One of greatest benefits to travel is wine. At least for me it is and if you are lucky enough to be traveling to a wine producing region, well then the sky may literally be the limit. I have already written about wine tours but what do you do if an organized tour just isn’t your thing but you love wine? Luckily there are options!
My experience with wine tasting directly at the vineyards/wineries so far has been either in France and Canada. Both these countries has multiple wine producing regions with very very different wine characteristics. So pick an area you may be interested in or even better, just pick and area and try something new. In this post I will focus on France but Canada has some really interesting wine regions that I will save for later.
France is a wine tasters idea of heaven, so many regions, so many wineries, where should you possibly start? I don’t have an answer other than just dive in. The very first time we tried wine at wineries was a complete and utter accident but has set me on a path for my very favourite travel activity to date. Now when ever I travel I make sure I have sometime just to explore local wineries.
Back in 2010, I had no idea. @benton8tor an I were in Provence exploring local villages and we stopped at a wine store in Lancon de Provence,. It was the Cave Des Coteaux De Lancon. I couldn’t believe my luck, all this wine and at prices that are actually cheaper than water. Could a bottle of wine actually be 3 euros? turns out yes and it was an very enjoyable wine at that. However the real bonus was a map of different wineries in the region that the proprietor gave to us. She encouraged us to visit the different vineyards in Provence. Many produced olive oil as well as wine. That afternoon, we visited 3. All were very welcoming and let us taste wine as well as olive oil. Tasting or dégustation is most often free and the added advantage is that you can pick which wines you want to try rather than having then chosen for you. That day we went home with new wines, chats with the staff about the wines and even some pottery. The olive oil was good too.
Sine then I have had some pretty amazing experiences tasting wine. Most tourist offices will provide you with a map or if you are driving you may see a sign that says dégustation and if you are like me you will then scream at your travel companion ‘STOP STOP STOP! PULL IN NOW.’ This means you are cool and collected wine connoisseur and not at all an obsessive wine stalker who may have lost touch with reality in the search for the perfect wine. It may also be pertinent to explain to your driver that an accident isn’t imminent. They will appreciate that.
I have had some of my best experiences this way armed mostly with a GPS, wine map, and sometimes just on a road following signs that hopefully lead to an amazing vineyard.
In Minervois I have tasted delicious wines in the owner’s kitchen. I have had lovely conversations with small producers in Bandol and Provence. I tasted Rose, something I never thought I would like. I was wrong. I have had some lovely, easy to drink reds from Provence, Some complex wines from the Rhone and crisp whites in Alsace. The point is just to try, to chat and to enjoy. Ben learned how to get a cork out with out a corkscrew (make sure you have a shoe). I have even followed what no longer seemed to be a road in Armagnac to taste Armagnac, flocs, and lovely lovely reds from Gascony. I have also chatted with winemakers who love their product and just want you to love it too. Wine tasting directly at the wineries gives the opportunity to have some of the best service and really you get to chat about their wine. They will be more than happy to show it off and have you love it too.
Some tips for wine tasting include:
- Depending on the region or the winery check whether or not you need to book a tour. In some of the bigger or better known wineries they may require a booking, not just showing up. However if they have a sign out front saying degustaton, you are probably safe just to roll in.
- Ask their opinion for what order to taste the wines. They know the wines best and will help you get the most out of the experience.
- Make sure you have someone to drive.
- Take a chance! Some wineries will be very small and rustic, others big operations but don’t assume one is better than the other Just try!
Some wineries I recommend include:
- Chateau la Nerthe http://www.chateaulanerthe.fr/ in Chateauneuf de pape. Beautiful grounds, very friendly staff and amazing bold wines.
- Chateau de Vauclaire in Provence http://www.chateaudevauclaire.com/ Friendly, unassuming and amazing wines. Don’t miss.
- Le Galantin in Bandol. Small winery with ridiculously inexpensive and remarkably tasty wines. Service is amazing and you will find many locals as customers. http://www.le-galantin.com/
- Domaine Grand Comte in Armagnac. Producer of wine wines, Flocs and Armagnac and you can taste them all. Hard to find but truly modern, beautiful vineyard. Close to Auch.http://www.domaine-grand-comte.fr/
- Domaine de L’Olivette http://www.domaine-olivette.com/ a lovely winery in Bandol with one of my all time favourite reds