Wine bars featuring the Loire Valley's excellent AOC wines abound, especially in the cities and larger towns. Orléans, Tours and Angers have pubs and nightclubs, many of them student oriented.

Wine in the Loire Valley

Splendid scenery and densely packed vineyards make the Loire Valley an outstanding wine-touring destination, with a range of excellent reds, rosés, whites, dessert wines and crémants (sparkling wines). Equipped with Sur la Route des Vins de Loire (On the Loire Wine Route), a free map from the winegrowers association (www.vinsvaldeloire.fr), or the Loire Valley Vineyards booklet, available at area tourist offices and maisons des vins (wine visitor centres), you can put together a web of wonderful wine-tasting itineraries, drawing from over 320 wine cellars.

Anjou and Saumur alone have 30 Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) designations, and Touraine has 23, including some lively gamays (fruity, light-bodied wines). The Vins du Val de Loire website (www.vinsvaldeloire.fr) has a complete primer.

The predominant red is cabernet franc, though you’ll also find cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and others. Appellations (AOCs) include Anjou, Saumur-Champigny, Bourgueil and Chinon.

For whites, Vouvray’s chenin blancs are excellent, and Sancerre and the appellation across the Loire River, Pouilly-Fumé, produce great sauvignon blancs. Cour-Cheverny is made from the lesser-known romorantin grape. Savennières, near Angers, has both a dry and a sweet chenin blanc.

The bubbly appellation Crémant de Loire spans many communities, but you can easily find it around Montrichard (eg Château Monmousseau); other bubblies include Saumur Brut and Vouvray.

One of the most densely packed stretches for wine tasting along the Loire River itself is around Saumur. Towns with multiple tasting rooms (from west to east) include St-Hilaire-St-Florent (where you’ll find Ackerman, Langlois-Château and Veuve Amiot), Souzay Champigny (home to Château Villeneuve and Clos des Cordeliers) and Parnay (Château de Parnay and Château de Targé).

Just east of Tours, another hot spot includes Rochecorbon (home to Blanc Foussy), Vouvray (Domaine Huet l’Echansonne, Château Moncontour and several others) and Montlouis-sur-Loire. You’ll find a cave des producteurs representing multiple producers in each of the latter two towns.

Designate a driver (or hop on your bike), grab your map, and explore!