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Sancerre
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Landscape of Sancerre : Click to enlarge picture
Sancerre
Huddled at the top of a steep, round hill with the vineyards below, SANCERRE could almost be in Tuscany. The village trades heavily on its famous wines – there are endless caves offering tastings – rather than any particular sights or attractions, but it's certainly picturesque and the rolling hills of the Sancerrois, to the northwest, make an attractive venue for walks and cycle rides.

Wine outlets in the village itself tend to belong to the most famous names, with mark-ups to match, but the friendly, informative Aronde Sancerroise, at 4 rue de la Tour, just off the central Nouvelle Place (tel 02.48.78.05.72) offers excellent, free tastings as well as tours of local vineyards. Alternatively, the tourist office, on Nouvelle Place (daily: June–Sept 10am–6pm; Oct–May 10am–12.30pm & 2.30–5.30pm; tel 02.48.54.08.21) can supply a list of over three hundred vignerons in the immediate area (see also www.vins-centre-loire.com). Most are small-scale, traditional winemakers and welcome visitors on at least six days of the week. The Daumy family, based in Crézancy-en-Sancerre (tel 02.48.79.05.75), has been making excellent organic wines for three generations, including the wonderful but much less commonly made red Sancerre. For a more recherché buy than the well-known white Sancerre, it's well worth exploring the neighbouring areas of Menetou-Salon and Pouilly-Fumé. Well suited to the wines is the local crottin de Chavignol, a goat's cheese named after the neighbouring village in which it's made; signs in Chavignol direct you to fromageries open to visitors.

The stretch of the Loire upstream of Sancerre is particularly lovely, and kayaks are available to rent (tel 02.48.78.00.34) from a shop at the campsite in ST-SATUR, the town at the foot of the hill below Sancerre. The owner, Yvan Thibaudat, is something of a naturalist, and his guided kayak expeditions (€14 for a half day) are fascinating, even if you don't speak French.

The choice of hotels in Sancerre is surprisingly poor, but two utterly charming chambres d'hôtes more than make up for it: Le Logis du Grillon, 3 rue du Chantre (tel 02.48.78.09.45; €40–55); and La Belle Epoque, rue St-André (tel 02.48.78.00.04; €40–55). The two-star St-Martin, rue St-Martin (tel .02.48.54.21.11; €40–70), is comfortable and well run, but for something special you're better off at the Hôtel de la Loire, 2 Quai de la Loire (tel 02.48.78.22.22, www.hotel-de-la-loire.com; €55–70), down by the river in St-Satur. An excellent campsite (tel 02.48.54.04.67; closed Oct–April) is found a little further along the quay. There are also two fine restaurants in Sancerre: La Pomme d'Or, 1 rue de la Panneterie (tel 02.48.54.13.30; closed Tues & Wed eve); and the more formal La Tour, 31 place de la Halle (tel 02.48.54.00.81), both with menus from around €15. The Auberge Joseph Mellot, Nouvelle Place (tel 02.48.54.20.53; closed Sun, Tues eve and all Wed) serves good, simple meals that are designed to complement its own top-notch wines.


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