France has always been a good camping destination – the French themselves enjoy “le camping” and the autoroutes heading south are testament to what seems like a mass exodus of Dutch caravans every summer seeking the warmer climes of the Midi or Provence.

On a recent visit to Domaine Octavie at Oisly (41 Loir-et-Cher, Centre) we discovered a special scheme for motor-caravab (motorhomes?, RVs?, camping cars) called France Passion. In return for a small annual subscription (about £22) you get a map and guide to thousands of farms and vineyards across France where you can park up for the night free of charge.

You need to be self-contained for water, electric etc, as these locations are not campsites with all the amenities – often just a water tap and a bin for the rubbish.

Limited to just a couple of vans, the scheme offers the chance to stay in idyllic, peaceful surroundings – at Octavie this was amidst the vines!

And being effectively the winemaker or farmer’s guest, it is only polite to offer to taste the produce – be it wine, fruit, vegetables, honey, foie gras, snails, olives, even ostrich!

I have heard the French complain that many northern europeans visit their region only to be too self-contained – bringing their home with them and keeping themselves to themselves – but this scheme offers the chance to meet the French on their own turf and find out something about the life of a farmer or winemaker.

For more info on the scheme see

We always enjoy visiting Domaine Octavie, where Madame Isabelle provides a warm welcome – their Touraine Sauvignon AC is always excellent – this part of France is ideal for producing top quality Sauvignon Blanc – the region includes Sancerre, Menetou-Salon, Quincy etc.

We were also impressed with the Touraine Gamay AC, which had a remarkable depth of flavour and structure – ideal to accompany a grilled lamb steak (tranche de gigot. Another testament to the changing climate methinks – as Loire valley Gamay could never have reached such a level of intensity 10 years or so ago.

Domaine Octavie, Oisly, 41 Loir-et-Cher

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