French Vineyard accommodation
We may dream of owning a French vineyard, but that is an unreachable objective for most of us. However more and more French vineyards are diversifying and encouraging wine tourism by offering French vineyard accommodation with Bed and Breakfast and self-catering cottages or converted farm buildings. Some have even added an hotel!
France is home to many of the best wines in the world (and some of the most famous and expensive) and it is some of these fine chateaux that now welcome visitors to stay and enjoy the surroundings in French vineyard accommodation, visit the wine cellars and taste (and purchase) the wine.
France produces a wide range of wines and wine styles from the most basic to some highly complex blends, employing a variety of specialist techniques including oak-ageing and late harvesting, depending on the desired wine style ranging from fresh and fruity for early drinking to multi-layered, tannic wines for ageing over many years.
At the other end of the spectrum from the fine wine Chateaux of Bordeaux or Burgundy, wine production is basically a farming activity and the vineyards can be small family farms. French vineyard accommodation can take many forms – many smaller wine domaines have converted old cottages or other buildings on the vineyard into high-quality holiday cottages (gites) often surrounded by vines and enjoying spectacular views of the French countryside amidst the daily activities of a working vineyard.
Others have opened up part of the winemaker’s house or chateau to provide Bed and Breakfast (chambres d’hote) in comfortable rooms with modern facilities.
So stay in French vineyard accommodation and get closer to the real France, its people and traditions even if just to taste and visit a vineyard.
Oenotourisme – Wine Tourism
France is getting better at welcoming wine lovers to its vineyards. Previously you could often only visit by appointment and then usually with an introduction from your wine merchant.
Today many wineries offer a good tasting room and information about the winery and the wine. Foreign languages other than French are more common, especially amongst the younger generation of winemakers. They often study and work abroad before taking over the family estate. When they return they can introduce new energy and ideas to enhance the traditional skills of local winemaking. Then the older generation can take a back seat before retiring. Some of this new generation will have seen the welcome and facilities offer by vineyards in the New World which are very customer-focussed.
Many vineyards in France may not be able to offer such sophisticated facilities, and appointments may be needed if only to ensure that someone is there to open the cellars and welcome you when otherwise they may be busy out amongst the vines.
In France, 85,000 wine estates occupy an area of 755,000 hectares (more than one million rugby stadiums…) produce 41.4 million hectolitres (more than 90,000,000 gallons) a year, or 16% of the world’s wine! Viticulture accounts for 15% of the value of agricultural production, for only 3% of the area used (source: La Revue du Vin de France).
Today, this universe is feminized, since a quarter of winemakers are women.
The third largest export sector in France, wine is by far the most consumed alcoholic beverage by the French and is a curiosity and an incentive for tourists to discover. This has logically led to make this wine wealth a real tourist attraction.
Ten thousand wine tourism cellars welcome ten million visitors a year, thirty-six destinations labeled Vignobles & Découvertes (Vineyards & Discoveries), and thirty-one museums and thematic sites receive more than one million annual visits. Foreign tourists account for 39% of this audience. [www.communes.com (French)]
“Vignobles & Découvertes”, the national wine tourism label in France, has managed French oenotourism since 2009. The label currently covers 36 territories in France.
Partners displaying the “Vignobles & Découvertes” label have to meet certain requirements: a high quality of reception in French or in a foreign language, special wine knowledge and a desire to share, tradition as well as an openness to natural, cultural and human heritage. [https://uk.france.fr]
As a former wine merchant (Allez Vins! – now a site dedicated to books on Wine, France and French Wine) we specialised in importing French Regional wines – at a time when many were not easy to find outside France, or even outside a small local area unless they were big Bordeaux, Burgundy or Champagne wines – or produced in bulk for supermarkets.
The adventure started in the south west of France where we found the local Cahors wines which went so well with the rich local cuisine of duck and goose. Yet it was hard to find any back home. And the more we looked and travelled the more we discovered – interesting, lesser-known wines made by passionate wine makers. Over the years we travelled to many parts of France and found many gems to be good value, despite the often obscure labelling regulations imposed by the French wine authorities INAO, These often prevented the mention of the grape variety on the labels. You were presumed to know that Pouilly-Fuissé was made from Chardonnay, whereas Pouilly-Fumé is made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes and is a quite different! (The main exception is for the wines of Alsace, where grape variety is allowed in the name of the wine).
The rise of New World wines, especially South America, Australia and New Zealand, has challenged France’s position as the biggest and best wine producer in the World. Consumers have become more discerning and adventurous and know much more about grape varieties and wine regions.
French winemakers have responded by recognising that their vineyards can be a major asset to attract visitors and customers. Many French vineyards have been converting to Organic status, both to attract a growing market, but also to preserve their valuable “terroir” which often plays such an important part in the distinctiveness of their specific wine.
Sales of French wines made from organically grown grapes are set to double between 2018 and 2022 (source: IWSR)
Whilst most of us may only be able to visit a few weeks every year, some brave Brits are now running their own French vineyards such as Robert Brimfield and Stephen McMahon at Clos Vieux Rochers in Puisseguin (Bordeaux) or Simon Hawkins at Domaine du Fontenay in the Cote Roannaise (Loire).
See our listing of British Winemakers in France.
The railway system in France is impressive with high speed TGV services connecting major cities. This is enhanced by local TER services linking to smaller towns, You can plan and book tickets online in advance at Rail Europe