When wine lovers talk about the unique, defining characteristics of a bottle of wine, there is one word that you are bound to hear more than any other: terroir. It refers to the precise combination of geography, climate, soil, and more that defines a wine, and makes it different from one just a few miles away. The same word captures the very essence of France. Though a certain joie de vivre is an ever-present common thread from one end of France to the other, so much else changes from one province to the next (and often just between towns). From the mighty peaks of the Alps to the lush greenery of the Loire Valley and the sunflower-strewn fields of Provence, France yields only more and greater pleasures as you dive deeper into it. From briny oysters in Brittany to decadent foie gras in Burgundy, an effervescent bottle of Champagne to an earthy Bordeaux, regional terroir is present in every aspect of French life. It is a life’s work to explore it all. And there is no bad place to start.
Destinations In France
AlpsView All Dates
These mythical mountains along the eastern border of France, known for their long climbs with stunning views of the valley below, have played host to some of the most legendary moments in cycling history. When one thinks Tour de France, the Alps are usually the first thing to come to mind. With epic climbs like the Cold de Madeleine, Cold du Glandon, Col de le Colombiere, and – of course – l’Alpe d’Huez, they are a veritable cyclist’s playground. But a bike tour in the Alps is so much more than just outstanding climbing. The serene views of a lush valley floor and the otherworldly scenery on the way up each mountain combined with authentic and nourishing French cuisine makes the Alps a truly magical place.
AlsaceView All Dates
Welcome to Alsace, one of the most hotly contested regions in France’s history. Forming France’s northeastern border with Germany, it has traded hands between the two countries several times. To this day the region features a marked Germanic influence, from the local Alsatian dialect to the regional cuisine and outstanding beers. Alsace’s beauty is made by its spectacular views of the Rhine River and Vosges mountains, as well as its picturesque feudal age castles and charming villages. Pedaling along this wonderful countryside on a bike tour is a trip through history, as well a truly indulgent culinary journey. Alsace is famous for its Munster cheese, valley pie, fromage blanc tart, bilberry pie, foie gras, and sauerkraut. Wash it all down with a world-famous dry Riesling or Gewürztraminers or one of the excellent Fischer or Kronenbourg beers.
BordeauxView All Dates
Bordeaux is undoubtedly one of the most highly esteemed wine regions in the world, let alone France. Situated in the southwest of the country, it is known not only for its magnificent wines, but also breathtaking views along the Dordogne River, charming medieval towns, endless acres of vineyards, and lush greenery. A bike tour through Bordeaux is perfect for the wine lover and gourmand alike, as perfect pairings abound. Match foie gras, canard (duck) confit, black Périgord truffles, and terrines with bold and complex Cabernet Sauvignons from the Médoc, well-rounded and fruity Merlots from Pomerol, and sweet Sauternes from Graves.
BrittanyView All Dates
Brittany’ story is one of land and sea. France’s sea-bound, northwestern peninsula, Brittany is known for its scenic and rocky coastline, impressive megaliths from the Neolithic period, stately manors overlooking the sea, and views that inspired the artwork of Paul Gauguin. Cycling along its serene coastline, the cool ocean breeze is ever present, and always welcome. Those who come for the cycling and views will undoubtedly, though, fall equally in love with the food. Indulge in sweet and savory crepes alike, famed salted caramel, delicious Breton butter, and, above all, the freshest seafood around, including oysters, langoustines, crabs, and clams. Paired with local hard ciders, craft beers, whiskey, and couchenn (wild honey mead), Brittany’s wonderful cuisine is the essence of simple and fresh.
BurgundyView All Dates
Wine lovers rejoice. Whether your passion is red or white, Burgundy offers some of the most celebrated wines in the world, from the Côte de Beaune, Côte de Nuits, Mâcon, and more. Set in eastern France, Burgundy is the ideal destination for a wine lovers’ bike tour. Regal châteaux dot the vineyard-laden countryside. Its dense and lush forests and grand Gothic and Romanesque abbeys and churches set a backdrop of pure beauty. To complement its outstanding selection of wines (including Aloxe-Corton, Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet and more), Burgundy is also renowned for some of France’s most elegant cuisine. Dine in one of several Michelin-starred restaurants, and delight in local delicacies like coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, escargot, jambon persillé, foie gras, andouillette sausage, and the famed chevre, époisses, bleu de Bresse, and Citeaux cheeses.
