Perhaps best known around the world for its exceptional Sauvignon Blanc wines, the charming village of Sancerre and its surroundings in France’s Centre Val de Loire region offer so much more for travelers- from picturesque medieval stone streets and feudal castles to some of the best goat cheese in France and yes, some incredible white, red and rosé wines. Below is an itinerary for travelers to dream up their next trip to the Loire Valley, once travel restrictions are lifted.
A weekend in Sancerre should necessarily begin with a visit to the Tour des Fiefs the only remaining part of the ruined feudal castle of Sancerre from the late 14th century. From atop the tower, visitors can get the lay of the land with a 360-degree view of Sancerre, its vineyards and the surrounding areas of the Loire Valley. From there, it’s off to eat, drink and adventure around the area.
The Sancerre appellation is located along the left bank of the Loire River, with 330 wine growers stretching across 7,413 acres, where vines have been growing since ancient times. During the 12th century, the Saint-Satur Augustine monks and the ruling counts of Sancerre began to seriously cultivate the vines, particularly Pinot Noir, which was exported from the region along the Loire River. After a phylloxera outbreak destroyed most of the Pinot Noir vineyards at the end of the 19th century, the vineyards were replanted with Sauvignon Blanc grape vines, which are particularly suited to the local climate.
For a modern-day introduction to the wines of Sancerre, oenophile travelers can kick off their weekend in the region with visits to the following
- Maison des Sancerre:
Visiting the visitors’ center at The Maison des Sancerre offers an entertaining and interactive introduction to the wines of Sancerre and all their unique qualities through the use of state-of-art 4-D technology.
- Domaine Henri Bourgeois:
For 10 generations, the Bourgeois family has been passionately devoted to producing wines of character, while respecting the environment and the terroir. The vineyard estate, which in 2019 was recognized as the 43rd best in the world by William Reed magazine, also features a tasting space for guests to discover the best of Sancerre’s wines.
Aside from its superb wines, the Sancerre region is also beloved for its famous Crottin de Chavignol goat cheese, one of the five varieties of goat cheese produced in the Loire Valley (out of 13 produced in France). This small cylindrical goat cheese is the claim to fame of the village of Chavignol, just a few minutes from Sancerre, where it has been produced since the 16th century. Travelers can sample the cheese throughout the region, including at:
- Domaine Eric Louis:
The Domaine Eric Louis, already known for its production of Sancerre wine, recently opened its own goat farm, which serves as an educational center where visitors can come and learn the art of production of Crottin de Chavignol, as well as the opportunity to taste and purchase the cheese.
- Ferme des Chapotons:
At the family-run Ferme des Chapotons, visitors can not only taste and buy their Crottin de Chavignol, but can also visit the goat farm and assist with the goat milking (Monday through Saturday at 4pm), or admire them grazing in the meadow.
Outdoors Around Sancerre
Once travelers have had their fill of wine and cheese, the area around Sancerre offers a wealth of outdoor activities to keep them fit and busy until their next meal.
- Canoeing and Kayaking on the Loire River:
With Canoe Evasion, visitors can explore a beautiful part of the Loire Valley by canoe or kayak, along a 5.5-mile stretch of the river from Sancerre, floating past river’s various islands, sand beaches and some of the stunning fauna and flora.
- Loire by Bike:
Following the Loire River and its side channel from Belleville-sur-Loire to Saint-Satur and Sancerre, even a beginner cyclist can enjoy a smooth ride through the small valleys of Sancerre and the landscape of the Loire Valley.
Flying Over Sancerre:
- In a balloon or light plane with Aeroplum:
An unforgettable way to tour Sancerre is a sunrise flight in a hot-air balloon. Travelers can enjoy the rarefied experience of soaring over Sancerre’s beautiful hills and vineyards with winemaker Sophie Rimbault in her balloon, followed by a wine tasting once back on the ground. The experience is also available via light plane.
- In a biplane with Rêv D’ailes:
Visitors can also experience Sancerre from above via biplane flights of five to 20 minutes.
- Traditional Boat Trip on the Loire:
A journey on a traditional boat of the Loire River, such as Le Raboliot in Saint-Satur, can be a nice way to disconnect. Captained by Sylvain Trevel, who is also a fisherman, the boat ride includes the option of sampling local Sancerre wines and cheeses, as well as the freshest fish from the river.
- Explore the Remarkable Garden:
Created 30 years ago by Marie Marcat, a passionate and talented gardener, the Jardin de Marie (Marie’s Garden) is now known as “Jardin Remarquable” (The Remarkable Garden). The five-acre, naturally landscaped garden includes a rose garden (produving more than 500 varieties of roses), as well as a vegetable garden, orchard, grass garden and a pond. The garden also hosts a number of events and exhibitions through the year.
Where to Eat
- Auberge Joseph Mellot:
One of the oldest restaurants in Sancerre, the Auberge Joseph Mellot has been welcoming visitors (including Claude Monet and Maréchal Juin) since 1882. Steeped in tradition and with a convivial atmosphere, the Auberge combines a love of wine and respect of terroir, with a menu that evolves with the seasons: a variety of Crottin de Chavignol in all its forms, the green lentils of Berry prepared by the chef and products from the market.
- Au P’tit Goûter:
This traditional restaurant located right in the heart of the village of Chavignol is the perfect place to enjoy local products and meals based on Chavignol cheese (and other cheeses) in a warm atmosphere.
Where to Stay
- Hôtel Restaurant Famille Bourgeois:
Located in the vineyards of the small village of Chavignol, the Hotel Restaurant Famille Bourgeois has 12 peaceful rooms, a gastronomic restaurant with a Michelin Plate and a more casual bistro.
- Hôtel Le Panoramic:
With its breathtaking views over the Sancerre vineyards, Hotel Le Panoramic is a stone’s throw from the old town of Sancerre and famous wine villages, such as Chavignol.
- B&B Le Cep en Sancerrois:
In the heart of the wine village of Sancerre, Le Cep en Sancerrois features four suites in a charming house, as well as a wellness area downstairs.