France has attained worldwide recognition for its wine production. The wine-tasting experience is an essential component of any barge holiday in France: imagine visiting the vignobles (wineries), purchasing a bottle of your favourite vintage, and sipping it back on board the deck of your private cruise ship overlooking the night lights of the town. It really doesn’t get much more romantic than that. |
Since you will have plenty of opportunity to taste a wide range of French wines while on a barge holiday in France, it’s a good idea to know more about the process.
Throughout the country wines are mostly titled according to their place of origin. For instance, Bordeaux’s wine is simply known as Bordeaux, and the same goes for other renowned vintages such as Bourgogne or Chinon.
This is due to a strict classification system known as AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée). The AOC gives buyers an indication of where the bottle was produced, the quality, and the style of the wine.
Depending on the regions you visit on your barge holiday in France, you will discover that wines vary considerably both in price and flavour across the country. Different towns also favour specific grapes: Bordeaux is produced using merlot, cabernet franc, and petit Verdot, while Burgundy contains only pinot noir.
The Cellar Door
Vineyards promise a more personal tasting experience than visiting coopératives. The producers will often have degrees in oenology - the science of winemaking - and so will be able to provide a detailed explanation of the process the grapes go through in making their signature regional tipple.
Tasting is usually free, but it is advisable to check the price list before requesting to taste a particular vintage. Although there is no rule that you should make a purchase, it’s somewhat expected that if you sample several wines you will buy a bottle of your favourite either to take back home or to enjoy during the remainder of your barge holiday in France.
How To Taste Like the French
Dégustation (wine tasting) has certain rituals attached to it. To delight in the delicious drinking as the French do, sample the whites first before moving onto the sweet and dry varieties, the rosés, and the reds, in that order.
Spitting the alcohol into the crachoir after swilling will also help prevent the fumes from going to your head too quickly - and create the impression that you are a seasoned connoisseur.
To best appreciate the vintages, start by examining the shade of the drink in the glass. Consider the hues, whether it be a ruby red or a deep gold. Next, swirl the wine in the glass to allow it to breathe. Contact with the air is crucial to develop its perfume. Then, smell the wine’s bouquet to enjoy a foretaste of the drink’s flavour profile. Sip, but don’t swallow. Roll the tipple around in your mouth, making sure to deliver it to the taste buds on the back of your tongue. Now spit the drink into the crachoir provided, or swallow if you would prefer. Concentrate on the fragrant aromas left behind. The higher the quality, the longer the aroma lingers. The final step in dégustation is to discuss what you have tasted. Exchanging opinions will enhance your understanding and impressions of the flavour notes, revealing subtleties that are obvious only once someone else has drawn attention to them.
Anyone who wants to explore the country’s world class wines should consider booking a luxury barge holiday in France. A cruise through vineyards is the perfect compliment to the experience of sampling fine French wines. I would recommend booking with a reliable tour operator who can offer quality advice on which tour will provide the right experience for you.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury barge holiday in France. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.
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