With some of the most iconic appellations in the Loire Valley, West Touraine is home to a wide variety of wineries, foodie destinations and historical sites. Would-be travelers can scout out their next trips to the region for now and read up on the area’s diverse offerings.
Within picturesque green hillsides, vineyards and houses built with tuffeau stones, the Bourgueil Vineyard is situated on the bed of the Loire River and has been producing wine for over 1,000 years. The vineyard itself spans 3,460 acres and visitors can Segway their way around the vineyards to witness the beautiful countryside and taste different wines at Château de Minière. La Cave de la Dive Bouteille gives visitors the chance to experience and learn about the region’s extensive thousand-year wine history. Guests can marvel at the galleries and old wine presses used centuries ago. For an even more in-depth look at wine in Bourgueil, Âme Wine, a Loire Valley Ambassador, can give private tours of the vineyards and wine caves while tasting local specialties.
A visit to the historic Château de Langeais is also recommended, as the castle was built at a unique junction between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Along with a rich program of events, including guided tours and medieval fashion shows, the château’s collection of medieval furniture and rich tapestries is also available for viewing in the castle’s many galleries.
Local country chef Vincent has a small restaurant located in the heart of the vineyards, with dishes incorporating freshly grown fruits and vegetables and a variety of poultry and meats raised by Vincent himself. Vincent’s son also helps him can some of the fresh produce and offers them to guests in the summertime with a gourmet picnic to go.
The largest red wine appellation in the Loire Valley, Chinon has earned a reputation as one of the best places in France to enjoy red wine, but the region’s white and rosés, as well as its local artisanal foods, are growing in popularity as well. There are a variety of ways to experience Chinon wine, such as a visit to Domaine de Noiré. Guests can meet experienced winemakers and go on a variety of excursions, including a riverboat ride on the Loire River and a gastronomic excursion with Le Chapeau Rouge, whose inventive take on local, seasonal cuisine is a must-try for any foodie. The Cave de la Sybille offers a unique wine experience, as the author behind The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel, François Rebelais, was born in the region. Sculptures and projections bring François’s iconic pentalogy of novels to life in this wine cellar. For a different way to experience Chinon wine, the winery of Domain PB Couly offers an escape room where players are locked in Bertrand Couly’s wine cellar and have to find out the secrets behind his great wine through riddles, codes and puzzles.
For foodies who love truffles, Baron de la Truffein Ligré near Chinon is a truffle farm that operates on nearly 150 acres of land, using only organic farming practices. Production usually runs from mid-November to the end of February. The farm offers several types of experiences, such as a truffle and wine tasting and a foraging excursion.
Chinon also has an impressive history, as evident in the many notable people who have visited the Royal Fortress of Chinon, which includes Joan of Arc, King Charles VII of France, Richard the Lionheart and many more. Along with touring the surrounding grounds and the three châteaux that comprise the fortress, a variety of activities are available, including an escape room, wine tastings on Thursdays and the property’s HistoPad that allows guests to see exactly how the fortress used to be in the 12th, 14th and 15th centuries. For a chance to stay at these exquisite French castles, Château du Rivau welcomes guests both in the castle and in the former royal stables. A majestic medieval castle – where Joan of Arc fetched horses during the Hundred Years’ War – today welcomes visitors to its beautiful garden, complete with over 450 varieties of roses, resident peacocks, contemporary fairytale-inspired art sculptures and a new restaurant serving local specialties and produce right from the garden.
Because of the region’s unique placement at the confluence of the Indre and Loire Rivers, wine has been produced in Azay-le-Rideau since ancient times with several cellars and vineyardproducing dry and semi-dry wines. Château de l’Aulée is also note-worthy for wine lovers. The estate’s cellars were built in 1856 by the Cordier family, a wine merchant family from Bordeaux. Champagne Deutz bought the domain in 1973, restored the property and soil, and replanted Chenin grapes on 91 acres. The grapes are used to make a variety of sparkling wines available for guests to try while taking a tour of the property. Other wineries to visit include Domaine Nicholas Paget, which is family-owned and has been producing wines over five generations, and le Sot de l’Ange, which is known for its artisanal organic wines.
Another local specialty of the region is poires tapées, a special method of preserving pears by drying them. Peasants learned this method after the Crusades; after Eleanor of Aquitaine ordered plum trees from Damascus to be planted in the Loire Valley, the confection became a staple of the region. Maison Hérin is known as one of the best local producers of poires tapées, which also offers visitors the opportunity to see how the delicacy is made. Maison Hérin also sells a wide variety of pear-related goodies including different types of confits, terrines, jams and more.
No visit to this appellation would be complete, however, without a visit to Château d’Azay-le-Rideau. Built on an island in the Indre River, this castle was ordered by King Francis I during the 16th century. The castle has been the site of a massive restoration project in the last century to ensure that the castle is structurally sound while keeping its iconic medieval architecture intact.