Champagne, the most northerly of France's wine regions, is an attractive area of rolling hills, where the slopes are planted with vines - the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier that are used to make the world-famous wine. The main towns are Reims and Epernay, where many of the most famous champagne houses have their headquarters: Taittinger and Mercier are among those that run regular tours of their cellars for visitors. Leave town and follow the champagne route out into the nearby villages and you'll find any number of small wine makers who'll happily let you taste their products and sell you a bottle or two.
Slightly east of Champagne is Alsace, a region whose seven grape varieties produce a greater selection of different wines than any other region in France. The Alsatian wine villages have a unique charm - the black-and-white façades of the half-timbered houses are softened by geraniums growing prolifically in window boxes. Taste the wines in the local cellars or the "winstubs", local restaurants serving hearty meat dishes and cheeses that perfectly complement the fruity local wines. There's always a reason to celebrate in the region - more than 50 wine events are held in Alsace every year, beginning with the Kaefferkopf festival in Ammerschwihr, which takes place on the last weekend in April.
Even if you're visiting Burgundy for the first time, many of the village names will be familiar: Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-Saint-Georges and Meursault are all places on the map as well as entries on a wine list. Even the region's main tourist attractions have wine links. Don't miss the Hôtel-Dieu in Beaune, a former hospital with a distinctive, multicoloured tiled roof typical of the region, which hosts a wine auction every year on the third Sunday in November. Buying wine is all very well, but if you want a better idea of how to tell a Chablis from a Côte Chalonnaise, enrol in a wine-tasting morning at the Ecole des Vins de Bourgogne in Beaune: log on to www.ecoledesvins-bourgogne.com.
WINE FESTIVALS AND EVENTS
Marathon de la Fête, Bordeaux
One of France's most important marathons takes place every year on the second Saturday in September, starting and ending in the village of Pauillac and passing more than 50 châteaux on the way.
Heating process, Cognac
The chauffe, or heating process, involved in the double distillation of Cognac takes place during December. Many distillers are happy to allow visitors to watch, and entertainment is laid on at many of the distilleries.
Luri Wine Fair, Corsica
This fair is an important event for the wine makers of Corsica and takes place on the first weekend in July in the northern hilltop village of Luri. The lively fair showcases the best Corsican wines.
Vin jaune opening, Jura
Vin jaune is a white wine that's aged in barrels for six years, and a major festival to celebrate their opening takes place on the first weekend in February. The wine that emerges is an unusual bronze colour and has a unique flavour.
Millesime Festival, Bandol
The harbourfront of this Provençal port is the location of a festival on the first Sunday in December. The festival is an opportunity to taste wines made from Mourvedre grapes, which have been matured for at least 18 months.
Frontonnais festival, Sud-Ouest
A night market, competitions and a banquet of local food and wine are all features of the Frontonnais festival, held during the third weekend in August in celebration of the wines produced in the area.
Wine harvest festival, Roussillon
The harvest of the Grenache grapes, rather than the unveiling of the finished wine, is the cause for celebration in the town of Banyuls-sur-Mer. This long-established tradition takes place every year on the third Sunday in October.
Wine festival, Savoie
In August, the food and wine producers of Savoie descend on the village of Notre-Dame-de-Bellecombe to publicise their wares. Brass bands and folk groups provide a musical backdrop, while locals and visitors sample the local wares.
Distilling process, Armagnac
Armagnac is still distilled using traditional, flame-powered stills. Producers are happy to show off this ancient process, which takes place between October and mid-March.
Wine and vine festival, Avignon
During the weekend following Ascension Day each May, wine makers from around Avignon gather in the square outside the Palais des Papes to offer tastings of their recent vintages. Events also take place in vineyards around the region.
Wine festival, Sancerre
The first weekend in June is the occasion for a festival in the Caves de la Mignonne in Sancerre, where producers from the 14 villages that make up this Loire Valley appellation present their latest vintages.
Grande Tablée, Saumur
Each summer, 10,000 people sit down for an open-air dinner in the centre of Saumur. On 2 August 2007, you can pay around £6 to try various local delicacies, all washed down with 3,500 bottles of the local Saumur Champigny wine.
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