If you're thinking of booking a break in France to learn more about the country's world-famous wines, you'll find the region of Aquitaine perfect for this sort of getaway. Located in the south-west of France, Aquitaine is characterised by its vine-clad hillsides and rustic chateaux, ensuring a picturesque backdrop to your wine cruise.
To make the most of the region's attractive scenery, hire a boat in France for your holiday. Not only will this allow you to take in parts of the area you might not see on foot, but you'll also benefit from unrivalled freedom and can travel at your own pace. Additionally, you'll have the peace of mind that you have somewhere tranquil to return to in the evening after a busy day exploring.
Once settled onboard, you can travel along the waterways of the region to visit Aquitaine's most prolific wine-producing hotspots. Read our guide to find out more.
The main wine-making area of Aquitaine is Gironde, where the Garonne and Dordogne rivers flow into the Atlantic Ocean. The region is among the world's oldest wine-producing counties, with the first vines planted here in 1 AD. Thousands of years later, there are now at least 120,000 hectares of vines spread over the area, around 8,000 grape growers and 60 Appellations of Controlled Origin, giving the region real credence in the wine industry.
A combination of good soil and an ideal climate make the region perfect for growing a variety of grapes, with appellations including Saint-Estephe, Loupiac and Pomerol all cultivated in Gironde. As well as wine, the region produces brandies and liqueurs, among other alcoholic drinks.
The Gironde wine-making region comprises around 500 towns and villages, many of which you can visit and take a tour of the cellars. Often, you'll be able to sample the wines made at each, from red and white to rose and sweet dessert varieties.
Among the wines produced here are Bordeaux (named after the region's capital), Medoc and Cotes de Blaye, and if you book a tour at the Tourist Office of Bordeaux you'll be able to visit some of the best-known vineyards in the region and sample the wines created at each.
Another area worth visiting as part of your wine tour of Aquitaine is Dordogne. The department produces popular wines like Bergerac, Monbazillac and St Emilion, and it's possible to sample many varieties at the caves dotted around the region.
Head to Le Grand Cave de Saint-Emilion for a free comparative tasting of some of the area's best wines, or make your way to the Dourthe Cave in the heart of the region's vineyards to browse wines, vintages and champagnes produced by the Dourthe estates. While here, take a tour of the lovely chateau and sample some of the wines free of charge.
The town of Bergerac, meanwhile, is home to the Maison des Vins de Bergerac, which you can visit as for a wine-tasting session as part of your boating break, and Monbazillac is worth calling in at if you enjoy sweet white wines.
Lot et Garonne
Producing wines including Cotes de Buzet, Vins du Marmandais, Layrac and Cotes de Brulhois for hundreds of years, the area of Lot et Garonne has a picturesque landscapes of vast rolling meadows, fruit trees and, of course, abundant vineyards. Perhaps the most popular wine to be produced here is Buzet, and many of the local growers have formed a cooperative winery you can visit during your holiday.
Later on, enjoy a spectacular view of the Dropt Valley from the chateau at Cote-de-Duras, or head to appellation Cote-du-Marmandais where you'll find the rare grape variety, Abouriou.
Also produced in Lot et Garonne is the spirit Armagnac - a type of brandy derived from wine - and you can visit several estates including Domaine Departemental d'Ognoas in Arthez-d'Armagnac to sample the alcoholic beverage.
Armagnac is also made in a couple of other areas, one of which is Landes. Explore the town and visit the wine cellars, while you can also call in at the Eco-museum of La Bastide d'Armagnac to learn more about the process of making the drink, as well as its flavours and aromas.
As well as Armagnac, Landes is known for the wines Tursan and Vins des Coteaux de Chalosse, which are distinctive yet clean-tasting.