French Connections

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  • Barrels of Wine

    The other day I collected eight wine barrels from a well known Burgundy village called Pommard. They were sealed and yes…sadly...they were empty.

  • Beaujolais Nouveau Day - coming soon!

    beaujolais nouveau

    Beaujolais Nouveau Day marks the release of this season’s fresh, new Beaujolais wine – and the big day this year is 17th November. The Beaujolais Nouveau release is always celebrated in France on the third Thursday in November and, under French law, the wine is released at 12:01 a.m. that day, only a few weeks after the grapes have been harvested.

    Beaujolais Nouveau originated about a century ago as a cheap and cheerful drink produced by locals to celebrate the end of the harvest season of the Gamay grapes that go into this light, quaffing wine. The grapes are picked by hand in the Beaujolais province in the Rhone region of south western France.

    In Britain, the new wine is usually on sale with some fanfare on the day of its release – and should be drunk by next May, so don’t lay down bottles for too long! Parties are also held throughout France to celebrate the first wine of the season and in true French style, they are usually accompanied by fireworks, festivals and music.

    But the heart of the celebrations is Beaujolais itself, centred on the town of Beaujeu, the ancient capital.  Here Les Sarmentelles is a five day event – and for wine lovers a rather tempting one. A tasting contest features all twelve kinds of Beaujolais and the winner gets their weight in Beaujolais-Villages. In the evening, the farmers that made the wine are celebrated in a torch lit parade. At midnight on 17th November, fireworks mark the release of the new wine, which is drunk until dawn. Quick! Find your accommodation in and around Beaujeu

  • Best of all worlds in Burgundy and the Côte-d'Or

    If you appreciate beautiful  countryside, rivers and canals, historic towns and authentic French food and wine, then you’re likely to arrive in Burgundy and breathe a deep sigh of pleasure.  Our featured region this month is also a haven for artists, writers and bird watchers – a corner of France where it’s possible to be both relaxed and inspired by the surroundings and way of life.

    Burgundy has been described as the heart of France, summing up so much that is appealing about the country to Francophiles. It lies to the south-east of Paris and two of its most famous names are located in the Côte-d'Or department – Dijon, city of gastronomy, and Beaune, home of the fine wine.

  • Biggest savings ever on Wine in France

    More people from Britain are going to France to stock up on wine and other drinks, as the savings are now greater than they have ever been.

    This is due to a potent mix of rising liquor duties in the UK and a weakening euro giving better exchange rates. According to a recent report in the Daily Telegraph, it’s a combination that has ushered in the “new age of the booze cruise”.

    The newspaper also points out that tax on wine is an astonishing eight times higher in Britain than in France, and the gap has widened over the past few years.

    There are no limits on the quantity you bring in as long as you don’t intend to sell the wine and no import tax is due on alcohol brought in from France, providing it is for personal use, which includes large purchases for weddings, events and parties. With savings of around £4 on an average priced quality wine and £12.50 on a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne, there’s plenty to celebrate.

    Don’t forget that you can book ferry and Eurostar crossings on our travel pages – and why not make your booze cruise into a French mini-break? If you’re shopping at the Calais hypermarkets, visit the Cote d’Opale, the Boulogne aquarium and pretty inland towns like Ardres with its lovely lake.

    We have a range of accommodation in the Nord-Pas de Calais and Normandy as well as in the Champagne area and all the wine regions of France. With this year’s harvest time approaching in the vineyards, the next few weeks are great for a visit. Salut!

  • Bordeaux and the Gironde - an enchanted land of wine and water

    If the Gironde region is not already familiar, then why now make this the year to discover its beauties? The capital Bordeaux is already one of the most evocative city names in Europe. To arrive at this historic centre of wine and culture is to enter the warmer, sunnier climes of south west France and immediately to bask in a distinctively, delightfully French way of being.

    Arrival in Bordeaux is not difficult, with the choice of a major international airport, TGV link from Paris and easy motorway access. The city is an enticing combination of wide avenues, elegant 18th century buildings, parks, pavement cafes, shops, museums, fabulous restaurants and, of course, the iconic centre of one the world’s great wine producing areas.

