Like many of you, I have taken the time during Covid to expand my knowledge of something that I enjoy and can explore alone, and/or with friends and family – Wine! That is because “Wine Unites Us” and in general, is a pretty neutral topic. Zoom organized tastings, events, collaborations and lectures are a trend that has blossomed and is here to stay, although it does not quite compare to the real thing. California vineyards have slowly opened, but many Americans are wondering, when I can go to the vineyards in France? After all, France is the world’s number one producer of wine by volume.
European travel is still possible this summer, but most of the E.U. remains off limits. With discretion, you can get to Greece, Croatia, Iceland, Montenegro, Serbia, Cyprus and Georgia, but France is “ àhuis clos.” In other words, a closed door, for now, but there is light.
“According to a recent statement from French President Emmanuel Macron, travel to France should be open as early as June 9, 2021, assuming COVID-19 levels remain under control and visitors can present proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test. The global pandemic has triggered unprecedented pent-up demand for travel, and Francophiles ought to start planning right now for summer, fall and winter trips to their favorite cities and wine regions,” said David Lincoln Ross, Founder, Ross Wine Tours.
New York City based David Lincoln Ross offers bespoke tours to France’s most esteemed wine châteaux, domains, and vineyard appellations in the Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and Cognac regions, putting clients in touch with château- and domain-owners and their top winemakers, while creating unique itineraries. In addition, Ross creates wine voyages to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Israel, Greece, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, and California.
“In light of strong demand for direct flights to Paris and Nice, air, hotel, car rental and hiring experienced on-site guides are a must; always read the fine print before you book each stage of your travel arrangements. This is why working with experienced travel experts makes the difference.” Ross added.
Let Provence wine aficionado David Lincoln Ross, create a journey through one of the most beautiful and historic corners of France – the land of lavender, olive groves, and delicious rosés. Fly into Paris, where you will take a 1st Class TGV train to Aix-en-Provence, about 4 ½ hours. In Aix, you will be met by your expert local guide and transfer to a 5-star luxury hotel via chauffeur-driven sedan. Dinner is reserved at Michelin-starred restaurants, with a tasting menu, including top château-bottled wines in places like the village of La Celle andAlain Ducasse’s Hostellerie de L’Abbaye de Celle hotel/restaurant where you will also stay overnight. Have a companion that wishes to wander? There are plenty of local flower and food markets, as well as antique shops.
Talking to the experts is how you glean the best insight, so I asked a woman on the other side of the pond, Gaëlle Forey, owner of The Hidden France, what she thought.
Gaëlle is a native Burgundian and has a company that tailors discreet luxury travels and events for sophisticated professionals and refined private clients who want a unique and exceptional experience in France. Previously, she spent ten years in the luxury hotel industry in the London and most recently, five years as Director of Events for a prominent wine producer, Jean-Charles Boisset.
Her opinion: “Americans should wait until June to travel to France to make sure they can experiment a unique and exceptional holiday with the grand openings of our restaurants, theaters, French Cancan shows, historic monuments, food experience, wine tastings, cooking lessons and so much more.”
One of the spectacular trips Gaelle organizes, is during the “Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction Week” which is anticipated in November and held annually in Burgundy. During the exclusive five-night tour, you will be the only guests at Chez Les Fatien – a luxury boutique “Hotel Particulier” located within the old walls of Beaune. Guests enjoy three exclusive visits to some of the Cote d’Or’s finest wineries: Maison Alex Gambal in Beaune, Domaine Lafarge in Volnay and Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue in Chambolle-Musigny. Not to mention, you will participate in comparison tastings, roam open air markets and be the dinner guests of Alex Gambal at a home atop the cliffs of Orches – just 20 minutes from Beaune.
“Insider” itineraries is what these two create: Reserved winery visits, custom designed bike routes, walking through vineyards and the countryside, an aerial tour of the region, a private visit to a historic monument, a cooking class with a renowned chef. It is all possible.
Don’t speak the language? Get started now. I took an immersion workshop with CouCou French classes (based in NYC, but offer online curriculum), who teamed up with Anne Fontaine to present the do’s and don’ts of “la mode francaise” while highlighting essential vocabulary and cultural background on fashion and the lifestyle. As an aside, I once worked in the Anne Fontaine Soho boutique and have pieces from 15 years ago, that are still chic. Visit their Madison Avenue store right across from The Frick Museum.
This is a start of what is possible. There are 11 dominant French wine regions, each known for their unique terroir, grape varieties, and wines. So much to explore and France, I reckon, will be welcoming new tourists with open arms. The best things come to those who are patient and of course, plan well.