Sancerre itself, is a most picturesque village sat on top of a hill and overlooks the vineyards and small villages and hamlets that surround it. In the town are numourous shops and restaurants, old museums and the large tower which you can climb if you wish.
The town has a history dating back to the 11th century and there is evidence of an abbey at Saint Satur (just to the bottom of the hill). The building of the Sancerre chateau is believed to have started in 1152. Sancerre was involved in the 100 year war and then in the 16th century in the siege of Sancerre, a religious battle. A further battle in the 17th century left the Chateau and the walls very much as you can see them today.
The Sancerre vineyards can be traced back for a thousand years. There is evidence that in the 11th and 12th centuries the monks in the surrounding areas started to cultivate vines and produce wine. From the reign of Philippe-Augustus to the reign of Louis XVI, the Kings of France delighted in Sancerre wine - "one of the most exquisite of the Kingdom", as it has been described.
The Château de Sancerre stood in the heart of the Sancerre vineyards. In the 17th century, the chateau was rebuilt on its old site in the style of Louis XII. In the 18th century it was bought, along with some of the vineyards, by Louis Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle. The vaults and the spiral staircase where then rebuilt and the tower became known as the "Feudal Tower". This is now the only remaining vestige of the medieval chateau. This was the period when the Sancerre wines build their sound reputation.
Today The Château de Sancerre is still owned by the Société des Produits Marnier-Lapostolle, also producers of Grand Marnier liqueurs and owners of the Château de Bourg Charente. It is here, in the heart of its historic birthplace, that an exclusive estate-bottled Sancerre wine is made and matured - the only wine which can be sold under the exclusive name Château de Sancerre.
You can easily pass a day or two in Sancerre, wandering around the streets and tasting the wine in the various bars and wine shops and tasting the Chateau du Sancerre wine, but dont miss out on a trip to the surrounding hills where the wine houses are and you can buy some of the best Sancerre wines direct.
To really appreciate the views over Sancerre and its surrounding area its worth the effort to climb the tower of the Saint-Jean Belfry. The solitary tower that is all that remains of the town’s original fortress. Once at the top the stunning views out over the Loire river and then to the east the views over the surrounding villages and hamlets are just not to be missed. Sancerre sits almost at the halfway point of the Loire river which is over 600 miles long. The climb up the tower takes a little effort as there are 197 steps and it is also not very well lit.
In the hills surrounding Sancerre is the village of Chavignol, a small and unpretenteous village where the famous goats cheese, the chavignol is produced under the AOC label and a tasting of this with some white Sancerre is a real must. Find a small restaurant in the village and try.