Champagne bucket at Ritz.JPG

Champagne chills in oversize ice bucket at the Ritz Hotel in Paris.

Wine tourism is good business. Very good business, in fact.

The French government has started tracking this particular sector of the travel industry, as well they should since France is the world's leading destination for international travelers. Over 65 million visitors a year, including the 4 million or so Americans who haven't been put off by phony scare stories (everything from rude waiters to the risk of terrorism). Tourism is one of the leading generators of foreign currency in France. It's fragmented to the point of distraction, so it has little political clout, but the French government nonetheless tries its best to promote the entire country in a way the US travel industry will never achieve. (We don't have a Second Amendment for tourism, for example, so there's no National Tourism Association (*) to ensure that all Americans have the right to bear passports.) But enough carping. Back to the French.

If you define "wine tourist" as someone who spends at least one night away from home for the purpose of visiting a wine region, a vineyard, or a wine-producing facility, that adds up to 10 million tourists a year. Half are French (no surprise); the leading international participants are Belgians and Brits (not all that surprising, either, since they live close by and are known to enjoy the fruit of the grape). In 2016, wine tourists shelled out over 5 billion euros for food, lodging, and bottles to take home. Increasingly, visitors from Asia are adding to those numbers.

You may be skeptical about luxuries like wine tours in these times. That's understandable, but "these times" aren't necessarily all that tough for everyone. A publication called Luxury Travel Intelligence just offered me a bottle of Krug Champagne as an incentive to subscribe. The subscription costs $700 a year. "The global luxury travel resource you always needed," they say. Harrumph, sez I.

Then again, the wine region with the strongest growth over the past decade is, in fact, Champagne. So, "Cheers!"

(*): Yes, there's a USTA, a National Tour Association, etc. Not the same thing.

Allons, Enfants, à la Party!

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Tricolor at Le Pichet.JPG

Bastille Day again! The French don't call it that, of course. To François and Frédéc, it's La Fête Nationale. Saturday, anyway.

Where to celebrate?

Let's start with Bastille itself, in Ballard. Two jazz bands, a burlesque performance, and a costume contest. Ballard may never recover.

Down at the Pike Place Market, the three French restaurants will be celebrating. Le Pichet, Maximilien, and Cafe Campagne will all have celebrations.

Mid-town, RN 74, which is named for a highway in Burgundy, will celebrate with a casino night. You pays your money, you takes your chance.

And at Luc, in Madison Valley, the Chef in the Hat himself, Thierry Rautureau, will be grilling up sausages and pouring rosé.

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