Sancerre: for a weekend full of first-class culinary delights

In the region Centre-Val de Loire people take the time to eat well. There are good restaurants everywhere. Gourmets are spoiled here with local products, delicious seasonal and often organic dishes from the region. Goat’s cheese, river fish from the Loire, cold cuts, vegetables such as asparagus and lamb’s lettuce, and of course wine from the region! Many producers have labels, such as “Bienvenue à la ferme” or “Accueil Paysan”. The region has even created its own label: “©duCentre”.

Vignoble du Sancerrois, the vineyards of Sancerre - Yoann Hervet

Vignoble du Sancerrois © Yoann Hervet

Sancerre – France’s favorite village

Sancerre is a well-known wine village in central France, with narrow streets and beautiful views of the hills and vast vineyards, as well as the meandering Loire River. The wine village even came out as a winner on the popular French TV show Le Village Prefere des Francais. Sancerre has become world famous for the white wine of the Sauvignon Blanc grape. A grape that thrives on calcareous soils and guarantees a classic wine, which is considered one of the best white wines in the world.

Incidentally, history tells us that in the past mainly red wines were made in the Sancerre region, from Gamay and Pinot noir. When a grape aphid epidemic wiped out large areas of vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc vines outperformed other varieties. Sauvignon became the most planted grape variety.

In the area you can find several wine routes, where you can walk and cycle. You should also definitely take a look at the Château de Sancerre and the Tour des Fiefs. The Tour des Fiefs is a beautiful medieval tower, which you can climb for a fee. In the Maison des Sancerre you can find a wine exhibition, where you will learn a lot about the vineyards in the area.

The Maison des Vins of Sancerre – the life of the winemakers

You can taste at various cellars and wine shops in the village. It becomes even more fun when you visit a winegrower. A visit to the Maison des Sancerre, created by the 350 winemakers of the appellation, is a good step in the right direction. You will learn everything about the wine of Sancerre, you can taste it, view the beautiful cellar and sit on a machine that maintains the vineyards. You will be a lot wiser after your visit. For example, you know that there are more than 3,000 hectares of vineyards, which are cultivated by approximately 450 winegrowers. These winemakers alone produce 25 million bottles, several hundred thousand of which are exported worldwide. Most are white wines (75%), but 20% are red wines and 5% are rosés.

Be sure to taste the wines at the Maison des Sancerre and remember which ones you like. Then you go in search of these winegrower(s) in the area. They will normally receive you hospitably to share their passion for wine with you.

At the Maison des Sancerres you can take a look in the garden with plants that you can find in terms of smell in the Sancerre wines. In the ‘jardin aromatique’ you will learn more about the diversity of aromas of Sancerre wines. At the end of your visit, enjoy a glass of Sancerre on the terrace and enjoy the magnificent view of the surroundings! A life-size board game and a chalkboard ensure that the youngest are never bored.

Vignoble de Sancerre : vue depuis l'hôtel Panoramic - Photo credits: Vautier M

Vignoble de Sancerre: vue depuis l’hôtel Panoramic © M. Vautier

Good restaurants in Sancerrea

Food, drink and wine tasting. If you visit Sancerre, a lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants is a must and of course in combination with a good glass of Sancerre. Such a white wine goes perfectly with shellfish and crustaceans, or fish from the Loire. For example a pike perch in butter, or a perch fillet in flour. A Sancerre is also delicious with (white) asparagus or a piece of goat cheese. The goat cheese Crottin de Chavignol is made in the same area and is a classic combination with Sancerre.

In the main square of Sancerre, the Auberge Joseph Mellot you are in an environment worthy of a vineyard museum. Savor local dishes such as the winemaker’s terrine and the Sancerre ham omelette, smoked with vines, along with the wines of the estate of the same name. If you have some money to spend, go to restaurant La Tour with top chef Baptiste Fournier.

Romain Beaumont - La Belle Epoque, restaurant à Gien.

Restaurant à Gien © Romain Beaumont – La Belle Epoque

Crottin de Chavignol cheese

The Loire Valley is not only known for its wines, but also for its excellent goat cheeses. Two products that go well together. In Sancerre and the surrounding area you will also see a lot of small goat cheeses in addition to wine. It is called Crottin de Chavignol AOC. It is recommended to go to the countryside to discover the famous Crottin de Chavignol. Fifteen minutes from Sancerre, in Menetou-Râtel, the Ferme des Chapotons a gastronomic and authentic stopover not to be missed. With nearly 200 goats and 60 cows, this family farm makes the famous goat’s milk crottin on site.

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With Patricia and Emilie you will discover all the secrets of making it. If you want to attend the milking of the goats, check carefully when that happens. Other farm cheeses such as the Pyramide, the Chapoton Cendré and small goat cheeses for aperitifs are also produced on site. In the shop you will find many Berry specialties.

