Top 5 things to do in the Loire Valley

This fertile valley produces an astonishing array of different wine styles, ranging from Muscadet to Sancerre. Here’s what not to miss when visiting this wine-rich pocket of France.Thursday, 26 September 2019

No matter how many countries plant vines, France remains the cradle of wine culture. The fizz of champagne, the blended reds and sweet whites of Bordeaux and the tiny soil variations that you taste in a glass of pinot noir or chardonnay from Burgundy are the standards that other regions have adopted as their own. The variety is stunning: the Loire Valley alone has enough different wine styles to make most wine-producing countries jealous.

Whether you want to sample local wines at superb restaurants, wander the hills that nourish the vines or explore local museums and farmers’ markets, France is the ideal destination. Those seeking an authentic wine experience should look out for the Vignobles & Découvertes label — the national wine tourism label of France.

The two most important northern wine regions are the world-famous Champagne, with its vine-covered hills and the network of Roman-built underground cellars beneath Reims, and the Loire Valley, where vineyards dotted with graceful châteaux stretch for hundreds of miles along France’s longest river. It never hurts to have a glass of fine wine to look forward to at the end of a day spent tasting and sightseeing.

1. Festivini

This Saumur-based festival of food and wine lasts from June until September, with activities including vineyard tours led by a winemaker, cycling trips through the region and carriage-rides through the vineyards. Saturday 21 September is La Nuit de la Bulle (‘sparkling night’), hosted at the grand Château de Saumur

2. Spend a night in a wine barrel

Vignobles Marchais, near Nantes, has it all: white, red and sparkling wines to sample; a friendly wine bar among the vines; and endless plates of charcuterie to stave off hunger. There are also enormous wine barrels that have been converted into standalone bedrooms. 

3. Vignes Vins Rando

Seventeen organised walks will be taking place on 31 August and 1 September 2019, with winemakers guiding guests through the valley’s magnificent landscapes. Try the region’s most quaffable wines, from areas like Muscadet and the Touraine, as well as trying local food and exploring the area’s rich heritage. 

4. Wine Fair in Sancerre

Sancerre offers a fantastic mix of history and gastronomy. The famous Wine Fair of France takes place over the last weekend of August (this year, on the 24-25 of the month), featuring 30 wine producers and a range of food stands selling local delicacies. It’s an event that’s  sure to delight the taste buds of all visitors.

5. Cycle the vineyards

There are plenty of options for cycling in the Loire, from short trips to week-long routes taking in fine restaurants. Vineyard et Vélo is run by David and Angela, originally from Devon, who offer guided tours through the vineyards around Chinon, including picnics and — bien sûr! — wine tastings.

Essentials

Getting there
It takes four hours by car to drive from Calais to Orléans. There are up to 23 sailings a day between Dover and Calais. Book your next trip today at poferries.com.

Find out more at visitfrenchwine.com

Published in the September 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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