    Bordeaux is also a good starting point from which to explore the Gironde. As you might expect, this is countryside replete with rolling acres of vines, many of them belonging to small independent vineyards. It also embraces the confluence of two rivers, with unspoilt coastline and a fascinating estuary to explore.

    The history of wine production even influences the type of holiday rental you’ll find here. Stay at a truly mouth watering chateau in acres of grounds, make an ancient manoir or Maison de Maitre your very own or enjoy a stone farmhouse with its own swimming pool that oozes traditional character.

    Many of our Gironde holiday properties are in peaceful country locations. Others lie at the heart of towns and villages, like the stunning Le Pavillon-Villemaurine, a Maison de Maitre in St Emilion, shown in our photograph.

    See the full range of holiday rentals in the Gironde and Browse our useful guides to Bordeaux, the Gironde and Aquitaine 

  • Celebrating the Burgundy wine harvest

    Burgundy, our region of the month, lies at the heart of France and is often said also to be at the heart of French cuisine. Many traditional French dishes such as coq au vin, beef bourguignon and escargots all come from Burgundy.

    Whilst the region is known for its prestigious gastronomy, rich history and many castles, Burgundy is of course most famous for its rich red wines – not to forget some pretty decent whites! Here, gentle rolling hillsides are covered with vineyards and September is a great month to explore them as it marks the beginning of the grape harvest season in France.

    The French grape harvest or vendage is always cause for revelry, ritual and celebration – but especially so in Burgundy. In September, you could easily bounce around the many wine related festivals, from the Jazz and Wine Festival of Burgundy in Beaune, from 17th to 19th, to the Heralding of the Harvest in Saint Emillion, from 19th to 20th and the Fête des Fromages Nuits St. Georges, also held on 19th and 20th.

    The Marché aux Vins in the centre of Beaune, next to the Hotel-Dieu, is an excellent introduction to the best wines of the region. There you can taste the famous names from Meursault to Puligny-Montrachet at your leisure. The Marché aux Vins is open every day and the visit and tasting costs 10 euros per person.

    Wine has shaped Burgundy's way of life for centuries and its wine making tradition goes back to the monks of Cluny and Citeaux. Chablis, in the Yonne, is the first of the great Burgundy whites and the Auxerrois wine route curves and winds through mediaeval villages surrounded by their vines, with whole communities devoted to its production.

    The countryside of the Cote d'Or is marked by an endless patchwork of carefully tended vines and you can follow the Route des Vins and sample and buy.

    Southern Burgundy is still wine country and Tournus makes an ideal base for visiting the Chalonnais and Maconnais vineyards and exploring. Don’t forget to check out the fragrant white Pouilly- Fuissé here.

    We have beautiful self-catering cottages and luxury gites to book as your holiday home base for exploring Burgundy, or you could stay in an authentic auberge or chateau for a true taste of the traditional wine estate way of life.

  • Does talking to plants really work?

    When I first arrived with my family in the Alsace, in Eastern France, our property had a cherry tree that was about fifteen years old, which had never produced a single cherry. It had flowered beautifully every year, but there was no fruit.

  • Eguisheim in Alsace wine region - Photo Friday 10 September 2010

    The village of Estaing in the Aveyron is dominated by a 15th century Chateau which is the home of the former president of France Valery Giscard d'Estaing.

  • Following the wine trail in France

    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.

  • France celebrates its wine harvest

    The first bottles from this year’s wine harvest are starting to be sold in France now, so it’s  a grand time to take a wine tasting trip. The weather has been challenging this year so quantity will be down - but quality is high and prices for exports may rise, making the best buys to be had direct from the French vineyards.

    Of course, France has a passion for making the finest wine, which is born out of the natural environment in which grapes are grown and the culture and traditions of its producers. France is a perfectly successful mix of both factors and the ultimate destination for wine tasting.