Things to do in the Loire Valley for French Wine Lovers

View on green vineyards around Sancerre wine making village, rows of sauvignon blanc grapes on hills with different soils, Cher, Loire valley, France

France’s Loire Valley, which can be reached by train from Paris in as little as an hour, is a beautiful region known for its lush landscapes, historic châteaux, tiny medieval towns, and excellent wines. This part of France (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is a must-visit for lovers of French wine, whether you’re looking for white, red, rosé, sparkling, or sweet. Wine has been a part of the Loire since the 4th century, when the Romans cultivated vineyards in what is now Nantes. They were then developed up through the Middle Ages, when Henry II, Count of Anjou and King of England, promoted the enjoyment of Anjou wines at court. Today, there are 34 appellations along the 500 mile long wine trail of the Loire, and Loire wines have had a Protected Designation of Origin certification since 1936.

No matter where you wish to start your voyage, from Nantes by the Atlantic Ocean, to Touraine in the heart of France, there are wines to be tasted, and vineyards to explore. So here are some of our recommendations.

5 Great Wine Tourism Activities in the Loire

Explore Loire Vineyards on an Electric Scooter

People on electric scooters in vineyard

The rolling fields of vineyards that overlay the Loire Valley like a patchwork quilt can be quite vast. So one of the best ways to explore them is by electric scooter or e-bike. The company TrottXway offers two hour scooter tours at many vineyards throughout the Loire, all of which end with a wine tasting. The cost is 49€ per person, but group rates are available upon request. Twenty different vineyard tours are available across various AOCs. One suggestion: As the paths can kick up a lot of dirt, accept any outfit coverings you might be offered, and dress to get a little messy.

Explore the Caves Painctes in Chinon

People holding diplomas in red and gold robes

In the picturesque town of Chinon, you can take a trip underground to explore the Caves Painctes, former quarries that were turned into an enormous wine cellar in the 15th century. Located beneath the Royal Fortress of Chinon, the Caves are open to the public with or without guided tours, and you can explore the cool stone caverns with their stalagmite-like columns of wine bottles. These cellars are also the meeting place of the Entonneurs Rabelais, named for the famed French writer and philosopher, François Rabelais, who was inspired by the Caves Painctes to write his treatise on the “Dive Bouteille,” or “Divine Bottle” (of wine, of course). For 90€, you can experience one of their ceremonies, complete with customary songs, performed by these men in their unmissable red and gold cloaks and red felt hats. Alternatively, for 95€, you can enjoy lunch and a wine tasting with the Rabelais Brotherhood, whose mission is the promotion of Chinon and its wines.

Escape a Castle or Vineyard

Castle above vineyards

The Loire Valley has no shortage of escape rooms, including famous ones in historic castles and manors, like the Château Royal de Blois and Château des Enigmes. But many of these escape rooms are attached to wineries. If you happen to be traveling with kids, you can drop them at one of the many kid-friendly escape rooms in the area while you enjoy a tasting next door. Pierre & Bertrand Couly in Chinon, Domaine de Nerleux in Bellevigne-les-Châteaux, and Domaine de Bois Mozé in Brissac-Loire-Aubance all offer English-language escape rooms, wine tastings, and tours.

Sail the Loire

Boat on Loire River
©Catherine Rickman

If your dream wine tasting involves sailing down the Loire River on a sunny afternoon, then we’ve got some good news for you. Several Loire companies offer wine tastings combined with boat tours. Winemaker Denis Rétiveau leads excursions where you will pass by the castle of Montsoreau, the Collegiate Church of Candes-Saint-Martin, and the old port of Saint-Germain-sur-Vienne. The boats can hold up to 12 people for private rentals at a cost between 150€ and 540€, and you can add on charcuterie platters, chef-made meals, and wine tastings. These charming houseboats can also be rented for overnight stays.

Spend the Night in a Wine Barrel

Round wooden barrel bath stands in the forest on a sunny summer day

While this might sound like a euphemism for overdoing it at apéro, at Vignoble Marchais, just outside of Nantes, you can sleep in a charming cabin constructed from an enormous wine barrel. These cabins, which sleep two, allow you to appreciate the peaceful landscape of the vineyards from day to night. You will also get the chance to learn about how wine is made, and enjoy a wine tasting or gourmet picnic. Each cabin costs between 145€ and 190€ per night for two people.

Catherine Rickman is a writer, professional Francophile, and host of the Expat Horror Stories podcast. She is currently somewhere in Brooklyn with a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @catrickman, or on TikTok @catinthekitchen.

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