ChampagneView All Dates
A glass of Champagne is the pinnacle of celebration. But how to celebrate Champagne itself? By visiting this France’s vineyard-studded and forested northeastern region of France. While it is of course best known for the eponymous and revered sparkling white wine, Champagne is also rich with historic WWI sites, lush forests in Montagne de Reims, striking Gothic churches, and regal vineyard estates. And because Champagne truly does pair well with anything, the region’s cuisine is delicious and diverse, including wild game (boar, venison, rabbit, and pheasants), pâte, pork terrine, boeuf carbonnade, and waffles.
CorsicaView All Dates
Aptly named l’Isle de Beauté, Corsica is France’s mountainous Mediterranean island. Its rocky coastlines are nothing short of stunning with their unique granite formations known as les Calanches projecting out toward the sea. Its soaring mountains offer a veritable cyclist’s playground, making it the ideal location for a challenging bike tour (and the start of the 2013 Tour de France). Its lush forests and sandy Mediterranean beaches only add to its pristine beauty, further supporting the popular moniker by which it is known. On top of outstanding cycling, Corsica offers a delicious combination of cuisine from mountain and sea, including wild boar, local cured meats, goat’s and sheep’s milk cheeses, chestnuts, and fresh seafood.
DordogneView All Dates
This lush, forested region in southwestern France is a land filled with caves, rivers, and prehistoric creations. Journey along the Dordogne, enjoying views of Cro-Magnon cave paintings, ancient Roman ruins, striking gorges, and steep cliffs along the riverbanks. Peer up from the river’s shores to marvel at spectacularly green forests and hillsides, the perfect combination of terrain for a bike tour. The dark, full-bodied reds and fruity, dry whites of the Bergerac and sweet dessert Monbazillac wines found in the Dordogne are the perfect companion to its cuisine, which features decadent dishes like foie gras, Périgord truffles, duck, Toulouse goose, Rocamadour goat cheese, and wild cèpes (mushrooms).
LoireView All Dates
The Loire is France’s fertile, châteaux-studded central region. Nowhere is such a display of majestic châteaux so readily available, interrupted only by lush, fertile valleys, abundant vineyards and orchards, and troglodyte wine cellars. It is a land of true enchantment. Eat fresh river fish, local asparagus, vibrant produce, wild mushrooms, and foie gras, all the food once fit for the nobility who resided here. Fitting of a land as fertile as this, the wines of the Loire are outstanding as well and strongly influenced by the diverse terroir. Drink dry, semi-sweet, and sweet offerings alike, most notably from the versatile Chenin blanc grape.
NormandyView All Dates
France’s rugged northern coast, Normandy is a place both beautiful and somber. The name has become known the world around as the site of the World War II D-Day landings, its beaches the site of the assault that set in motion the liberation of France, a turning point in the war. Today, these beaches are both peaceful and picturesque, offering moving memorial sites and historical museums. The beaches, as well as nearby towns like Honfleur and Deauville, have long served as popular artistic inspiration, and for good reason. The coastal views in Normandy are nothing short of spectacular, a charming backdrop for a bike tour. As is fitting of a coastal region, Normandy offers exquisitely fresh seafood like oysters, as well as Camembert and Pont l’Evêque cheeses, crêpes, and sweet and savory tarts.
ProvenceView All Dates
The picturesque region of southeastern France, Provence is celebrated for its sun-bathed lavender fields, shimmering coastlines, spectacular medieval hilltop villages, and vistas that inspired the artwork of Van Gogh and Cézanne. It is no less inspiring today, and easily one of the world’s most magical places to ride a bike. The region’s distinctive cuisine features outstanding seafood, most famously in the fishermen’s stew known as bouillabaisse, as well as quintessential dishes like tapenade, ratatouille, and calissons d’Aix. Not to be outdone by the cuisine, Provence’s wines are outrageously satisfying as well, including varietals Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, and Côtes de Provence.
Jody Adams Chef on Wheels Bike Tour
PyreneesView All Dates
The French Pyrenees are the perfect foil to the Alps. Where the Alps are long and gradual the Pyrenees are steep. Where the Alps wind their way from valley to summit, the Pyrenees shoot straight up. But what they do have in common is a great cycling history, one marked by unforgettable battles between cycling’s greatest on the grandest stage. They beckon avid cyclists from all corners of the earth to come conquer the spectacular peaks, like Col du Tourmalet, Col d’Aubisque, Col d’Aspin, Col de Peyresourde, and more. And as fits any French province, the wine and cuisine are outstanding to match the roads. Enjoy the famous jamón de bayonne and an outstanding selection of charcuterie. Liven your palate with dishes spiced by Piment d’Espelette and numerous Basque renditions of cod, as well as a vast selection of mountain cheeses. Intriguing mountain wines abound as well, like the reds Madiran and Irouleguy or the white Jurançon, the first region to have proper delimitations and borders bestowed upon it.