On the banks of the Vienne, the winding streets of Chinon are lined with many medieval turreted houses, built in the heyday of the court. The most typical street is rue Voltaire, lined with 15th- and 16th-century townhouses. At no. 44, Richard the Lion-Hearted died on April 6, 1199, from a wound suffered during the siege of Chalus in Limousin. The Grand Carroi, in the heart of Chinon, was the crossroads of the Middle Ages. For the best view, drive across the river and turn right onto quai Danton. From this vantage point, you’ll be able to see the castle in relation to the town and the river.
Chinon is known for its delightful red wines. After you visit the attractions, stop for a glass on one of Chinon’s terraced cafes or visit a few local vineyards.
In Pursuit of the Grape
Chinon is famous for its wines, which crop up on prestigious lists around the world. Supermarkets and wine shops throughout the region sell them; families that have been in the business longer than anyone can remember maintain the two most interesting stores. At Caves Plouzeau, 94 rue Haute-St-Maurice (www.plouzeau.com; tel. 02-47-93-32-11), the 12th-century cellars were dug to provide building blocks for the foundations of the château. In the same family since 1929, it is currently being converted into a fully organic vineyard. You’re welcome to climb down to the cellars (open for visits and wine sales Apr–Sept Tues–Sat 11am–1pm and 3–7pm and Oct–Mar Thurs–Fri 2–6pm, Sat 11am–1pm and 2–6pm).
The cellars at Couly-Dutheil, 12 rue Diderot (www.coulydutheil-chinon.com; tel. 02-47-97-20-20), are suitably medieval; many were carved from rock. This company produces largely Chinon wines (mostly reds); the popularity of its Bourgueil and St-Nicolas de Bourgueil has grown in North America in recent years. Tours of the caves and a dégustation des vins (wine tasting) require an advance call and cost 4€ to 6€ per person. Tours held year-round 9am to noon and 1:45 to 5:30pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.