By bike, hot air balloon or on horseback... 6 off the beaten track ways to discover the vineyards

Want to explore the French vineyards? Why not do it in a different way, or at a gentle pace, or even how it’s been done since the beginning of time. Fancy riding a horse through vineyards in the shadow of the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain, or cycling along the grand classified vintage routes of Bordeaux, or flying over the Climats of Burgundy in a hot air balloon? Here are six surprising and close to nature ways to discover the French vineyards.

Discover the vineyards of Provence on horseback

In the shadow of the majestic mountain of Ventoux, its immense neighbour, the Dentelles de Montmirail massif, is an absolute treasure for lovers of wide open spaces. Discover it on horseback with the Rhonea winemakers. Between sharp ridges, pretty villages like La Roque Alric clinging to the rock-face, and lush vines lined up in tight formation, the land gradually reveals its secrets. Three appellations share this vineyard territory: Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Beaumes-de-Venise. The latter also produces Muscat, the famous natural sweet wine grown on the southern slopes of the Dentelles.

Ventoux-Provence Tourism (External link)

Drive a classic VW Camper at the gateway to the Champagne region

How about exploring the vineyards in a 1970s favourite - a VW Camper? In Barzy-sur-Marne, at the gateway to the Champagne region, the Lévêque Duhan estate offers trips through the vineyards aboard a classic VW that once belonged the current owner's grandfather. He used it to deliver barrels to merchants in Epernay. The panoramic windows offer fabulous views over the hilly, heritage vineyards which were cultivated as far back as the 12th century by Thibaud IV, Count of Champagne.

Champagne-Ardenne Tourism (External link)

Cycle in the heart of the Bordeaux vineyards

Dawn is the perfect time to take a bike ride through the vineyards of Château Smith Haut Lafitte. You’ll find the winegrowers are already at work looking after the precious vines, and horses are ploughing the land at the foot vines. At this estate, the grapes are harvested by hand and chemical products are banned. Making this Grand Cru Classé, considered as the "most important of the Graves", is an art. You can’t help but be impressed at the incredible evolution of the vines over the centuries as you stroll through the nearby Forest of the Senses: 10 hectares of perched cabins, sculptures and medicinal gardens - a living artwork...

Château Smith Haut Lafitte (External link)
Bordeaux Tourism (External link)

Climb the slopes of the Scherwiller in Alsace

Want to know more about biodynamic viticulture? In Scherwiller in Alsace you can! Climb the hills of the Achillée estate where the Dietrich family will show you around their bioclimatic cellar, which is also the biggest straw and wood building in Europe. The estate offers wine tastings paired with organic cheese and charcuterie, as well as dishes prepared by local chefs. Try Riesling Scherwiller bio or "Quetsches alors", made from biodynamically grown quetsches and Riesling. This Alsatian vineyard simply sparkles with surprises..

Domaine d'Achillée (External link)
Visit Alsace (External link)

Float over the Climats of Burgundy in a hot air balloon

There is nothing ordinary about discovering the Climats of Bourgogne from a hot air balloon… Choose a dawn or dusk departure and float gently into the pure air and let your eyes drink in the beauty of the vineyards below. The light is special, illuminating the vine leaves, revealing the unique terroir and vineyard parcels. For centuries, man has been shaping Burgundy's landscapes, creating micro-terroirs that create unique wines. Don't try to count these tiny vineyards below - there are 1,247 of them! Every one of them is UNESCO-listed and produces the finest wines, some of which are very famous.

Bourgogne Tourisme (External link)

Picnic in the vineyards of the Loire Valley

Dine at the edge of the lush rows of vines, at a table set in the shade of the fruit trees. In the heart of the Chancay vineyard in the Loire Valley, Myriam invites you to enjoy a delicious gourmet picnic - a festival of flavours to accompany the wines of Vouvray and Chinon. Rillettes of fish from the Loire flavoured with saffron; quiche tourangelle with rillettes from Tours and rillons from Touraine; goat cheese and nougat from Tours; cake with almonds, candied fruits and apricot jam... It's impossible to resist the scrumptious products of the Touraine region!

Val de Loire Tourisme (External link)