Among the Loire’s charms is its wine. A tour of the valley’s 31 AOCs runs from Sancerre, esteemed for Sauvignon Blanc, westward through Chinon with its excellent Cabernet Franc, and into Vouvray for transcendent Chenin Blanc before hitting Muscadet near the coast. The 800-kilometer wine route is France’s longest and, arguably, most diverse. But with its slate, schist and limestone soils, and the river’s moderating influence on its climate, all of the Loire has terroir on its side. It also has history.
Wine has been produced here since the Romans settled in the first century. Four hundred years later, Benedictine and Augustinian orders had taken over, planting prodigiously and shipping barrels upstream. By the 12th century, French kings were serving Loire wines, a trend that accelerated during the Renaissance with the building spree in royal châteaux across the region. More than 350 cellars welcome visitors. My favorite tastings evoked the region’s history in unique ways.
Cave des Dômes
A popular attraction, Chenonceau lies half an hour’s drive southeast of Tours. Bridging the River Cher, a Loire tributary, the 16th-century château is known as the “Ladies’ Castle” for the powerful women who inhabited it, among them Henry II’s wife, Catherine de’ Medici.