France is known for its wine. I learned that they are one of the major wine producers in the World. So an idea has crossed my mind, France is a great place to go taste some! They excelled throughout the years in producing delicious, varied whites, reds, roses, not to mention beloved sparkling wine. When I’m looking at the labels in my local liquor store, I am always looking for a familiar city name. And then if I recognize any name of regions and towns where wines were bottled, that’s my go-to choice. I have travelled through Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy and personally tried many different wines. In September I had the last chance to illegally pick the ready-to-harvest, sweet grapes. My dog was as much up for that as me.
Vineyards are getting quite busy during the harvest period. I had to carefully watch out for tractors entering the public roads, carrying trailers filled with amazing ripe fruits. Quite a few emergencies, when I had to brake to avoid crashing into a tractor. In my opinion, an extremely local experience. People gather around barns and help each other out with handling dozens of goodness-filled baskets.
You can book a day-long experience in the classic French chateau. Wine days are usually both tasting of a variety of wines. But also, you would help with picking grapes (I will just mention that some people are getting paid to do this when you have to leave at least 80 Euros for the glory). I find it really exciting to be able to see the process of preparing the fruits and turning them into a world’s favourite dinner enhancer.
Champagne – Épernay
Each of the regions has it’s own superior wine types, with some being protected by law (like Champagne). Champagne is a north-eastern French wine region known for its sparkling wine. I have visited Mercier, which turns out to be less known than Moët, Laurent Perrier or Dom Perignon, however, is not staying behind in terms of taste. Last time I felt like having some, I found that it is available to buy from Majestic Wine. And for me, it’s a real pleasure to come back to it when there’s some great news to celebrate.
Champagne Mercier – see the making and the storing.
I really wanted to see the museum and get a guided tour (there is no free range walking around the cellars, however, the guided tour was super-interesting!). Tour prices start at just €18 per person, (and what is really cool is a train ride in the cellars and tasting of Mercier-produced Brut on the end of the tour).
The staff is also very nice and they speak very good English (which is not very common in France at all). Being very knowledgable, I had a chance to ask all the questions – and get myself a few more glasses of champagne. It’s so much fun it’s hard to leave empty-handed. My mood was very positively affected by alcohol, so I couldn’t resist not getting anything from a variety of branded merchandise.
Actually they have the best prices on bottles of their sparkly wine (most of which is consumed within French borders). With that being said – it is just one of a kind occasion to bundle up. I got a really amazing poster, which is a reproduction of the original. Half of the crate of champagne for friends and some for myself, too. Really memorable day, you have to check it out for yourself!
Address: 68 Avenue de Champagne, 51200 Épernay, France
Pricing, hours and more information: Champagne Mercier website
French wine regions map
I found a Lonely Planet guidebook on Wine Trails very helpful while planning this trip. With a handy map and overview of each winery (a lot of them doesn’t offer any tours and is closed to the public) so I didn’t have to mindlessly drive around looking for a classic french Pierre to let you in his Domaine.
Which is your favourite wine region in France? So far I’ve covered only a few, but I am definitely interested in exploring this aspect of France more. Let me know!