Picture yourself in the south of France. Picture yourself in the south of France, walking along a wine road, as long as the eye can see. The wind is in your hair, you are surrounded by vines and the sun is shining. Yes, the sun is always shining in the south of France (let’s go with that). You look to the left, see a winemaking chateau. You look to the right, see a winemaking chateau. Wine is everywhere. There is not a care in the world. Ah yes, wineries are fun.
As you know, the last year of my life was spent exploring the wine regions of France. Aren’t I lucky?! These experiences were nothing short of priceless. Well, that is, I spent a lot of my hard earned euros, but gained a few delish bottles and a more importantly, a relationship with the world of wine that I find dreamy. It is fair to say that rather than looking at wine as a yummy beverage, I know have a real appreciation of the history, culture and hard work behind what goes into the bottle. An appreciation that can only be picked up from visiting and seeing things first hand. It really is a whole world of it’s own. No, I am not formally trained in wine (yet), but I feel confident in saying that I know a fair bit about the stuff. It’s my first post-breakfast thought, and what takes up most of my thoughts throughout the day. Much of these thoughts, knowledge and inspiration were picked up along the many wine roads I have walked. Solo. They are magical places. Full of natural beauty, lovely people and, well, tasty tasty wine. Yep, wine regions are like no other. What I would love to do is share a few bits and pieces that I picked up along the way. Here we go!
Grapes are picky. They need good conditions. Good conditions mean beautiful climates and natural surroundings. Most of the best wine regions are near moderating bodies of water and alongside gorgeous hills. Grapes are spoiled when it comes to real estate! This is good for us wine lovers too. It means that wine regions are often beautiful to visit, even before stepping into the vineyard. Some of my favourite regions, for their beauty alone, are Kelowna (Canada), Beaujoulais and Cassis (France). They have stunning water bodies, whether it be a huge lake or the mediterranean, feature impressive slopes and have lovely continental/mediterranean climates. Can I please book my next flight already?!
In my experience, wine people are good people. Full disclaimer, I am yet to meet a bad wine person perhaps because I decide to avoid snobs. Every winemaker I have crossed paths with feels like the most down to earth person. If you think about it, winemakers are fancy fancy farmers, combined with scientists and artists (who I have so much respect for). They are often humble, hardworking and ready to chat about their work. I have gained so much knowledge just from chatting away. If they are open to increasing their business, a winemaker is typically keen to talk. All you need to do is ask! I normally start my conversation by admitting that I know nothing, but am very keen to learn as much as I can. That puts the winemaker in a comfortable position to share as much as they would like. Then we go from there. Conversation 101. Some of my fave winemaking personalities include Mr.Jund (Alsace) and the team at Lowe winery (Mudgee). Friendly, passionate and lovers of wine, what more could you ask for in someone?!
Wine region visits are exhilarating. They help you put the small stuff into perspective. Every time I get out among the grapes, I feel like nothing is bad in the world. I should probably pay more attention to potential bugs and snakes haha. There is a sense of freedom, history and culture that surrounds you all at once. Knowing that a family has put effort into their product for perhaps generations, and that they are still doing it, has some kind of beauty that can’t really be explained. It’s heritage and you can feel it. Of course tasting the wine and learning the story of the winery is one thing, but it’s just being out with the grapes, even for a short period, that reminds you that wine comes from somewhere. Just go and visit, you’ll know what I mean.
You just might find that you are your best self in a wine region. I know I am.
For that reason, each time it comes down to picking a wine from a list, I find myself gravitating to a bottle from a region that I have visited. It is as though I will be able to taste the people I met, the gorgeous view I admired and the way I felt. Wine is an emotional experience. People forget that. Attaching a memory to a wine will make it taste 100% better. A sip of Beaujolais or Alsatian pinot will take me back to the feeling of bliss I had there. Magical. I am so freakin lucky to have access to such important wine region adventures. Cheers is to more!