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France has compelling culture, history and imposingly beautiful architecture; perhaps even more importantly, it is a country of great eating and drinking. Whether haute cuisine or simple, rustic dishes, the French dedication to fine cooking and quality ingredients is always evident.

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Date: 11/10/2016

Tempting wine and food regions in France

To make it even more interesting, French food and wine differs by area. Here we look at the regions where finding excellent food and drink is almost inevitable.

Alsace

In the north-eastern part of France, this region encompasses the Rhine valley and shares borders with Switzerland and Germany. The local cuisine, based largely around chicken, cheese, potatoes and sausages, shows German influences. Alsatian specialities to try include tarte flambée - flatbread topped with onions, bacon and crème fraiche. There are also baked goods, such as bretzels (or pretzels), kugelhopf (the region's famous cake) and tarte au fromage blanc (French cheesecake). Then there are the cheeses and the pastries, all washed down with some excellent wine. Much of the wine here is derived from riesling and gewürztraminer grapes, and up to 90 per cent of the wine produced is white. Alsace is noted for its exceptional dry rieslings. Combine travel and wine tasting by exploring the Grands Crus wine trail, a loop of 17km of glorious scenery that links six Alsace villages in which wine is made. Hiking and searching for mushrooms is a highlight for summer visitors who want to be outdoors and still thinking about food.

Auvergne

This central part of France is attracting more attention since Lonely Planet put it on its ‘must visit’ list for 2016. There are a host of reasons to visit this tranquil area, including its Bourbon history, its ranges of dormant volcanoes and its wonderful meats and cheeses. The beef from local Charolais cattle is much prized and will make any steak eater extremely happy. Then there is the magnificent cheese. Auvergne produces five protected designation of origin (PDO) cheeses and is responsible for one-quarter of the PDO cheese in France. These PDO cheeses - cantal, bleu d'auvergne, salers, saint nectaire and fourme d'ambert - are generally included in cheese selections at quality restaurants. The region even features a ‘cheese road’ whereby tourists can stop at small farms and cheesemakers and find out more about local production methods - and, of course, do some tasting. The region is full of restaurants that offer multi-course daily menus featuring exceptional local produce and sophisticated cooking at very reasonable prices. A local dish to try is the hearty truffaudes (potato pancakes), accompanied by some Saint-Pourcain wine.

Loire Valley

One of the most famous wine regions in the world, the Loire river comprises 1,000km of water gently winding through soft green landscapes dotted with breathtaking chateaux. Sometimes called the ‘Garden of France’, the food grown here is of extremely high quality and complements the magnificent wine. Naturally there are plenty of vineyards to visit to try some of the area's best known wines, such as Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé. These are produced from the sauvignon blanc grapes that grow near villages of the same name, along with the white muscadet produced in the western region of the valley near the city of Nantes. The valley is known for its wide range of restaurants, with daily menus built around the freshest of local produce. Local specialties include rillettes (a textured pate, often made of pork), local fish, and an array of delicious goat cheeses.

Provence

The south of France is full of enticing markets offering cheese, truffles, olives and sun-ripened tomatoes. Its signature dishes include the world-renowned bouillabaisse, while the local rosé is what the fashionable drink at the smart beach clubs and restaurants that attract celebrities during the summer season. Provençal beef stew is another popular dish to try, as is tapenade (olive dip).


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