It is quite simply one of the world’s great gastronomic and touring regions. France offers one stunning visual and taste sensation after another.
The 700-million bottles of famous French wine produced each year are one thing, but, its rich history showcased today by more than 3,000 estates, chateaux and palaces, is quite another.
Exploring these spectacular monuments to life in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment is something you will never forget as you cruise the fabled rivers to navigate the region.
Imposing towers, moats and drawbridges, turrets, caves, catacombs, lavish gardens, extravagant furniture, masterpieces of art, endless gold leaf and stunning tapestries … visiting these incredible living museums can leave you speechless.
To walk the halls first trodden in the 1300s, taste wines perfected over 2,000 years or scale a tower once used to repel invading armies are memories of a lifetime.
Scenic’s expert Journey Designers have handpicked the cream of the Bordeaux and Burgundy chateaux that also happen to produce some of the region’s best wines. And as you’d expect, guests will also enjoy exclusive access, events and performances not available to independent travellers.
The magnificent chateaux still standing were inevitably the centrepieces of ancient towns and villages that offer their own stunning appeal to explore today.
Take the breathtaking Saint-Émilion for example. In the heart of wine country, this World Heritage-Listed stunner with its Monolithic Church is one of the world’s most beautiful villages. What you see today was first crafted in the 9th-Century and it certainly feels like it when you stroll the cobblestones of the market square that truly transport you back in time.
Enjoy these chateaux on one of Scenic’s French river cruises.
CHATEAU DE LA RIVIERE
Built in 1577 on an ancient Roman burial ground, this spectacular property remained family-owned for more than 500 years.
Located in the Fronsac Appellation (designated and grape-specific regions) and restored in the 19-Century, Château de la Riviere remains a working vineyard acclaimed for its award-winning wines.
The crowning attraction here is the three-hectare underground cellar that houses more than 1,000 barrels of Bordeaux’s finest. The carved limestone subterranean shelter with its consistent year-round temperature provides the perfect environment to mature these fine wines.
Latin inscriptions found in the underground galleries of Château d’Agassac date the property to an astonishing, 1238! Thankfully, much of the original estate remains intact. Once owned by the wealthy Pommie family, its wines were sold exclusively under the family name for centuries. Only recently has the name changed.
Château d’Agassac is as enchanting as any castle could be, as if plucked straight from a children’s fairy-tale storybook and transported into the Medoc countryside. Resting in all its scenic glory, the château is surrounded by a moat and its four turrets complete the iconic depiction of a folkloric castle.
One of the oldest winemaking establishments in the region, the now 43-hectare estate is planted with 50% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc grapes.
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CHATEAU DE MEURSAULT
Like many kingly commissions of the time, the 11th-Century built Château de Meursault would become one of the largest estates in Burgundy. Built by Capetian Robert I, the Duke of Burgundy and son of King Robert II, this grand country estate would become the centre of regional life for the French aristocracy.
While the château has seen various expansions over the centuries, its royal pedigree remains quite evident. A manor house was added in 1666, along with a stately conservatory, and a functioning dovecote, outbuildings, a winery with cellars, and a 2-hectare park between the château and its Clos vineyard.
The parklands surrounding the chateau date back to its earliest days, eventually being modified to reflect a more traditional English garden design. A unique feature within the gardens is an icehouse, used to store food and provisions. Snow and ice from the winter months would be packed within the icehouse walls, extending the cooling period for a further five to six months.
During the estate’s restoration in 1973, an 8-hectare vineyard was planted with chardonnay vines. Produced onsite, the chardonnay has fresh and generous fruity aromas with wooden notes.
Due to the vigilant guidance of the De Pontac family, the viticultural traditions of Château Myrat have carried on for more than 400-years. The property thrived for generations, well into the 20th-Century, but with the outset of the Second World War, the fortunes of this beloved estate began to dwindle. It wasn’t until the 1980s, when plans were put into motion to save the chateau and its wine making traditions.
In 1988, the entire vineyard was pulled up and replanted with 150,000 new vines. A team of new winegrowers were commissioned, and by the following year, the winery would be fully restored. With the family motto of “Hoping against hope”, it would be three long years before the young vines would produce its first harvest.
Today, more than 30-years later, the estate produces flavourful white blends containing semillon (88%), sauvignon (8%) and muscadelle (4%) for a delicate, elegant and rich wine with pepper and spice aromas. This is now a ‘must-try’ when visiting the region.
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