France has much to offer lovers of nature, rural culture, good food and fine wines. Now enjoy luxurious wine tours while exploring France’s hidden gems.
Few destinations offer so many different things to see and do than France. From the bustling streets of Paris with its museums, galleries and restaurants to a countryside renowned for its picturesque villages, regional cuisine and hundreds of fine wines, the country is the perfect backdrop for fantastic wine tours.
Small Islands of Regional Heritage
All across France there are countless small villages, each with its own history and heritage. Since 1982, a society known as Le Plus Beaux Villages de France has maintained a select list of some of the finest examples of French rural culture. If you like, this is the “Michelin” list of villages with strict criteria for inclusion –to qualify the village must have fewer than 2000 inhabitants, a rural culture and character and be the home of two national heritage sites. So strict are the criteria that, to date, less than 150 villages have been accepted to the list.
Many of these villages also serve a local wine industry. Surrounded by vineyards, some dating back centuries, they produce some of France’s best wines. And where there’s wine, there’s also good, wholesome, regional food.
Many of these gems of French culture and history are off the usual tourist routes and, unless you know what to look for, they can easily be missed. But, many of them are on, or close to, French rivers and canals, and that makes wine tours on a luxurious river cruise the perfect way to explore these hidden gems.
Leisure, Luxury and Wine Tasting
Imagine slowly cruising down a river or canal, surrounded by fields, birds and views to die for. No rush to catch the coach or beat the traffic! Stargaze, enjoy a drink at the bar and some good conversation and then sleep in your luxurious cabin as you sail towards the next stop on your river cruise.
After a substantial breakfast on board or at a local coffee shop (your choice) your day of exploration and wine tasting begins at one of Le Plus Beaux Villages de France.
Wine Tours along the Canal du Midi
Despite being one of Frances better known waterways, the Canal du Midi still has many secluded villages that the best wine tours stop at. The best, and we’ll talk about two them in this article, are members of Le Plus Beaux Villages de France.
Some 19 miles southeast of the ancient walled city of Carcassonne we find the village of Lagrasse in the Corbières region. As well as its Roman style Benedictine abbey with its 40-metre octagonal bell tower and its narrow medieval streets, you also get a chance to try some of the excellent wines produced in one of Frances most well-known wine producing regions.
In Burgundy, your river cruise could stop off at Vézelay. The local abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which has, for centuries, attracted pilgrims as it is said to hold relics of Mary Magdalene.
Another facet of the village’s heritage is the variety of great wines that you can sample alongside some traditional local cooking. Truly a wine connoisseur’s dream come true.
We hope that this has given you a taste for more fine wine, good food and history. Wine tours ply most of Frances waterways from Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Loire Valley, and the Canal du Midi. All that’s left to say is – bon voyage!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK’s most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury barge holidays. Offering holidays to France and other great destinations, itineraries include wine tours and other cultural and themed activities. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.
© 2021 – Simon Andas and Lisa Jeeves