Tours and Touraine: A wine lover’s guide

Château d’Amboise and the Pont du Maréchal Leclerc across the Loire river and the island of Ile d’Or.
Château d’Amboise and the Pont du Maréchal Leclerc across the Loire river and the island of Ile d’Or.

Rolling hills in Burgundy; the sun-baked slopes of Provence; the grand estates of Bordeaux – they all evoke a clear holiday picture. In comparison, lesser-known Touraine is trickier to pin down in the mind’s eye. It takes a real-life visit to this underrated appellation in the Middle Loire to realize the abundance of its appeal. But in truth, the ‘Garden of France’ has everything you could want in a Gallic getaway.

There’s the endless series of opulent châteaux, filled with treasures and flanked with formal gardens clipped by box hedges. A handsome regional capital, Tours, with half-timbered architecture and Joan of Arc history. Sleepy little villages with cafes turning out salads topped with sharp local goat’s cheese; lush, trail-lined Loches forest. And, of course, rippling through all of it, the mighty Loire river, the region’s lifeline. Once a key trading route, for you it equals leisurely evening cruises, afternoon kayak sessions or scenic waterside cycling routes.

Place Plumereau in Tours old town. Credit: F Godard / Andia Universal Group via Getty Images

And, of course, there is the wine. Despite a surface area of ??just 5,500ha – stretching roughly 100km from around Blois in the east to Bourgueil in the west – the Touraine appellation claims vast stylistic diversity. There are lively sparklings and luscious sweet whites; juicy rosés and generous reds. Celebrated names such as Chinon and Vouvray sit alongside little-known ones such as Montlouis-sur-Loire (Vouvray’s reflection just across on the south side of the Loire river).

Most producers are small, often working across multiple styles and sub-regions. Humble tasting rooms ooze familial warmth, with many set atop cellars – resulting from tuffeau limestone being harvested to build the region’s magnificent châteaux. Flinty clay (perruches), sand and gravel soils realize Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc – the Loire poster grapes, white and red – in the full spectrum of their diversity. Rarer Romorantin, Arbois and Pineau d’Aunis join the mix, too, alongside the likes of Sauvignon Blanc , Grolleau Noir and Côt ( Malbec ). Whichever cellar door you end up at, one thing Touraine tastings are not boring.

Each day holds a new adventure, always backlit by resplendent architecture. Begin in gateway city Tours, in the heart of the region, about a 90-minute direct train ride from Paris, Gare Montparnasse. Here, a magnificent cathedral is testament to the city’s medieval grandeur, while creating buildings once hosted the likes of Joan of Arc. Visit the photogenic old centre, then pop into little wine bars pouring bargain tipples (sometimes £3 a glass) to get a vinous overview of the region. Pork rillettes or piquant local goat’s cheeses such as ashy Ste-Maure de Touraine provide the perfect stomach lining.

My perfect weekend in Tours & Touraine

Au Chapeau Rouge, Chinon


Kick off with a history lesson in gateway city Tours, taking in the cathedral on Rue Lavoisier and the half-timbered architecture on Place Plumereau. Then strike out to pretty riverside Amboise – 30 minutes east – home to a must-see château and cute restaurants. Get an overview of Touraine wines on Place Michel Debré with tastings at La Cave on Place Michel Debré and riverside cellars Caves Ambacia on Rue du Rocher des Violettes. The latter sells Vouvray demi-sec vintages back to 1874 and 1990s Bourgueil in magnum, with lunches of house-aged goat’s cheese and charcuterie. Afterwards, take a boat ride on the Loire or sample the Loire à Vélo* cycling route to nearby Chaumont-sur-Loire. See the art-filled château and gardens then stay over in Le Bois des Chambres*.


Today it’s all about Cabernet Franc: Chinon and Bourgueil. Start in the former, hitting esteemed Bernard Baudry , then Domaine Pierre et Bertrand Couly for a Segway tour through…

Source :

Tours and Touraine: A wine lover’s guide Tours and Touraine: A wine lover’s guide *Tours and Touraine: A wine lover’s guide