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The town of Sancerre, perched high on one of the undulating hills, has the most magnificent panorama of the Loire Valley, with vineyards as far as the eye can see and pretty rooftops bundled together at varying points. This is wine country, so get your tasting buds at the ready. Here are the top 10 things to not miss out on when visiting Sancerre.
Goat farming is an old tradition in the land surrounding Sancerre, so it’s no surprise that this creamy cheese will play a big part in your stay. The famous label is Crottin de Chavignol, made from fresh goat’s milk, of course, which gained its certification in 1976 and adheres to a strict rule book of local grazing, prioritising the well-being of the goats, and the meticulous care given by cbreeders. Each cheesemaker will create their product slightly differently, with varying flavours and aromas, but if you see the Chavignol mark, you know it’s the best and most local.
This should really be your first stop when arriving in Sancerre. Opened in 2005, La Maison de Sancerre is the place to start your wine discovery in Sancerre. There’s a 4D cinema that takes visitors on a journey through the history of winemaking in the region and the specific winemakers and their craft. There is a sensory walk in the garden area that weaves you through different species and shrubs connected with the wines and, of course, there is a little shop to make purchases.
La Masion de Sancerre, 3 Rue du Méridien, Sancerre, France, +33 248 541 135
Sancerre has a very pretty old town that is just perfect for a morning amble. Make sure to walk to the church of Notre Dame de Sancerre, and just opposite that indulge in a little chocolate from Le Lichou. Next door is a great second hand book shop (Bouqu’infusions) to peruse, then you can follow Rue Saint-Jean back down to Café des Arts, a sweet cafe for coffee, crepe or lunch. One of the favourite spots in town, though, is just in front of the tourist office on Esplanade Porte César, which offers up the most incredible views almost as far as the eye can see.
You’re really in one of the best regions for vineyard exploring and vineyard tours. You’ll be able to book anything from a vineyard tour – where you get shown around the vines and cellars and taken through winemaking history – to those where you dine and sample the local wines in picturesque settings at various venues. Vinitour Centre-Loire is a popular company offering tours from 1.5 hours to a whole day.
Twenty minutes from Sancerre are the castle and gardens of Pesselières. The park’s design dates back to the 18th century while the castle, it is thought, dates back to around 1170. Today it is maintained with a natural and organic gardening approach, which means no pesticides, the melange of grass types is preserved, and formal lawns aren’t cultivated. A tour of this site includes the outer walls of the castle, the main courtyard, the moat and rover, as well as the park and gardens. It’s suitable for a lovely afternoon out, especially if you have children.
Les Jardins des Pesselières, Jalognes, France, +33 248 729 049
At the top of the hill above Sancerre you can still see the castlekeep, known as the Tour des Fiefs. For a small fee (€2.50 for adults), you can enter and ascend to the top of the tower, which is recommended as the views are an exceptional 360-degree panorama. Tour des Fiefs is just one of the original six castle towers, for an idea of the rough scale of the historic castle, which was considered an impenetrable stronghold in the Middle Ages.
Tour des Fiefs, 10B Place du Connétable, Sancerre, France, +33 248 780 358
What’s great about Sancerre is that you don’t have to travel for an hour to reach a vineyard and indulge in a spot of wine tasting. There are cellars at almost every step in the heart of town so if you are staying centrally, you can simply walk out your door and make arrangements with one you fancy. During low season, you’ll often find owners will give you a private wine tasting session at no extra cost and this more personal, local welcome is something that makes towns like Sancerre so special.
La Tour is a Michelin-starred restaurant perfect for sampling the very best the region has to offer or for a special occasion. La Tour serves up modern, creative cuisine with menus starting from a reasonable €25. Even thought the food is served with finesse, here, the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming. The location is pretty and accessible, too, just off Place Nouvelle with parking spaces at the front.
La Tour, 31 Place Nouvelle Place, Sancerre, France, +33 248 540 081