World heritage wine regions: Loire, France

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With its swathes of rolling vineyards and wheat fields surrounding palaces built or modified during the Renaissance, the architectural heritage of the Loire is a vivid testament to mankind’s golden age.

The UNESCO area of the Loire comprises 164 towns and villages – including Chinon, Samur and Angers – between the two hillsides that border the river from Sully-sur-Loire (Loiret) and Chalonnessur- Loire (Maine-et-Loire).

Many of the region’s charming villages and roadways are vestiges of the enormous Roman influence, as the Loire was a vital waterway between Rome and ancient Gaul.

Spring and autumn are ideal times to visit the Loire, when weather is still mild, summer crowds have thinned and winter’s damp, dreary climate has not settled in.

Base yourself in Saumur, a pretty little city famous for the Château de Saumur, a medieval castle depicted in illuminations in the French gothic manuscript Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.

It is also the centre for the Loire’s sparkling wine production (the Loire is France’s second-largest producer of fizz) and home to the Cadre Noir, France’s elite cavalry regiment.

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