France boasts some of the most interesting wine estates. Here are the ones you shall not miss.
1. Château d’Yquem
Image Source: Bourdeaux
Considered the finest sweet wine in the world, the very name of Yquem gives the chills to any wine connoisseur. And for good reasons: among the wines listed at the official classification of Sauternes wines, Château d’Yquem was the only one that received the prestigious ‘Grand Cru’ label. Beloved by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, who visited the castle and enjoyed its nectar-like libations, they are the most expensive wines in their category. Visiting this property is a matter of organization: while you may walk freely through the park Monday to Saturdays, you’ll have to check with the tourist office of Sauternes to have access to the winery. ‘Les Château d’Yquem’ tours are open to the public a mere four times a year. Count 110 euros for half a day, including tasting.
2. Château Moët & Chandom
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Dom Pérignon lovers, a visit of the Moët domain in Epernay will enable you to learn about the producer of the prestigious cuvée – the Dom is a ‘vintage’ Champagne, meaning it is only made in the best years. Located 33 to 100 feet under the chalky soil, Moët & Chandon’s cellars are the largest within the Champagne region, spanning about 17.4 miles. Regularly scheduled tours of the cellars followed by a tasting can be enjoyed throughout the season and bespoke tastings and tours can be arranged at your convenience. If you’ve always wanted to find out more about those fine bubbles, hurry before October 1st when the domain closes for renovation for a year. Prices start at €21 per person for an hour-long tour.
3. Château Haut Brion
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This wine needs no introduction. The domain produces a Premier Cru Classé in Pessac just outside the city of Bordeaux that is far superior to any other wine from Graves. Of the five first Premiers Crus, it is the only wine with the Pessac-Léognan appellation and is the ancestor of a classification that remains the benchmark to this day. The estate Château Haut-Brion dates back to the 16th C. when Jean de Pontac married Jeanne de Bellon, the daughter of the mayor of Libourne and seigneur of Hault-Brion, who brought him the land in her dowry. Numerous prominent figures, including John Locke and Hegel, raved about the wine. Wine afficionados are welcome to visit this historical domain – but make sure to make an appointment prior to dropping by.
4. Maison Hauller
Image Source: Hauller
A must visit on the now internationally acclaimed ‘Route des Vins d’Alsace’(‘road of the wines of Alsace’), Maison Hauller, located in the charming village of Dambach-la-ville is one of the finest maker of Late Harvest, Gewurztraminer, Cremant wines and other Grands Crus. Aside from their many awards, the Hauller family most recently won the 2015 Gold Medal at the 2015 Wine of the World Expo in Strasbourg.
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5. Château Latour-Martillac
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Château Latour-Martillac is a Bordeaux wine from the Pessac-Léognan appellation and Grand Cru Classé in the classification of the Graves wines. belongs to the Kressmann family since 1929. The castle owes its name to the tower adorning its courtyard, which was built in the 12th C. by the forefathers of the famous philosopher and wine grower Montesquieu. The main house, a typical chartreuse, dates from the late 18th C. During the guided tour, wine lovers can discover the history of the property, winemaking methods and enjoy two wines of Château Latour-Martillac.
6. Château Franc Mayne
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Today the property of insurance group Axa, Château Franc Mayne produces fine merlot wines from the Appellation d’origine contrôlée of Saint-Émilion, ranked Grand cru classé in the Classification of Saint-Émilion wine. Located on the Right Bank of France’s Bordeaux wine region, the estate is in the picturesque village of Saint-Émilion and only a mile away from the medieval village. Aside from hosting a wine tour that includes visits of the old underground quarries and a wine and cheese tasting, guests can stay at main house, a typical 18th century “Maison girondine”.
7. Château Mouton-Rothschild And The Private Museum Of Wine In Art
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Château Mouton-Rothschild is a Premier Grand Cru Classé of Pauillac – that is, a wine you’ll want to try at least once in your life. The castle hosts a private Museum of Wine in Art that was inaugurated in 1962 by André Malraux, then Minister of Culture. Visitors have access to three millennia of precious objects devoted to vines and wine, the most perfect way to discover how the drink of the Gods was enjoyed by all civilizations through the ages. The museum visit is part of an extensive tour including the vault, the winery and cellars. Since 1981, the Castle hosts a traveling exhibition called “Mouton-Rothschild Art and Etiquette” which presents the labels illustrated by great artists. Visit is by appointment only.
8. Domaine De Riquewihr
Image Source: Riquewihr
There is a reason why Riquewihr is nicknamed the “pearl of Alsace.” This little gem of a town was an active and flourishing city in the Middle Ages, known for its wines exported throughout Northern Europe. Owners of the Domaine, the Dopff and Irion families, which can be traced from the 16th C. to the vineyard, have been able families to grow their wealth over time: the vineyard and the Château de Riquewihr, built in 1549, was originally the property of Wurtemberg Princes who dominated the city and its region for five centuries. The exceptional richness of its architecture and its decor reflects its former glory. Known for its spectacular Riesling, Muscat and Gewurztraminer, visits include guided tours and wine tastings. Make sure you check the schedule in advance, as they are closed in the Summer and in the Fall.