I love traveling to where a wine is made. The chance to experience life among the vines -- smelling the earth, meeting the makers, and visiting the cellars -- can make for a thrilling few hours. Of course, the people I may be travelling with are usually bored to tears after the first visit, and by the third visit are preparing to mutiny!
So what’s a wine lover to do? Find the world's greatest wine regions that truly offer something for everyone. For example, a place where you can experience great wines of all stripes (whites, reds, bubbles, and sweeties) while visiting some of the most breathtaking sites the world has to offer. There are only a few places that match that description, and the most exciting one to visit must be France’s Loire Valley.
The Loire ValleyWhile the Loire Valley really is a tourist destination (the Chateau du Chenonceau is second only to Versailles in annual visitors!), it remains a predominantly rural region dotted with small towns and few big cities. As such, visitors there should come prepared for an authentic French experience that will include country cuisine and stays in charming hotels and relaxing B&Bs. Travel along the Loire River, which links the region's major towns, is easy -- especially if one is using France's superbly efficient rail system.
The Loire Valley really does have something for everybody, starting of course with wine. This is the Jardin de la France, home of so many spectacular wines that I think it’s worth taking a meandering look at one of France’s greatest, and yet least well know, wine regions.
We can begin our journey on the west side of the Loire, some two hours southwest of Paris, since every visit to France should include some time in the City of Lights! This region of the Loire is famed for its chalky soils and brilliant Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. These are wonderfully expressive whites, and a visit to Lucien Crochet can expose you to the heights these wines can achieve.
After stopping off at Chez Lucien, be sure to make time for the stunning Chateau in Sully sur Loire. This medieval fortress surrounded by an extensive moat system is an intimately sized castle(!) outfitted with all the bells and whistles any self-respecting castle dweller would want!
As we move east, following the path of the Loire River, we enter the land of Chenin Blanc. While Sauvignon Blanc is all about crispness and minerality, Chenin is all about being everything. No, really -- from light, if rich, dry wines to sparklers to lightly sweet table wines and even some of the world’s most incredible dessert wines, Chenin Blanc has the bases covered.