Fromages de chèvre AOC de la région Sancerre - M. Perreau - CRT Centre-Val de Loire

Fromages de chèvre AOC de la région © M. Perreau – CRT Centre-Val de Loire

Domaine Henri Bourgeois – Apéro Vignoble

On the way back from Menetou-Râtel you will stop in the village of Chavignol at Domaine Henri Bourgeois, in the heart of the vineyards just 4 km before Sancerre. Here you will discover the estate, the wine cellars and the local specialties of the Bourgeois family, who have been making wine here for ten generations at the foot of the famous hill, the Côte des Monts Damnés. Have a picnic basket prepared by the chef and follow one of several marked walks on the estate with beautiful views of the vineyard. Ultimate enjoyment of your own Apéro Vignoble!

The family also owns the hotel/bistrot La Cote des Monts Damnes (with Michelin star) in the center of the village. Jean-Marc, the chef, creates refined authentic dishes from the best Berry products. You can also sleep in this high-quality 3-star hotel in Sancerre, which offers 12 spacious rooms (including family suites) with beautiful vineyard views from some rooms.

Cuisinier prepared un plat, au restaurant "La Maison d'à côté" - Julie Limont

Cuisinier prepared un plat, au restaurant La Maison d’à côté © Julie Limont – La Maison d’à côté

La Loire à velo – Wine tasting by bike

Sancerre is located between the vineyards, and where there are vineyards, it is often a good place to be. Usually a river with a centuries-long (wine) history flows through the beautiful landscape. After all, its transport function was vital for viticulture. Numerous tourist-friendly wine cycling routes can be found here.

La Loire à Vélo starts near Nevers and ends 800 kilometers further at Saint-Nazaire on the coast past Nantes. The vineyards of the Loire region stretch along the royal river, from Sancerre to the Atlantic coast. At the village of Pouilly-sur-Loire, on the edge of Burgundy, you will see vineyards again appearing in the landscape instead of farmlands and forests. Sancerre can already be seen high above the landscape from this side of the Loire.

Along the way you pass imposing castles, beautiful landscapes, monumental bridges, cute villages and of course the vineyards of the countless wine regions, where you are welcome for tastings and tours. The winegrowers are happy to tell you their stories, in the vineyard itself, or in a wine cellar. If you only want to cycle part of the route, you can take the Train Vélo Loire. In summer, bicycles are allowed free of charge on all Interloire trains from Orléans in specially equipped carriages.

Boat trip on the Loire

In the afternoon you can relax on board the Raboliot in Saint Thibault/Saint Satur (3 km east of Sancerre) and sail down the Loire in a toue cabanee, the region’s iconic boat. Along the way, Sylvain, the captain, shares anecdotes and talks about the fauna and flora of the last untamed river in Europe.

Balade avec les Passeurs de Loire - V. Treney - CRT Centre-Val de Loire

Balade avec les Passeurs de Loire © V. Treney – CRT Centre-Val de Loire

Discovery visit of the Domaine Eric Louis

If you still have some time, stop at Domaine Eric Louis in the charming wine village of Thauvenay, 5 km from Saint Satur. The estate was founded 150 years ago and was originally run by Pauline, Eric Louis’s great-grandmother, who sold wine at local markets. After this, the vineyard has always remained in the hands of the same family and the wine is still produced in an authentic way, albeit today in combination with contemporary modern techniques.

A visit to Domaine Eric Louis is open to everyone and is also very suitable for families (blind tasting of “mysterious” syrups for children). Discover the winery, bottling line and cellar, where the best vintages mature in oak and acacia casks. Finally, in the tasting room you can taste different wines from the estate, accompanied by cheeses and local products (Crottins de Chavignol and Croquets de Sancerre).

Celliers de la Pauline - Domaine Eric Louis : plateau de charcuterie et fromage - Pierre Mérat Photographe

Celliers de la Pauline – Domaine Eric Louis : plateau de charcuterie et fromage © Pierre Merat

Culinary workshops

Book a workshop with a chef: homemade bread, fouées, chocolate, edible wild plants, zero-waste cooking, wine tasting… the choice is endless. A culinary workshop is an excellent way to discover local products!

Atelier chocolate pour enfants à la chocolaterie - Max Vauché

Atelier chocolate pour enfants à la chocolaterie © Max Vauché

Practical

You can reach Sancerre by road with the A6 motorway and the A77 from Paris (202 km) towards Saint Satur, 3 km from Sancerre, but also by train with the Paris-Nevers line. Get off at Cosne-sur-Loire station and an RER shuttle will take you directly to Sancerre and drop you off in front of the tourist office, not far from the main square.

Read more about local products, restaurants and culinary experiences in the Loire Valley here.

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