There are various wine tours available through the Loire Valley, but one of the most relaxing and leisurely ways to discover this beautiful region is from the river itself.
The sedate pace of a barge, meandering its way along one of France’s most iconic rivers creates the perfect base from which to explore the chateaux, wineries and historic villages of this picturesque region.
Here is our selection of highlights to explore.
Gustave Eiffel’s Pont Canal
Although perhaps not quite as famous as his tower in Paris, Eiffel’s impressive masonry contribution to the aqueduct over the Loire at Briare is still an engineering and architectural feat well worth seeing. At 662 metres and weighing a staggering 10,000 tonnes, the aqueduct was completed in 1896 and carries the water of the Canal de Loire over the river itself.
The Sancerre Village of Chavignol
Wine tours of the Loire Valley would not be complete without a visit to the famous vineyards of the Sancerre region. The white wines produced on the left bank of the Loire at the valley’s eastern edge are amongst the most celebrated Sauvignon Blancs in the world.
The pretty medieval hilltop village of Chavignol, with its history of viticulture dating back to Roman times, offers stunning, sweeping views across the region. Take time while you’re there to visit the Dubois Boulay Crottin de Chavignol cheese maker, based in the village itself.
Auberge des Templiers
Wine tours are all very well, but what is great wine without delicious food to pair it with? A visit to the Michelin-starred Auberge des Templiers at Les Bezards is a celebration of gastronomy which features the very best of both.
Set in stunning oak-strewn parkland, this 12th century coaching inn is an oasis of modern French elegance and refinery with a wooden-beamed dining room and stunning terrace and pool.
Domaine Chatelain of Pouilly Fumé
A glorious example of traditional French viniculture, the same family at Domaine Chatelain has been producing wines from its terroir on the right bank of the Loire, at St Andelain, since 1630. They still use traditional methods today, and are happy to open their doors to visitors wanting to know more about their techniques and, of course, try their elegant Pouilly Fumé and Sancerre products.
The Faiencerie de Gien
Producers of some of France’s most elegant earthenware, the pottery at Gien is a fascinating place to visit. Founded in 1821 by an Englishman who wanted to introduce English earthenware techniques to France, the factory has gone from strength to strength, creating refined faience pottery which is now celebrated and exported around the world.
With its rich history, fascinating culture and delicious produce there is so much to see, taste and experience in the Loire Valley. It is worth taking your time and discovering it slowly, piece by piece, at the leisurely pace of your hotel barge. A visit here will barely scratch the surface, so you may find yourself coming back, time and time again.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury barge holidays. Offering holidays to France and other great destinations, itineraries include wine tours and other cultural and themed activities. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.
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