I love visiting Paris. The energy of the city is intoxicating. As a New Yorker, I feel comfortable in the fast pace. But as a wine-lover, I also know that when it comes to discovering French wine it is best to explore outside the big city of Paris and travel to the spots where winemakers produce some of the most celebrated wines in the world.
Two of my favorite wine destinations in all of France are Sancerre, in the Loire Valley; and Bordeaux, in the Aquitaine region. (The latter of the two is my absolute favorite destination in the entire WORLD.) Here are a few tips to help you coordinate wine-lovers’ day trips from Paris to these two fabulous destinations.
If you love wine, than visiting this region—the world’s largest—is an absolute must. Be ready to fall in love. For all the beauty that Paris has to offer, Bordeaux, known as the Pearl of the Aquitaine, has just as much, only on a smaller scale and in a more leisurely and comfortable way. The city of Bordeaux is listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site for its “outstanding urban and architectural ensemble.”
To get there without a car, take the train from Paris to the Bordeaux St. Jean station, two hours away. Once you disembark, trams are easy to navigate and are available right in front of the station. You also can also get a taxi.
Scene from Bordeaux
Start your wine tour at Ecole du Vin, a wine school located in the city center. Here you can take courses designed to hone your wine-tasting skills or classes to teach you all there is to know about Bordeaux wines.
The Bordeaux tourism office is only a block away from Ecole du Vin, and the people in the office can help you coordinate wine tastings and chateau tours in and around the city. They also can provide you with tickets for classes in the school.
A nice hotel choice, should you choose to spend a night in the city, is Hotel La Cour Carree, which offers modern amenities with old-world charm. The Brasserie l’Orleans is a charming bistro overlooking the green in the center of town (it also is steps from the wine school and tourism office). If you are feeling a bit adventurous, the dish to try here is the stewed lumprey Bordelaise, an eel-like fish cooked in its blood with red wine and chocolate. It is not a pretty dish, but it is delicious. Especially with a glass of Bordeaux wine (of course).
There are several great destinations for wine in the Loire Valley; Sancerre is a good start. From Paris, purchase a rail ticket to the Tracey-sur-Loire station and take a 15-minute taxi to the Maison des Sancerre.
The Maison is home to a small museum that spotlights some of the features of the valley, the region’s most celebrated vineyards, and of course, the area’s most storied wines. The people who work at the Maison can offer you a list of vineyards to visit, events in the area, and more.
One of the tours I highly recommend is the tour of Pouilly-Fume, an area just minutes from the center of Sancerre. The tour is an experience for the senses and offers a great introduction to local wine. The town also is easy to navigate on your own, as well (if you’re not a fan of guided tours).
If you wish to stay in Sancerre overnight, the Hotel de la Loire is a sweet bed-and-breakfast located right across the Loire river. A wonderful dining spot to taste some of the local fare is Au P’tit Gouter, a small and casual bistro that serves up some top-quality dishes with big flavor. Have the mussels, have the melted goat cheese—these were two things I enjoyed on my trip. Finding someone to speak English might be a bit of a challenge at this is a locals’ spot, but don’t get discouraged; it’s well worth the effort.
What cities are on your wine-lovers’ wish list and why?