Two days in Sancerre; a guide to this picturesque & famous wine village!

The picturesque, medieval village of Sancerre is synonymous with Sauvignon Blanc and ‘Sancerre’ is often referred to as the best expression of this famous grape variety, so how is it that a small village in the middle of France can develop such a reputation..?

Is it history? It has been at the forefront of the resistance in the Middle Ages, the centre of the royalist rebellion in the Reformation and a command centre for the Resistance in WW2. Any military historian would tell you this is a good spot to defend from. On top of the hill, 360 views and the Loire river a stone’s throw away. These same conditions also favour winemaking…

So is it the terroir? These rolling limestone hills, as well as the climate produce excellent wines, particularly Sauvignon Blanc with acidity, gooseberry aromas and a rounded, rich yet flinty texture. The conditions are certainly a major part of producing great wine but there is excellent Sauvignon Blanc in many places. You can look just a few miles away (and get better value) with villages such as Reuilly, Quincy, Menetou-Salon and Pouilly-Fumé or go to the other side of the world with New Zealand’s slightly more fruit driven style and there are a variety of places in between that can produce wonderful Sauvignon…

So why is it that a name like Sancerre conjures up greatness? It is partly down to the supply / demand factor – only 13 villages in and around Sancerre (5,000 hectares of vines) can be called Sancerre. There is no doubt that Sancerre has great wines, but the controlled levels of production and the tradition definitely play a part in keeping Sancerre an esteemed word in wine circles. What really makes Sancerre so special though is the magic of the place; Sancerre is a medieval French village on top of the hill with sloping vineyards in all directions. You can potter around the charming boutiques, gaze out at the endless views, discover the Crottin de Chavignol (a goat’s cheese which locals take as seriously as the wine) and dine outside in the main square on local produce.

Maybe it is slightly overpriced but it is certainly a magical place to visit and even the entry level Sancerre Blanc served around town tastes even better when overlooking the vines!

Where to Stay: The Panoramic Hotel

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The pool at Le Panoramic

Le Panoramic

Restaurant views

Clos de Demoiselles

Balcony at Le Panoramic

Room at Le Panoramic

View, Sancerre, Goat's Cheese

As its name suggests, the views from The Panoramic Hotel are incredible. After a long lunch, enjoy the pool which sits above the sloping vineyards. This really is the focal point of this hotel and you can spend a few hours quite happily sitting at the pool or on the terrace gazing out at the vines. It’s the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. With it’s sleek bar and drinks terrace, this hotel offers the comforts you want to relax in a modern setting but is only a short walk from the main square of the romantic medieval village.

Winery to Visit: Domaine de la Perrière

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Natural cellars at La Perrière

Sancerre Grapes

La Perrière is a working winery, in the caves.

Hadrien, the man! At Saget La Perriere

Domaine de la Perrière

Try the wines at Domaine de la Perrière

Saget La Perrière is literally built within the Sancerre hills. The cave which is believed to be 200 million years old is an impressive sight in itself but it has also been manipulated over many years into a winery, which makes it all the more spectacular. You can still see an original press from 1741 and other ancient equipment in the museum section, which just goes to show that Sancerre has been a winemaking location for many years. Grapes have been grown here almost continuously from the Romans, through to the Monks to the families and companies that now own the land.

For €9 you can even have a Sancerre baptism, a local tradition which involves a ‘Sancerre Monk’ pouring the equivalent of 2 glasses down your mouth and some ‘prayers’ are read along the lines of devoting the rest of your life to drinking Sancerre not water… It sounds more like something that would happen at a rugby club but I’m not complaining!

For the more serious wine drinkers, they have a huge selection from the entry level ‘La Petite Perrière’ range to single soil styles like the Sancerre Silex which is made from grapes grown on the flinty terroirs giving the wine a great purity and minerality. Unusually for Sauvignon Blanc, there are some aged wines and I was lucky enough to try a 2003 Mégalithe as well as aged reds, like the Sacrilège. As the family own estates over the Loire a variety of wine is available!

If you would like to stay for more than two days in Sancerre, there are many other wineries to enjoy. Have a look at the VIND map or discover wines from boutique winemakers in the tasting rooms in the village.

Take a boat out on the river

Other ideas for two days in Sancerre…

Cruise down the River:
Le Raboliot is a spot on the Loire river next to Sancerre where you can rent a boat and enjoy the experience.

Have a hoat’s cheese (Crottin de Chavignol) tasting:
If you have time during your two days in Sancerre, try La Bête Sancerroise, which is a goat farm. You can see the goats and the process of making Crottin de Chavignol – it is a 10 minute drive from Sancerre and worth it for the pretty journey along the canal to get there. Or just find a café in town and let them match cheese with your wine for you!

Places to eat:
For lunch, sit outside in the main square at the Café des Arts – expect good food and bolshie service! For dinner, the Bouchon offers a well priced two or three course meal, but for atmosphere and an authentic french style Auberge l’Écurie is a place to go. Like a pub, the wooden walls and rugby pictures give it a cosy atmosphere, almost like a ski lodge. Banter with locals who have come straight off the vines and settle down for delicious grub. A range of classics, including big steaks and goats cheese salads are among the favourites along with an unmissable pudding range! For more of a fine dining experience, it is worth booking in at Joseph Mellot. The winery has had a restaurant in town for 130 years. These days they still offer the French classics but with a modern twist, using the rich array of produce available in the Loire Valley.