Wine is produced along most of the Loire Valley so local wines are not hard to find. Look out for ‘bernache’, found in bars in November, and made from the first juice of the grapes before pressing and fermented in their own yeasts.
Wine-making has been recorded here since the fifth century and St Martin of Tours is said to have been responsible for planting the first vines in Touraine.
Vouvray produces sparkling white wines with a high reputation and there are opportunities for sampling Cabernet-Franc reds from the area around Chinon. Follow the Touraine-Loire Valley Vineyards route. The ‘Comite Interprofessionel des Vins de Touraine-Val de Loire’ can be contacted for trail brochures.
If you lack the time to visit individual vineyards the ‘Caveau de Degustation - Vente des Vins de Touraine’ in Amboise is open daily for tastings between June and August, and ‘Daveau des Vignerons, in Amboise’ is also open daily from mid-March to mid-November. The ‘Caves des Producteurs’ in Vouvray’ is a group of 50 wine growers who offer tastings and tours of their troglodyte cellars.
These pleasure palaces of the Loire Valley are justly famous and visitors will be spoilt for choice when planning a route.
Picture perfect Azay-le-Rideau with its summer-time ‘son et lumiere’ spectacular is a must for your itinerary, also the stunning Chateau at Blois with its colourful history having been home to 2 French kings.
The Renaissance masterpiece of Chambord is so large it has a different fireplace for every day of the year. Don’t miss Chateau d’Amboise where Leonardo da Vinci created masked balls and firework displays for Francois I, and fairytale Chenonceaux. Château Chaumont hosts an annual contemporary garden design festival from June to October.
To get a bird’s eye view of these magnificent buildings, Air Touraine is offering flights from Jan - Nov. The shortest covers the Loire chateaux, or fly further afield to Chateau de Mernars, Chambord, Villesavin, La Sistiere, Cheveny and Beauregard.
The region’s limestone (tufa) which cuts easily and hardens in the air has been quarried for centuries to build chateaux and abbeys.
Whole troglodyte cave villages carved out of the local ‘tufa’ were used by poor farmers in the Loire Valley until the last century. See these intriguing dwellings at Troo, a troglodyte artists’ colony on the (Little) Loir which can be visited daily from mid-July to mid-August.
Take a fascinating trip around the troglodyte valley of Goupillieres or view the cliffside dwellings by boat on the Loire from Rochecorbon. Some cave dwellings near Chinon are still inhabited and look out for sixth century Chapelle Ste-Rodegonde - a troglodyte church.
Find houses carved from hills around Bourre. Make a stop at the underground silkworm farm, and mushroom caves made from quarries dug deep for stone. En route, you are likely to find troglodyte restaurants.
The River Loire is France’s longest river, and with a large number of tributaries flowing into it, there are almost limitless opportunities for fishing.
Rivers for trout and salmon fishing are open from March to September; coarse fishing is available for most of the year. Pike (brochet) is particularly prized in the Loire Valley.
In the department of Indre, fishing is a major pastime, and hundreds of lakes and ponds both public and private are filled with carp, zander (pike-perch) and pike.
The Brenne Regional Natural Park has over 2,000 lakes, home to wonderful wildfowl, fauna and flora. Fish farming was developed here in the twentieth century and the public can watch farmed lakes being emptied between October and March - contact the ‘Maison du Parc’ (Tourist Information Office) for details.