Book a wine tour that takes you into the heart of the famous famous vineyards or book a tasting and lunch at Olivier Leflaive.
I wasn’t initially planning on writing about France today but since yesterday was Bastille Day and today France’s Les Bleus won the World Cup, It seems appropriate maybe even fated to write about France today. But what to say, after all I write about France a lot, I have visited many different areas, tried many different foods and wines so how could I pick a favourite today? France is so varied and so interesting, where to start? Every time I get ready to visit France again, I usually get the following feedback: “Haven’t you been there before?” and ” Have fun in Paris.” Well France is a large country with many different regions with their own unique cultural nuances and I haven’t been to Paris on my last 4 trips to France so instead I thought why not focus on France’s underrated gems. France is one of the most visited countries in the world so anything being underrated seems like a stretch but these are my picks for the top 5 underrated places to visit.
- Arbois, Jura, France. Jura itself is a relatively unknown region in France. East of Bourgogne, , Jura is often considered a mirror image of the Cote D’Or. Arbois is one of the larger towns and a great spot for day trips to L’Etoile and Chateau-Chalon to taste the region’s famous vin jaune. Try the Fruitiere Vinicole for a great opportunity to try Jura’s most famous wines. http://www.chateau-bethanie.fr/fr/chateau-bethanie-vins-jura-arbois.php Nearby are many restaurant selections with great food. As well you are close to Bourg de Sirod to hike the famous Richebourg ruins.
- Beaune is the heart of Bourgogne’s wine region. It isn’t exactly underrated but Beaune is often overlooked if just visiting France. Check out the Marche aux vin to try a selection of Bourgogne’s famous wines. Book a wine tour that takes you into the heart of the famous famous vineyards or book a tasting and lunch at Olivier Leflaive.https://www.olivier-leflaive.com/ However Beaune is also an epicentre of Bourgogne’s famous food culture. Try La Grilladine for Bouef Bourguignon, escargot, charlois beef or the chicken in mustard.http://lagrilladine.fr/ Le Carnot has fabulous wines and excellent gazpacho and beef tartare as well as the beauty you would come to expect of a typical French brasserie. I could have stayed just for the atmosphere, wine and people watching alone..http://brasserielecarnot.com/ Beaune is also a beautiful town with a lively market. Hotel Henri II is close to the city center and retains its old word charm with beautiful modern touches. the last time we stayed in Beaune we were able to score a last minute room at the Hotel Henri II. After our other option which was similar to the Bates Motel, The Hotel Henri was a welcome reprieve. So much so that I cried with relief when we saw our room. The bar was a fabulous place to watch the world cup too! http://www.henry2.fr/UK/
Marche Aux vins
- Salon De Provence: Though not exactly underrated either, Salon often suffers next to its more famous Provencal counterparts. But Salon De Provence is a wonder, from the castle that housed Catherine de Medici (complete with her herb garden) and Nostradamus to the medieval festival, Salon de Provence does not disappoint. As well, its surrounding wineries are delicious and more inexpensive then there more famous Provencal and Rhone counterparts. The restaurant at the Ibis hotel is surprisingly good with local ingredients and Provencal specialties. https://restaurants.accorhotels.com/gb/restaurant-0797_R001-ibis-kitchen-salon-de-provence.shtml
- La Rochelle: located on the Atlantic cost, La Rochelle is a beautiful city. Known for its seafood, it is indeed worth it to try. Walking along the harbor alone makes it makes La Rochelle a must do but take the day boat trip to Ile D’Aix. No cars are allowed so rent a bike check out the beautiful view, go for a swim or simply enjoy the village. AS well Cognac is also a day trip away so be sure to check out the beautiful town and the tour at Remy Martin in which even my teetotaller mother learned to appreciate cognac. So much so that she bought cognac. for my cousin alas not us. https://www.remymartin.com/ca-en/
- Mende: Located in the center of France in Lozere we stumbled upon Mende by accident while trying to avoid tolls en route to Beaune. Descending into Mende is like parachuting in Mende is a beautiful village and definitely off the beaten path. The wine is cheaper than water. It can be challenging to get to but worth it.
It really doesn’t matter where you travel in France. Prepare to be enthralled and charmed and you will have yourself a great if not fabulous time. Congratulations Les Bleus
Georgia is one of the oldest if not the oldest wine producer in the world. Again like Jura it uses more traditional methods such as making the wine in clay pots in the ground.
