sure to have some extra room in your luggage (for bringing local bottles home, of course!)
Grapes: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris
If you’re looking for sleepy beach town vibes and colorful hidden streets, this Languedoc gem is just the ticket. Tucked away on the Mediterranean coast (and located just 15 miles from the Spanish border), this beautiful village is home to rainbow-hued houses, tiny cobblestone pathways, and easy-to-access beaches that are perfect for getting your toes wet. Discover the village’s 17th-century bell tower, which was formerly a lighthouse, the eponymous Moulin de Collioure, and the hilltop museum at Fort St. Elme. Imbibe in local GSM blends that pair perfectly with the region’s hearty stews, or grab a glass of Grenache Blanc to sip with freshly caught fish at one of the village’s seaside taverns. It’s no surprise that Matisse, Picasso, and a handful of other artists posted up in this gorgeous village – come discover it for yourself!
Region: South West
Grapes: Tannat, Raffiat de Moncade, Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng
In addition to its insanely delicious (and excellent quality-to-price-ratio) wines, Béarn is also known for its naturally occurring saltwater springs, which provide ample amounts of coarse sea salt that are frequently used in the region’s signature products, such as Bayonne hams. Post up in one of Béarn's quaint villages, take a breathtaking ride on the winding Train d’Artouste (the highest train in all of Europe!), and stroll the Quartier de la Cathédrale Sainte-Marie, complete with a small market and a handful of local bars. For a dose of local culture, head to the Musee du Sel & des Traditions Béarnaises and end your day with a tasty glass of local Tannat, Cabernet Franc, or Petit Manseng – paired with a classic Béarnaise sauce, of course.
Grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
For wine lovers around the globe, Burgundy is basically mecca. This easterly region is home to some of the greatest vineyard sites in the entire world, and surrounding yourself in their glory promises an unforgettable trip. For those looking to lodge in a bigger city, Beaune is of course the best option, but heading to the tiny village of Savigny-lès-Beaune, located just ten minutes outside of the city center, offers a much quainter experience. Enjoy the village’s local boulangerie, enjoy a run through the vines, and head to the newly opened Le Soleil wine bar and restaurant for an unforgettable meal – better yet, book a room at their chambre d’hotes for a seriously personable (and wine-soaked) stay. Savor a bottle of locally-produced Pinot with a handful of meticulously crafted small plates – think fresh beets with raspberries, fish arancini, homemade terrine, and a variety of meats and cheeses – then drift upstairs for a restful night’s sleep. What could be better?
Vaison-la-Romaine (Côtes-du-Rhône Villages)
Region: Rhône Valley
Grapes: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre
There’s no denying that the south of France is beautiful in the summer – however, the prices and crowds tend to keep travelers like us at bay. For this reason, we take advantage of the off-season months, which provide a much more authentic, calm, and overall enjoyable time (plus, if you head there in September, the weather is still pretty warm). Although technically located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, wines produced in Vaison-la-Romaine are labeled under the Côtes-du-Rhône Villages appellation – consider it the best of both worlds. This beautiful medieval town is best known for its ancient Roman bridge, archaeological site (Puymin), and traditional Tuesday morning market loaded with local vendors. Grab a classic GSM blend and pair with locally roasted pork, ratatouille, or tasty regional tapenades. For a deeper dive into surrounding Côtes-du-Rhône Villages appellations, head to the neighboring villages of Séguret, Rasteau, and Sablet for an extra dose of something delicious.
Grapes: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris
Alsace is one of France’s most unique viticultural regions for a few reasons. First, its production is centered around monovarietal white wines, many of which are crafted from non-French varieties (Riesling, Silvaner, and more). Additionally, Alsace is home to just three appellations: Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru, and Crémant d’Alsace. Although most Alsace-bound tourists head to the capital city of Strasbourg, we recommend heading 45 miles south to the delightful village of Colmar. Marked by cobblestone streets, Renaissance architecture, and half-timbered homes laden with colorful flowers, this riverside town is as beautiful as it gets. Discover the 13th century Eglise Saint-Martin, grab a couple of glasses on the Place de la Cathédrale, and get lost along the Alsace Wine Route. For a memorable, Michelin-starred meal, check out L’Atelier du Peintre or Le Giardin – and order a locally-produced Riesling or Gewurztraminer to satisfy your white wine craving.
Grapes: Cinsaut, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Clairette, Marsanne
Looking for a place to combine your love of wine, hiking, and turquoise waters? Cassis is the place for you. Located just 20 miles east of Marseille, this southerly French fishing port is known for its centuries-old castle, colorful houses, and abundance of street cafés. Local vineyards dedicated to Cinsault, Grenache, and Mourvèdre sprawl around the village’s limits, and an abundance of hiking trails, most famously the Calanques, provide spectacular views (and a staggering workout) of the surrounding sea. Check out the local Cassis market for fresh cheeses, fruits, and vegetables, then head to the Place Baragon for scarves, sun hats, and a variety of other local goods. Take a dip in the crystalline waters of Bestouan beach, then finish the day with a glass (or few) of lip-smacking local rosé – paired with salty sea bass, mussels au gratin, or Provence’s signature fish stew, bouillabaisse.