France’s largest region, Nouvelle Aquitaine, may be most famous for Bordeaux and its vineyards (not to mention the world-famous museum La Cité du Vin), but it has many faces.
With 466 miles of fine sandy coastline, the 360 foot-high Dune du Pilat, and islands like the Ile de Ré and the Ile d’Oléron, the Atlantic coast of Nouvelle Aquitaine is definitely an ocean-lover’s playground.
Not to be outdone, the lush nature of the area blooms in Eden-like slendor, from Dordogne and Lascaux to the Pyrenees and the Cognac region.
The cities and towns of the region are also ripe for exploring. From the provincial city of Angoulême to the seaside resort of Biarritz, this south-west region should be savored like a fine wine. Admire the Old Port of La Rochelle, nicknamed the White City because of its vanilla-coloured buildings.
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Skirting the green coast of the estuary, oenologic cruises offer tastings of local appellations, paired with whatever is served. High above the water, crowning the rocky outcrops, the towns of Bourg and Blaye are two highlights of this fluvial journey—the lovely villages are a treat for the eyes and the palate!
In Bourg, it’s the most enthusiastic and instructive winemakers that welcome epicurious travelers. Inside the doors of the “Maison des vins” (the House of Wine), found in the high village, visitors discover a modern bar and vaulted cellar storing 150 bottles of the appellation. It’s the ideal occasion to sample the unique wines with the people who made them.
Well known for its ramparts and military fortifications, the Blaye Citadel has been progressively transformed into an artisan’s village. Visitors can take advantage of many interesting activities here, but the most unusual is without a doubt the micro-vineyard, which grows over 1500 m² (16,000 ft²) above the water. Cultivated by biodynamics, the Clos de l’Échauguette is plowed by horses, harvested by hand, and inhabited by the chickens who cluck among the vines. Curious visitors can visit the parcel of land and buy the rare wine, of which only 700 bottles are produced each year.