Travel tips

Get closer to a wine region
Choose the right moment
Arrange a time with the winegrower
Buying wine, take it home, get it delivered
Back on the road

The aim of your trip should be to get closer to the true nature, excitement and unique character of the terrain and winegrowers you’ll come across. Best to plan in advance and follow a few rules.

Get closer to a wine region

Get information from, of course, but also maps, books and suitable guides (see our list of books).
Belonging to a wine club often helps you plan a trip better.

To get closer to a region, don’t think twice about meeting local (and enthusiastic) wine people: restaurateurs, wine bars, the ‘maisons des vins’ or wine tasting shop (a must for certain regions like the Southwest or Bordeaux: for example, you can ask the ‘Maison des vins’ in Entre-Deux-Mers to make appointments with producers).

Wine merchants know their area well, their appellations, their own taste and real favourites: they’ll give you unrivalled advice. Many of them organise tastings and get-togethers with wine producers.

Museums, places to discover, wine tasting trails for beginners... are getting better year after year. They’re an early learning experience, sometimes an insight into life in the region. Things have increasingly been thought through from the point of view of a family visiting.

When visiting an estate, tasting is merely the final ingredient. Visiting the vineyard, winery, cellar... let you understand the producer’s work, way of thinking and what they’re trying to achieve.
That’s why you should target wine tour operators, who offer a real discovery of vineyards, countryside and estates as well as proper tastings. They prefer to organise discovery trips of less well known properties for small groups.

Choose the right moment

The best seasons to unearth vineyards are spring and autumn: the weather is more conducive to tasting (it’s often too hot in summer and in winter wines can be ‘closed up’), there are less tourists and growers are readily available. Obviously during the vintage, everybody’s very busy and less willing to organise tastings.

Arrange a time with the winegrower

Always check visiting times. Where possible, visit cellars who can greet you in your language. Arrange a time especially if you want to speak to somebody in particular.
Certain areas, certain winegrowers are more open to welcoming you. Certain producers – too well known, too used to selling their wine without having to unlock their cellars, for example in Burgundy or Bordeaux, won’t be very receptive. It’s sometimes best to see small or medium sized producers, who’ll explain their work and share their love of wine.
As every trip is a discovery, avoid places that are too well known and too busy.


The best time of day to taste, according to Jules Chauvet, “is 11 o’clock... Too early and your senses aren’t awake. Just after breakfast, your taste buds are overwhelmed by coffee... At the end of the day, you’re exhausted.”

To taste well, you should never swallow the wine but spit it out having swilled it around your mouth; this lets you detect the most flavour sensations without feeling tired from absorbing it.
Tasting is tiring to the senses anyway, even when spitting out as it can dissolve through your palate and allow small quantities of alcohol to reach your brain.”
Jules Chauvet, naturally– Evelyne Léard-Viboux – published by Jean-Paul Rocher)

The tasting environment laid on by producers is getting better, sometimes close to ideal; a well-ventilated space, no smells, with temperature about 20°, good light, a white mat to see the wine’s colour and body, INAO tasting glasses, spittoons, following a tasting order (the least complex wines or whites first)...

You have to pay for some tastings; it’s often the case in Burgundy for example, but the sheer spread of wines offered for tasting is impressive (more than a dozen). Psychologically paying stops you feeling obliged to buy wine, something we don’t appreciate much.

Buying wine, take it back, get it delivered

Legally, wine can not be sold in France to people under the age of 18. So the buyer promises to be over 18 when they place an order.

Protecting wine in transit

Wine doesn’t like extreme temperatures; so you should avoid shipping it in winter or summer otherwise you might adversely affect its quality.
You should also think about storing your wine when travelling around by car.
The ‘Logis de France’ Bacchus Charter says: “on request, the hotel can offer a suitable place for storing bottles bought by customers.”

Laws on shipping wine

Shipping wine, like all alcoholic drinks, is subject to certain taxes whatever container it’s in: you’ll find the duty stamp either on top of the bottle capsule (called the ‘CRD’, green for AOC wines, blue for ‘vins de pays’ (‘country’ wine) and table wine, orange for ‘vins doux naturels’ (sweet fortified wines), yellow for Cognac and Armagnac), or an accompanying invoice (for bulk wine) supplied by the producer, called the ‘congé’, which gives the seller’s name, name of the wine, the quantity and number of containers, and who’s bought it.
Without these basics proving payment of ‘droit de circulation’ or shipping rights, transporting the wine would be illegal. For export this document is absolutely essential.


The winery can look after deliveries. If you want to sort it out yourself (e.g. you’re buying a few bottles from several wineries), use La Poste’s (the French post office) dedicated service or an express courier, such as DHL’s ‘Millésime express’ service.

Take it home tax free

A European Union citizen can buy an unlimited quantity of wine for personal consumption.
Some countries have import restrictions on wine, even an embargo.
To take advantage of a tax refund when taking wine out of the country (VAT), the person (non-EU citizens only) should ask the winegrower for an accompanying invoice (the bottle capsule is not enough in this case) and get the document stamped by customs when you leave the country.

Back on the road

The rule of tasting that says you should spit out the wine is also very relevant to laws on alcohol consumption. It’s actually illegal to drive with 0.50 grams or more of alcohol per litre of blood, equivalent to 0.25 mg (milligrams) of alcohol per litre of breathalysed sample.
This level corresponds to drinking two 12.5 cl (centilitres) glasses of wine with 10 to 12%. Hence the name of a wine from
Domaine de Lagrezette (Driving Licence).
Each glass increases the alcohol level by 0.20 to 0.25 g on average. While somebody in good health only gets rid of 0.10 to 0.15 g of alcohol per hour.
Some restaurants offer breathalyser tests.

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