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Which wine region to visit????

I will be in Basel Switzerland on business but will have the weekend open. I enjoy wine and have always wanted to visit one of France's wine regions. Thought about taking a train and staying the weekend in Lyon to tour wine the Rhone region or staying the weekend in Marseille and touring the Provence region. Any recommendations as to if you were in Basel, where would stay the weekend in France for the best wine tours?

Posted by
2916 posts

Definitely Alsace. It's incredibly close, the wines are terrific, and it's easy to get from wine village to wine village (and from winery to winery). Marseille is a long way, and in my opinion the wineries in Provence are not particularly worth visiting, and are very spread out. Lyon is not nearly as far, and it's near several good wine regions, but it's not nearly as convenient as Alsace to get to them.

Posted by
971 posts

Alsace would be a convenient option from Basel. My experience with wine touring is limited, but I really liked the Alsacian wine route, or Route Du vin. it is well signposted and runs scenic country side between small towns full of half timbered houses.
Note that Alsace feels a bit more German than French and is most famous for it’s white wines. it’s a matter of preferences of course and I also happen to be enjoying a nice alsacian riesling right now, so I might be temporarily biased.

Posted by
6 posts

Morton, I do drink a lot of white wine. I prefer dry with a nice amount of acidity like a Sauvignon Blanc. Are there any Alsace wines that are similar?

Posted by
971 posts

I dont feel qualified to give advice about wine, let alone about whites. but I was pleasantly surprised by the alsatian whites because it was not sweet as I expected.

Posted by
2916 posts

I prefer dry with a nice amount of acidity like a Sauvignon Blanc.

Alsatian wines are very different from Sauvignon Blanc. However, although they use some of the same grapes as Germany, their average wines are drier than the average German wines (although Germany is changing in that regard). Riesling is generally considered the top grape variety in Alsace, and as a rule maybe the driest, although Pinot Blanc is generally pretty dry. Gewurztraminer is probably the second variety in terms of quality, but sometimes can be a little sweet. Pinot Gris may be the sweetest of all, although all this depends on the producer. There are also many good sparkling wines (Cremant d'Alsace). All in all, Alsace is a very good area to explore wineries. On one of our visits, we spent a week w/o a car and visited many wineries, mostly by walking to nearby villages.

Posted by
3299 posts

Alsace wines are too sweet for me - but that's not to say that I didn't enjoy our Alsace wine tour. I much prefer the Cote du Rhone reds. You can always stay in Provence and tour the Cote du Rhone!

Notwithstanding the wine, Alsace is a wonderful place to visit - and the beer is excellent!

You are not going to make a bad choice!

Posted by
4132 posts

DJ, if you are going to France you should not expect wine to be organized by grape. That is not how they do it there!

instead there is incredible variety from region to region.

If you try a good Chablis (which you should, even if you do not go to Burgundy), the white wine of northern Burgundy, you will not believe you are drinking chardonnay. The Alsatian Rieslings are much drier--and more interesting--than their German counterparts.

I agree with those who suggest Alsace or Beaune as your best two options from Basel.

Posted by
2916 posts

if you are going to France you should not expect wine to be organized by grape. That is not how they do it there!

Except in Alsace.

Posted by
8889 posts

The nearest wine to Basel is not Alsace (Alsace wine area start north of Mulhouse), but on the German side of the river, which starts just over the border, the vineyards are visible from many places in Basel.
There is a small vineyard on the Swiss side of the border, in Riehen, on the hill behind Fondation Beyeler (No. 6 tram then walk).

This area is called "Markgräflerland", it is the southern end of the Baden wine region. See website here: https://www.badische-weinstrasse.de/
and map here: https://www.badische-weinstrasse.de/Karte

You really need a car to visit this area (and for Alsace too), if for no other reason than to carry the cases of wine back.
If you head north out of Basel on the old main road via Weil-am-Rhein (Otterbach border Post, B3 heading to Freiburg), virtually every second village has a "Winzergenossenschaft" (co-operative village winery). These are not tourist places, they sell by the case (6 or 12 bottles) to locals. You can taste before you buy.

