Knowing where your food comes from

Le Marche, Terroir and the AOC

Posted by Mark Armstrong 29th May 2013

"1 in 2 French people regularly buy local produce because the attachment to a particular region and its soil still has real meaning" (A recent quote from Monty Don on his BBC TV programme French Gourmet Gardens.)

Le Marche

One of the pleasures of visiting France is to enjoy wandering through a traditional French market. Le marche is an integral part of life in most French towns and large villages such as Sarlat in the Dordogne and Montbrun Les Bains in the Baronnies. In the UK, farmers' markets have resurged relatively recently, but in France, traditional fruit and vegetable markets have always remained a part of life.
Other opportunities to sample the local food obviously comes in the guise of your accommodation, where often you will be eating home grown produce and sampling local wines
If you are interested in taking in what French restaurant cuisine has to offer, then look no further than Lyon, the French capital of Gastronomy. High Point Holidays can offer tailor made city breaks or event breaks in Lyon or a stay can be added onto the start or finish of one of our walking holidays, because as well as having many of France's finest chefs, Lyon is surrounded by 2 of France's best known wine regions; the Cotes du Rhone to the South and the Beaujolais to the North.


The concept of knowing where your food comes from is important in France.
Terroir is the sum of the effects of the local environment and its set of special characteristics (geography, geology and climate) interacting with the plant's genetics. For example, the Chardonnay grape itself is neutral, with many of the flavours commonly associated with the grape being derived from influences such as geology, climate and the wine making process. It is vinified in many different styles, from the lean, crisp mineral wines of Chablis in France to New world wines with oak, and more exotic fruit flavors. Thanks to the limestone soil, the Chardonnay wines of the Maconnais region are dry and fruity. Their famous ambassadors are the Pouilly-Fuisse and Saint Veran in the South. You can explore these on our independent walking holiday Chardonnay Wine Trail.
Over the centuries, French winemakers (such as Benedictine and Cistercian Monks) developed the concept of terroir by observing the differences in wines from different regions, vineyards, or even different sections of the same vineyard. The concept of terroir is at the base of the French wine Appellation d'origine controlee (AOC) system that has been the model for appellation and wine laws across the globe.
At many of our guest houses you will be able to sample local wines and produce.

AOC (Appelation d'origine controlee)

Translating as "controlled designation of origin", the AOC is the French certification granted to certain geographical indications for a variety of agricultural produce, based on the concept of terroir. The Jura is known for 2 of France’s best known cheeses: Comte and Morbier. Comte received AOC status in 1958 and Morbier is one of our personal favourites. In 1981, the AOC label was given to Haute-Provence Lavender Essential Oil and concerns only the essential oil of fine lavender. In 1994 Olive oil from Nyons was the very first olive oil in France to be awarded AOC status. The oil from the Tanche olive has a slightly nutty flavour, and makes an excellent ingredient in dressings and for cooking traditional Provence dishes. Le Puy en Velay Lentils were the first French foodstuff, other than wine or cheese, to be awarded AOC. They are grown on the mountain plateau around Le Puy en Velay in the Haute Loire region, which has a unique climate and rich volcanic soil in which the lentils thrive. Also in the Auvergne, a local beef meat, Fin Gras du Menzec, has been recognised by an AOC label. The quality of this French beef comes from the mountain grass which has not been overly enriched and which contains alot of aromatic plants, with fine and slender grass. Many AOC products can be sampled on our Walking and Cycling Holidays in France.





bottle of chateau chalon wine from Jura region in France


chardonnay french walking holiday