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Autumn in France: Luxurious Ways to Enjoy It

..From Wine Tasting to River Cruises

Autumn in France is inspiring and energising. There’s a crispness to the air and beautiful light casts itself on vineyards in Burgundy or Haussmannian buildings in Paris. Peak tourist season is reaching its end, which means the ambience tends to be more relaxed and contemplative. Whether you’re angling to visit some exceptional cellars in time for harvest season, explore a few iconic French cities or enjoy a bit of wild nature by boat or foot, there are so many luxurious and authentic ways to enjoy a fall getaway. Read on for some inspiration– and if we succeed in piquing your interest, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Your dream bespoke adventure could be right around the corner…
Marie Tesson in vineyard founder of Exclusive France Tours

Marie Tesson

Founder

Autumn in France is a wonderful time for luxury and bounty. From wine tasting to gourmet tours and relaxing cruises, there are so many ways to enjoy a fall getaway.
Burgundy vineyards at the harvest time

Take a Wine Tasting and Harvest Vineyards Tour

If you’re lucky enough to visit during harvest season, French wine tours offer a traditional and festive way to enjoy the autumnal bounty. There’s a sense of joy and magic in the air as vineyards across France produce their newest batches of wine, collecting grapes that have been painstakingly cultivated over the previous months and harvested at just the right moment.

In September and October, it’s often still warm enough to enjoy cycling or driving tours through some of the country’s most beautiful vineyards, stopping for tastings in prestigious and coveted cellars along the way. Whether you wish to explore the hallowed terroirs of Burgundy, Champagne or Bordeaux, your bespoke tour will allow you to fully appreciate the beauty of local landscapes and bask in the traditions of wine harvesting.

Your private guide can arrange meetings with some of France’s renowned vintners, allowing you to enjoy exclusive tastings in the cellars of greatest interest to you. Why not also observe, or even participate, in the harvest? There’s perhaps no better way to appreciate the expertise and dedication required to produce an excellent bottle of wine than witnessing firsthand how grapes are harvested, fermented and later vinified. It’s a magical process that you should experience at least once. However, trying to go it alone isn’t advised: you’re much more likely to experience a wine region from an insider’s perspective by working with an experienced local guide.

Experience Wine Harvest Festivals
Autumn wine festivals in France are always joyous and exciting occasions. In October, the Fete des Vendanges in Chalon-sur-Saone, Burgundy offers visitors an opportunity to taste new wines, participate in elaborate street ceremonies and masses presided over by wine Confraterniies and the red-robed Sonneurs du Débuché order, and enjoy numerous other events and festivities. The end-of- harvest weekend festival, or “Paulée”, literally refers to a grape shovel pouring its contents into a wine press for the final time of the season. This is a wonderful way to discover Burgundy and its vintnering traditions, which stretch back hundreds of years.

Heading south to Saint-Emilion, just an hour from Bordeaux, the annual Ban des Vendanges harvest festival sees the red-robed “Jurade”, an order created to promote and maintain excellence in winemaking, take to the streets of the old medieval city for a traditional procession. New members are initiated, wines are tasted, and ceremonies are celebrated in front of picturesque old churches and atop stunning medieval keeps. This is another dramatic, traditional and wholly festive way to celebrate the harvest.

There are many other similar events held across France’s main wine regions during the autumn. Your private tour can easily include one or several stops at some of these.

Vineyards discovery in 2cv vintage cars in Burgundy Photo-Alain-Doire_Bourgogne
Fête des Vendanges, Chalon sur Saône 2017 edition
Autumn vegetables

Enjoy a Fall Gourmet Food or Market Tour

It’s not all about wine: Autumn is also an ideal and inspiring time to indulge in a private gourmet food tour in France. Nearly every region has delicious offerings. Why not embark on a colorful and palate-opening adventure through traditional food markets in Provence, where in the fall stalls are piled high with delicacies such as mushrooms, truffles, olives and olive oil, saffron and bright autumnal vegetables like pumpkin?

Fall food tours around France can include authentic encounters with artisans, from Norman cheesemongers to Breton purveyors of salted caramels or alcoholic apple ciders. Paris is another obvious choice for a gourmet getaway: you can sample seasonal tasting menus at some of the city’s finest restaurants; embark on a cheese or patisserie tour of the capital, visit wonderful local markets such as the Marché d’Aligre, bursting with local character and color or even try your hand at a French cooking class led by a master chef. The fall is also the time when major gourmet events, such as the Salon du Chocolat– a trade show entirely dedicated to the art of chocolate-making– turn the city into even more of a gastronomic paradise than usual.

Read Related: Our Favourite Addresses for Gourmet Tea & Pastries in Paris

In short, if you associate fall with gourmet discoveries, there are nearly endless possibilities for just that during your autumn stay in France.

Explore France’s Historical and Architectural History

In autumn, the heat has generally died down and it can be a very pleasant time to enjoy exploring France’s rich architectural and cultural legacies. Why not take a luxurious private tour around the sweeping, dramatic Mont St-Michel Abbey, made all the more beautiful by crisp fall light? Or embark on a tour of the marvelous prehistoric caves of the Dordogne, including the breathtaking Lascaux? Or bask in the stunning rose windows and stained glass of Gothic marvels Notre Dame and St Chapelle in Paris, Chartres further north, or the remarkable Cathedral at Strasbourg, comparing how the rose windows of Notre-Dame compare to those at Chartres. Tour the soul-stirring Loire Valley chateaux, from Chambord to Chenonceau. Witness their fine architectural details against the backdrop of the wild river and green landscapes, perhaps from the vantage of a privately hired barge.

In short, a private history and architecture tour of France will make your autumnal getaway even richer. Forget the usual guidebooks: your personal guide will know precisely how to reveal France’s most-cherished historical legacies to you, enriching your understanding and appreciation and creating unforgettable memories along the way.

Mont Saint Michel Abbey
Honeymoon in Champagne vineyards

Plan a Honyemoon or Romantic Adventure

One of the most famous wines of the Dordogne region, Monbazillac is a classic among French fortified white wines. Referred to in French as a vin liquoreux (liquor-style wine), this intensely sweet variety is made from grapes harvested in successive stages of ripeness, with some left to ferment on the vines. This is a process referred to as “noble rot”. The result are wines with deep notes of honey, acacia and even spices. Generally, a combination of Sémillon, Muscadelle and Sauvignon Blanc grapes are used. What distinguishes this variety of wine from a typical Sauternes is that the former generally uses a higher percentage of Muscadelle grapes, lending a deeper, sweeter quality. In total, five different villages in the Dordogne produce this wine: Pomport, Rouffignac, Colombier, Saint Laurent des Vignes and Monbazillac. If you’d like to try some superb examples of this beloved fortified whites, look no further than producers such as the Chateau Montbazillac itself, whose cooperative winemakers make some of the most applauded versions of this sweet, nectar-like drink. We also highly recommend tasting the superb wines produced by the Chateau du Haut Pezaud: their Monbazillac wine, produced with carefully hand-picked grapes, is a fine example of how “noble rot” can render a superior fortified white. Finally, at the truly luxurious end of the scale, small family producers such as Emannuelle and Jean-Luc Ojeda of the Domaine de la Borie Blanche have won prestigious prizes fort their low-yield, extremely rare vintages of Monbazillac.

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Book a Luxury Getaway This Autumn in France

Ready to embark on your own autumn adventure in France? Whether you’re interested in visiting some exceptional cellars, taking a gourmet food or market tour or taking in natural wonders from a river barge, we’ll make sure your fall getaway is nothing short of remarkable. Contact us to get started.

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