The first Winzergenossenschaft outside Basel is Haltingen: http://www.wg-haltingen.de/ You can get there by No. 55 bus, but then you can't carry any wine home!
Then a larger one at Efringen-Kirchen: http://www.bezirkskellerei.de/
The local speciality is Spätburgunder, a lovely red wine, good for food or on its own.

One final warning: There is a limit on how much wine (German or French) you can bring back across the border. You should declare it at the border and pay the customs duty.

Posted by
2916 posts

There is a limit on how much wine (German or French) you can bring back across the border. You should declare it at the border and pay the customs duty.

I thought the a major purpose of EU open borders was to avoid that. So, for example, it allowed Brits to take wine purchasing trips across the channel with no limits.

The nearest wine to Basel is not Alsace (Alsace wine area start north of Mulhouse), but on the German side of the river,

They sound interesting from your description, but the OP specifically asked about French wine regions.

Posted by
971 posts

Robert, the Swiss are not in the EU. However there are still limits to how much alcohol you can bring across EU borders, they are just much higher. For example I can only bring 1 liter of spirits into Denmark from a non EU country, but I can bring 10 liters from another EU country.

Posted by
4062 posts

Switzerland itself is a very sound winemaking country, little-known outside. I suppose those sober Swiss are drinking more than milk. My experience has been solely on the consuming, rather than the production, side but a simple Google search turns up lots of possibilities, including some stunning photos from around Lake Geneva.

Posted by
2916 posts

According to what I read, you can bring at least 90 liters of wine into the UK from France (2 EU countries, at least at the moment), and more if you can convince Customs that it's for personal consumption. That doesn't include Swiss wine; I know they're not part of the EU, but the prior poster was mostly talking about Germany. As to Swiss wines, most of it is drunk in the country, which is one reason why Swiss winemakers have no incentive to cut prices to get an export market. There are so few Swiss wines available in the US.

Posted by
8889 posts

Yes, I realised the OP asked about France, but maybe he wasn't aware of German wine areas even nearer too Basel, they don't get much publicity. And the OP is talking about staying in Basel, where I live, not in Germany.
If I buy wine in France or Germany, I can take as much as I like to the UK (or any other EU country), as long as I do not sell it (personal consumption and gifts only).
But, as Switzerland is not in the EU, I can only bring 5 litres across the Swiss border without having to pay duty. Even though I can see those vineyards from the end of my road, and they are within walking distance of the border (literally).

Swiss customs limits on official government website here: https://www.ezv.admin.ch/ezv/en/home/information-individuals/travel-and-purchases--allowances-and-duty-free-limit/importation-into-switzerland/duty-free-allowances--foodstuffs--alcohol-and-tobacco.html

Posted by
2916 posts

Yes, Chris, I totally forgot that the OP would probably be returning to Basel. So he'll have to be satisfied with 6 bottles of wine duty free. I wonder how strict Switzerland is with duty free for wine. In the US we can theoretically bring in only 1 liter each duty free, but we normally bring home about 8-10 bottles, declare them, and have never been asked to pay duty. But the Swiss are known for following rules. Plus, our duty on wine is minuscule anyway.

Posted by
360 posts

I cannot compare to Alsace, but we wine tasted across the Loire Valley (much more reasonably priced + chateaus), Burgundy (pinot/chardonnay that's fairly expensive + beautiful green rolling hills + amazing beef), and Provence (southern Rhone blends at more reasonable prices, the best mourvedre rose', Chateauneuf du Pape + hill towns + southern Mediterranean cuisine). I don't love Sauv Blanc, so I have a hard time comparing, but I enjoyed some varietals more over there than what i usually find in the US. It's such a personal preference.

Posted by
12172 posts

The Alsace region is really close. Alsatian wines tend to be dryer. I think the best wine the region produces is Gewurztraminer. The medieval towns on the wine route are really nice.

If you were more interested in red wines, I'd point you toward Burgundy. It's a little further from Switzerland but still easily reached.