Quick de­tour to the cel­lars?

ON THE UNESCO TRAIL: Chris­tine Austin ad­vo­cates indulging in a spot of wine tourism on your way to the beach this sum­mer.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Front Page -

ENTION “wine” on some fam­ily hol­i­days and you are likely to get the kind of look that will make you wish you had stayed at home. I’m not talk­ing about the oc­ca­sional bot­tle or two that might be in the fridge ready to be en­joyed while laz­ing by the pool. This is the sug­ges­tion, of­ten made while driv­ing through France, that, just maybe, you could call in at a few wine pro­duc­ers as you head south.

As­ton­ish­ing as it seems, not all fam­ily mem­bers have the same fer­vent en­thu­si­asm for wan­der­ing around vine­yards, talk­ing to wine pro­duc­ers and spend­ing sev­eral hours in cel­lars, tast­ing wine. It seems that some would far rather get where they are go­ing and head to the beach.

So if you do want to take in a wine re­gion you may have to re­sort to sub­terfuge and the latest ad­di­tions to the Unesco World Her­itage list give you a per­fect ex­cuse. Now that sev­eral wine re­gions are pre­served and val­ued as unique places, vis­it­ing them can hardly count as just fol­low­ing up on your hobby – it is cul­ture.

New on the Unesco list are the hills, houses and cel­lars of Cham­pagne. Ef­fec­tively the heart of the cham­pagne re­gion has be­come a World Her­itage site which means that it is worth at least a quick stop and maybe an overnight stay.

You can visit vast his­toric cel­lars dug deep in the chalk, some dat­ing back to Ro­man times. There are el­e­gant streets to walk down, lined with large el­e­gant houses where the fa­mous cham­pagne brands have their head­quar­ters, and then you can head out to the vine­yards and see the way the reg­i­mented close-packed rows of vines are di­vided be­tween those great houses, with dis­creet small stones mark­ing each plot.

Cham­pagne is a very easy re­gion to visit. If you take the short ferry cross­ing to Calais then it is a straight run down to Reims (pro­nounced Rance, not Reams). There are trips and tours you can take around the Cham­pagne Houses, with a tast­ing at the end and the in­evitable visit to a shop where you can buy all kinds of wine ac­ces­sories and bot­tles to take home. Some houses, such as Mumm and Mercier, welcome guests with­out ap­point­ments, but the most spec­tac­u­lar vis­its re­quire a lit­tle plan­ning. Veuve Clic­quot’s deep Gallo-Ro­man cel­lars are part of the World Her­itage list­ing and you can book a visit to their cel­lars on their web­site (www. veuve-clic­quot.com). There are 27 miles of these cel­lars and they have street signs, carv­ings and of course they are packed with row upon row of cham­pagne gen­tly ma­tur­ing in the con­stant cool tem­per­a­ture.

From Cham­pagne it is an easy drive down to the next stage of your cul­tural tour to the Cli­mats and Ter­roirs of Bur­gundy which have just been listed by Unesco. Here there are no sight­see­ing trains, pre-ar­ranged tours or cor­po­rate gift shops to visit. This is the mag­nif­i­cent Cote d’Or slope run­ning from Di­jon to just south of Chagny and it is just like trav­el­ling through a wine list. Drive down the D974 rather than the au­toroute and make sure you head off down the lit­tle roads that wind through the vine­yards. A de­tailed map of the vine­yards (avail­able in Beaune) comes in handy so you know ex­actly which piece of hal­lowed ground you are stand­ing on. Beaune is also the best place to start any bike ride through the re­gion, since there is a cy­cle path all the way through the re­gion down to San­te­nay. Make sure you start off with a visit to the Hos­pices de Beaune, a mag­nif­i­cent 15th cen­tury build­ing which was once a char­i­ta­ble alms-house but now is a mu­seum. The pat­terned roof of this build­ing is beau­ti­ful.

Those head­ing down the west coast of France should call in at St Emil­ion on the out­skirts of Bordeaux, which gained its Unesco World Her­itage sta­tus some years ago. Since then it seems to have be­come even more pic­turesque and de­light­ful with its steep, cob­bled streets and hon­ey­coloured stone mon­u­ments. There is an un­der­ground mono­lithic church, with just the spire stick­ing out into the town square. Nearby is the tourist of­fice where you can pick up maps and find out which prop­er­ties you can visit each day. Al­ter­na­tively just drive around the re­gion look­ing for “de­gus­ta­tion” signs at the end of the drive­ways. You will prob­a­bly be shown around by the pro­pri­etor and al­lowed to taste his or her wine, although it is po­lite to buy a bot­tle or two as you leave.

If you can tear your­self away from St Emil­ion, a 45-minute drive takes you to Bordeaux which gained its Unesco World Her­itage sta­tus some years ago. Now the old ware­houses which used to clut­ter the river­side have been cleared away and the view along the river­side is ter­rific. This is now a chic, his­toric city and is well worth a visit. From here you can drive up the Mé­doc and ad­mire the im­pos­ing

CHRIS­TINE AUSTIN Ef­fec­tively the heart of the Cham­pagne re­gion has be­come a World Her­itage site.

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