The French Riviera, also known as Cote d’Azur, is situated in the South East of the country on a beautiful stretch of Mediterranean coastline. There’s over 115km of beaches, many of them golden and sandy, as well as 310+ days of sunshine a year. The area is actually one of the first modern resorts in Europe, catering to the wealthy since the 18th century. Now the French Riviera is a major yachting destination, summer haven and winter ski resort. It’s also a paradise for wine lovers.
Wine Production In the French Riviera
The French Riviera has the perfect climate for growing grapes. There’s plenty of sunshine, cool evenings, and “Mistral” winds to keep pests at bay. The region’s geography of sprawling mountains and gentle slopes also provides the grape with hills to thrive on and valleys for protection. The soil is fertile and the conditions just right for growers to produce a mighty fine crop.
Although the French Riviera and the surrounding areas are well-known for rosé, which is popular with the American market, more white and red varieties are being produced. However, if it’s specifically red wine you are looking for, Bordeaux is still the place.
There are plenty of vineyards in the French Riviera, stretching from Menton over on the Italian border to Cannes, and beyond. You can check out the vineyards in the hills of Nice, and even sample wine at the Le St Honorat, where monks have been making their own reds and whites on a tiny plot for centuries. You can, of course, buy bottles to take home, but make sure you fly wisely with your wine.
Pretty much wherever you are on the coast, you can find vineyards and châteaus to explore. There are too many to mention here (though we will mention a few further down so keep reading). Ask your hotel operator or speak to people on your adventure to gain information specific to the city you are visiting.
Cities of the Riviera
Caption: AOC Bellet, near Nice, the only place in the world where you will find the Braquet and Folle Noire varieties of grape.
When it comes to exploring the French Riviera, there’s plenty to see and do. If you fly in from the US, you will likely land at the airport outside of Nice. This city is a great place to start your adventures.
Nice is the biggest city in the area, with a population of over 350,000. The vibe is a bit like Italy, but with a sophisticated French charm. There are lots of boutique restaurants, cafes and bars, and gastronomic markets like the Cours Saleya. The beach in the city is rocky, but the nearby Coco beach is perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
Not only will you find great tasting local and national wines at the many establishments around Nice, but you can also enjoy wine tasting, such as the “Tour de France of Organic Wine”, with presentations in English. Nice is home to a number of châteaus, such as the Châteaux de Bellet, where tours are on offer for 20 euros, with wine tasting. The Châteaux Cremat is another one to try, and has impressive Roman cellars, though the tour and tasting leave something to be desired.
Nearby to Nice is Monaco, an autonomous city-state that sits enclaved within the French Riviera. Monaco is an awesome place to visit if you want to sample a bit of luxury. Home to many a superyacht, celebrity and VIP party, Monaco is (second) home to the rich and famous. It is also a city known for its relaxed casino atmosphere and high stakes poker games. The world’s biggest tournaments have mostly moved online, such as the Sunday Million with its regular first prize of over $100,000, but in terms of live tournaments, Monaco is still up there.
While the casino culture is quite unique to Monaco, the VIP lifestyle is a prevalent feature of the south coast of France. Head to Cannes for all the fine dining and indulgence you can imagine, or for the Cannes Film Festival if you are there in May. Nearby Antibes is also a treat with its narrow winding streets and extensive views of the mountains, while also being a harbor the world’s most expensive superyachts.
If you want to continue the wine tours and tastings, head inland a bit to Provence, specifically to Les Arcs sur Argen and surrounding areas. Here you will find amazing châteaus like the Château de Berne and Château Ste Roseline. The French produce some of the finest wine in the world (outside of California, of course!), and there’s no better place to explore the vineyards, chateaus, and wineries than the stunning coastlines of the French Riviera. Santé!