Tucked away among the rolling vineyards of the Loire Valley in western France, the imposing French Renaissance château of Petit Thouars has been producing its award-winning wines since the 17th century. The winery is now run by the 11th generation of the same aristocratic family that has inhabited the château since 1634, these days growing Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc grapes on vines that were replanted in 1975.
Tours of Petit Thouars include guided walks through the vineyard and cellar, where the wines have been aged in oak casks in natural limestone caves for four centuries. The tasting room is in the former stable block for sampling the reds, whites and sparkling crémant, after which guests can book in advance to enjoy a pre-prepared picnic of local specialties among the vines, with a complementary bottle of wine chosen from the tasting session.
Alternatively, hour-long guided river trips take visitors out along the Vienne River on traditional wooden boats and also include wine dégustation and the sampling of regional delicacies. A small museum charts the history of the more colorful members of the ancient Petit Thouars clan and accommodation is available in a charming 19th-century farmhouse on the estate. A visit to the winery can be combined with tours of other famous châteaux of the Loire Valley, including the magical confections of Chenonceau, Chambord and Cheverny.
Route de la Chaussee, Saint-Germain-sur-Vienne. Open Mon–Sat 9.30am–12.30pm, 2.30pm–6pm. Wine tours €5–€75. Tastings and museum free. Best accessed by road along the D751 from Samur in 20 minutes.