Nantes, the central city of the Pays Nantais wine region, is a two-hour train ride southwest of Paris and hugs the Atlantic coast. Historic, upbeat and well-rounded the town of Nantes is the perfect hub for exploring the region with some of the appellation’s best wine growers and producers situated an easy 25-minute drive southeast of the town center.
The regional wines are built on the Melon de Bourgogne grape and are referred to as Muscadet (keep in mind “place” names trump “grape” names in most of Europe), most Muscadet bottles are young, fresh, approachable and super food-friendly with a particular affinity for neighboring oysters. However, that’s just the beginning of Muscadet’s reputation. In fact, there are 10 recognized Muscadet crus from close to 500 acres produced from low-yield vines that also enjoy extended time on the lees to increase creamy textures, concentration, and complexity. These wines are intended to reflect their singular terroir and offer exceptional elegance and remarkable aging potential.
Exploring this noteworthy wine-growing region is easy and tacking on a few historic sites along the way just adds context and curiosity to the journey. Essentially, Nantes functions as the central hub of the Pays Nantes appellation. Just south of the city, twenty-minute segmented drives deliver a triangular tour of Domaine Landron, the town and castle of Clisson and Chateau la Ragotiere, which all promise visitors an engaging glimpse into the regional wines, cuisine and historic sites.
Pays Nantes Wineries to Visit
Domaine Landron – Just a 25-minute drive southeast from Nantes, Domaine Landron is a 120-acre biodynamic estate that spotlights an outstanding showcase of mineral-driven Muscadet wines that reflect the mosaic of soils, microclimates and low yielding vines. Jo Landron is the passionate owner and winemaker who is involved in every aspect of viticulture from ground to glass. Friendly, personal and completely committed to the integrity and longevity of his wines, Jo also happens to sport an unforgettable moustache – earning the estate the witty nickname of “Muscadet & Moustaches.”
Wine to Try: Domaine Landron Le Fief du Breil
Jo Landron owner/vintner/winegrower (moustache) – 2 pics – harvest and bucket of grapes with Jo. Domaine Landron wine estate
Photos (courtesy of Domaine Landron)
Chateau La Ragotiere – This historic estate is 7th generation family-owned and operated and sports a stunning 14th century chapel that has been artistically converted into a quaint tasting room. With a bottle debut on Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Wines of 2017, the estate’s old vine Muscadet selections are concentrated, age worthy and have spent considerable time on the lees. However, Chateau La Ragotiere’s wine story does not end with Muscadet, they also offer several engaging selections of Chardonnay. These are cool climate Chardonnays that are reminiscent of Burgundy with a remarkable approachability and a food-friendly nature. Wine tasting and food pairings are just the beginning of a visit to Chateau La Ragotiere, this estate really leans into Nantes wine tourism in a big way. Pouring five glass tastings with an optional cheese pairing that showcases raw artisan cheese selected from a local Loire dairy, to educational vineyard tours, picnics, and easy online reservations, this estate is a must-see, must-taste producer from the Nantes winegrowing region.
Wine to Try: Chateau de la Ragotiere Muscadet Sur Lie Black Label
Photos (courtesy of Chateau La Ragotiere)
Nearby (must-visit) Castles
Château des Ducs de Bretagne
Serving for centuries as the formidable seat of the Dukes of Brittany, today this stunning 13th century chateau guards the eastern edge of Nantes just off the Loire River. Most of the courtyards and ramparts remain free to access, but the museum admission is $9 to visit.
Intentionally built at the confluence of two rivers spanned by ancient stone bridges, the Italian-style village of Clisson is home to 7,000 people and sits a mere 15 miles southeast of Nantes. A classic medieval town with plenty of history packed into its stone walls, the town’s daunting centerpiece is a 12th century castle. The castle has served as an imposing fortress, a duke’s residence, and currently a tourist attraction that gives a gutsy glimpse into medieval life and lore.
De La Vallee Restaurant
If you can’t get enough of Castle Clisson, this lovely local restaurant serves up fresh French cuisine while offering magnificent views of the fortress and Sevre Nantaise River. The menu is seasonally inspired with plenty of creativity, and they maintain a well-managed regional wine list that is both affordable and diverse.
How to Get Here: Getting to Nantes is easy. Consider a short one hour hop from the Charles de Gaulle airport to Nantes, or a two-hour scenic train ride from the heart of Paris, or perhaps simply renting a car (4 hours from Paris). For the adventurous soul, the intimacy of cycling through the Lower Loire river and vineyard trails offer an exceptional opportunity to get up close and personal with all that the Loire Valley has to offer. Itineraries abound with the La Loire à Vélo, a designated cycling trail stretching almost 500 miles from the Atlantic Coast to Center Loire.
Where to Stay
Clisson: In the heart of Clisson, the Best Western Plus Villa Saint Antoine Hôtel & Spa is a two-minute walk from the city’s castle walls. Terrific food, clean rooms, reasonable rates and gorgeous views make this boutique hotel an easy option for enjoying the medieval town itself and the neighboring wine estates.
Nantes: Located in the former Palais de justice (courthouse) Nantes, the Raddison Blu is a stately hotel with a solid central location. A quick 15-minute walk to Château des ducs de Bretagne and the Nantes Cathedral, and 20 minutes from the modern Machines of the Isle of Nantes, the Raddison Blu is well-priced and allows for speedy getaways to nearby wineries and the coast for oysters and Muscadet.