Although a French wine-tasting holiday popped the cork as a top attraction, the regions that produce some of France’s most prestigious wines scored relatively poorly for their inhospitable attitude to tourists.
Which? Travel conducted a recent expert panel to review the best destination for a wine-tasting holiday. Alsace was the venue we raised our glasses to.
Our experts commented that Alsace was the only region of France to fully embrace wine tourism, scoring an excellent expert score of 82% when rated against criteria such as the quality of the wine, the visitor experience, and the accessibility of wineries.
But the warm hospitality of Alsace’s vineyards stands in stark contrast to Bordeaux where, with some notable exceptions, wine-makers almost seem to want tourists to go elsewhere.
Pass the ‘Bordeaux’ if you’re a wine connoisseur
Although their attitude is improving, wineries in Bordeaux still prefer pre-arranged visits from serious buyers. They also prefer people who are already experts on the region’s wine and can speak knowledgeably about them… in French.
Champagne receives the highest volume of UK wine visitors and offers the chance to taste some of the world’s finest wines. Yet the infrequent opening hours and weekend closures are a real barrier to tourists.
The Old World stalwarts were also shown up by the wineries of the New World where visitors can choose between hundreds of wineries with tasting rooms, picnic areas, restaurants and vineyard tours.
New World wine regions have really understood the importance of entertaining visitors and offering them value for money. California was particularly praised by our experts for the slick visitor experience and range of tourist services on offer, including a wine train, and concerts among the vines.
All aboard the wine train
However, some argue that this professionalism can make for an impersonal experience and fear that the commercialisation of wine regions can lead to a bland, overcrowded visit. Surely real wine lovers shouldn’t have to be subjected to winery experiences more akin to a wine theme park than a tailored visit?
Do you think that the most prestigious regions are right to eschew wine tourism and concentrate on making great wines? Or do you think that Bordeaux, Champagne and even Burgundy have a lot to learn from the friendly hospitality of Alsace?