A wine trip to France is really less about shopping and more about lifestyle. A couple I know once hopped into their Porsche on a Friday night whim, drove on to the ferry and motored down to champagne country to stay in a chateau for an autumn weekend, returning with the boot full of bubbly. Every December friends with a large family put their station wagon on the Eurotunnel train for a well planned trip to Calais to stock up on Viognier and take in the Christmas markets.
With the autumn wine harvest approaching, it set me to dreaming of my ideal French wine trip. I would certainly seek out local wine from limited production family vineyards. I’d want to taste the producer’s love for the grape and its bounty in the finished product, for them to care that the wine is properly appreciated.
I think I would start in the Loire Valley – specifically at Pouilly-sur-Loire in the Nièvre département because I do love a nice Pouilly-Fumé. The town is picturesque and around it are lots of wine domaines, two of which are chateaux, so obviously they would be my first port of call.
I’d also check in to a chateau to stay before going out to sample more local wines with a dinner of traditional haute cuisine in a restaurant of the ‘only in France’ kind. I’m sure you know what I mean.
Next day, after some conservative evening imbibing to ensure a clear head for driving, I would take a steady pace along the Bison Futé quiet rural roads and head for some nice B&B near Bordeaux where the owners could advise me on the best and least known local red wines. Here I would aim to learn about that mysterious 'terroir' effect and how best to choose one Bordeaux wine over another.
My next stop would be the Mâconnais region of Burgundy in central France – not for more red wine but my other favourite white, Pouilly- Fuissé. Yes, confusingly, this one comes from a totally different area than Pouilly- Fumé and Chardonnay is its only grape variety.
On the way back to the ferry, a stop in Champagne country would be de riguer. I might still have room for a couple of cases. Talking of which, this wine trip clearly cannot be taken in a fancy car – or even a car at all, I suspect. Oh dear, is a white van just too lacking in the required elegance? Well, I’m sure I wouldn’t mind once I got the precious cargo home.