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Insider tips on visiting French wineries beyond Bordeaux and Burgundy


More wineries in France are opening to visitors, said a French wine tourism expert.  

Of France’s 87,000 wineries, only 13% were open to the public five years ago, said Martin Lhuillier, head of wine tourism at Atout France, the country’s tourism development agency.

Now, many more have opened their cellar doors for tours and tastings, he said.

“Since our last estimate, the number of wineries open to visits has grown by more than 10%,” he said.

It’s a growing trend in an industry that once resisted the chummy, open-door policies common in wineries in California, South Africa and other “New World” wine regions. The thinking was that French wineries — or chateaux — were in the business of making serious wine, not courting families with playgrounds on the premises — a practice common in parts of Australia.

But that started to change years ago when wineries began installing visitor-friendly tasting rooms, revamping their cellars and organizing vineyard tours, turning working estates into small-scale travel attractions.

Some French wine tourists still think that … if they are buying the wine than they shouldn’t be expected to pay for the visit.

Martin Lhuillier

Head of Wine Tourism, Atout France

Activities soon followed, with visitors able to book picnics, grape-harvesting workshops and treasure hunts for the kids in areas as distinguished as Bordeaux.

The trend has climbed up the echelon of French winemakers, from small, independent estates to the country’s powerhouse producers. Now, the “vast majority” of France’s most prestigious chateaux are open to visitors too, said Lhuillier.

French wine tourism — by the numbers

There are four main types of wine tourists to France, said Lhuillier. The largest group (40%) are “epicureans” he said, who aim for enjoyment and to “please their senses.”

They are followed by “classics” (24%) who view wine as one experience, among others, on a vacation. “Explorers” (20%) value more in-depth knowledge, he said — they want to meet the winemakers and explore lesser-known aspects of wine. Remaining visitors (16%) are “experts” who want to master the science of wine, he said.  

Wine tourism in France generates approximately 5.2 billion euros ($5.9 billion) a year, said Lhuillier.

Before the pandemic, the country welcomed around 10 million wine tourists each year, who spent an average of $1,430 per stay. Most of these visitors came from within France (58%), but growth from international visitors was outpacing that of domestic ones.

“The average growth rate for wine tourism in France in the last six years is around 4% per year, with the growth being higher for foreign tourists,” he said.

Two camps

Lhuillier said he divides France’s wine regions into two camps:

  • the “classic” destinations, where wine plays a decisive role in travelers’ decision to visit the area, such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Alsace; and
  • regions where wine plays an important, though not primary, role in the choice to visit, such as Provence, Occitanie and…


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Insider tips on visiting French wineries beyond Bordeaux and Burgundy