If you have read my blog before it might be a tiny bit obvious that I have a thing for French wine. You know, just a tiny thing. In fact out for drinks this past Friday night with friends, i was splitting a bottle of wine with some at the table. ” what are we drinking?’ she asked. Before I could answer, my other friend piped up ‘You know its French.’ she was right it was and it was delicious. We all have our wines we love, our go to wines or wine regions, but I also find it is incredibly rewarding to go out of our comfort zone and try new wines, wines we aren’t sure if we’d like, from a country that makes us say ‘really they make wine?’ or simply something you haven’t tried before. Sure there is a chance you won’t like it but what if you love it? There are so many under the radar, under valued, undiscovered wines out there. Here are my top 5 picks for the must trys
- Vin de cuit- Provence. i know I know, we are still in France. But this sweet wine produced in Provence has grape must cooked over an open fire for 10 hours. It is traditionally served at Christmas with the 13 desserts. Here is the thing, sweet wine, especially in North America has had a bad reputation. Due in large part to the culture of the late 80s and early 90s that had heavy emphasis on wine coolers, bad and I do mean bad sweet sparking wines, sweet red wines that tasted like cough syrup mixed with sugar (double shudder) and the worst offender….white Zinfandel , a wine so ridiculously sweet and disgusting it almost ruined Zinfandel grapes and rose for me. Luckily for me I like roses (thanks to Provence and 2benton8tor) and Zinfandel now but i almost didn’t try them. Sweet wines are the same. Whether it is port, sherry, or the sweet sauternes of Bordeaux, sweet wines have an undeserved bad rap. Good sweet wines are meant to be drunk after a meal with dessert or cheese. Yes they are sweet often with flavours of honey, prunes, plums ect but they are nuanced, they can have high acid to offset the sweet and are flavourful complex wines to be enjoyed. Vin de Cuit is no different. Try it as soon as you can.
- Sparking Wines from England. What you are probably asking? and yes yes yes I say. England does a have a small wine industry. In fact in Kent, the chalky soils and cliffs share the same soil as the famed Champagne region.Albeit a distinctly different climate. England is starting to produce some very interesting sparking wines. Not overly expensive but they can be hard to find. But definitely worth it.
- Green Wine from Portugal. Before leaving this year to go to Portugal, I was hearing a lot about Green wine. I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t do to much (read any ) research into what it actually is. I am even more embarrassed to admit I thought it was wine with a greenish tinge. Well it is not. Green Wine is in fact more commonly known as Vinho Verde is a DOC wine region f Northern Portugal. it is usually slightly sparking due to malolactic fermentation that happened accidentally in the bottle in early years of production, consumers liked it so it stayed although the effervescence is produced differently today. Not all Vinho Verde is slightly sparking, it can be still, white, red, or rose. I have tasted both still and sparking. Both were good but I prefer the sparking, paired with a bifana YUM!! It is an easy to drink wine, light in the glass and on the palate with slightly fruity notes, an excellent summer wine. Next time I will try the red Vinho Verde rumored to be dark and peppery.
- The Jura wine region. Yes another French wine region but with excellent reason. Jura borders both Burgundy and Switzerland. A fairy small wine producing region but one of the most interesting. Jura is at the forefront of ‘natural wine production. really meaning they have kept the tradtional methods. All Jura still wines should be decanted for at least 4 hours before consuming. These wines are complex. The red and and whites age for a considerable time in oak with controlled oxidation, giving the wine interesting and unexpected flavours as in the case of whites, strong almond flavour. But Jura has 3 wine stars: -Vin Jaune literally translating to yellow win. This wine ages in oak barrels under yeast with controlled oxidation for 6 years. It has interesting nutty flavours. -Macvin du Jura a sweet fortified spicy wine ages 14 months in the barrel. -Vin de paille or straw wine. grapes are dried on straw allowing the grapes to almost dry, once pressed the flavours are concentrated producing a unique sweet wine. Jura also happens to be incredibly beautiful so….
5. Georgia, the republic not the state. Though there are arguments over where grape vines and viticulture began (was it Croatia? Was it Georgia?) Georgia is one of the oldest if not the oldest wine producer in the world. Again like Jura it uses more traditional methods such as making the wine in clay pots in the ground. Georgian wine can be hard but worth it. The wines have a different mouth feel and flavor on the palate most likely due to the clay pots and grape varieties but they are easy to drink and even easier to enjoy. Georgia like Jura is stunningly beautiful so maybe a wine vacation is in order.
Honorable mentions should go to : Croatia also a wine originator and produces some very good wines, Bulgaria and Uruguay both producers of some very interesting wines. Also Romania Lebanon, China, and India are worth a try. Where do you get these wines? Well if in London, try Gordon’s wine bar, one of the best stocked wine bars , I have ever visited. https://gordonswinebar.com/ Wine Quay in Porto Portugal is another option with excellent wine selection and knowledgeable servers. .http://www.winequaybar.com/ But do your research on wine bars, wine stores and tastings. Most importantly don’t be afraid to ask.