The villages and vineyards by the banks of the river Vienne near Chinon have been home to generations of the Baudry family – a parchment attests that Domaine de la Perrière was entrusted to one of the Baudry ancestors in 1398. Latest of his line, Christophe Baudry is continuing the wine-family tradition in partnership with Jean-Martin Dutour who together own over 80 hectares of Chinon vines. Christophe’s time is divided between his commercial activities and his mayoral obligations since he was voted in as mayor of Cravant-les-Côteaux in the recent elections. Not surprisingly it’s the previous generation who manage the visitor side of the business; Jean and Marie-Claire give tours and tastings, sell the property’s excellent Chinon wines to eager buyers and run a couple of charming gîtes in the property at Sonnay. Like many wineries in the central Loire valley, the property at Sonnay is built from, and into, the limestone rock known as tuffeau. I often wonder if J.R.R. Tolkien ever travelled in these parts – it might explain where the inspiration for his hobbit-hole ridden Shire came from; beneath the house there is an original Troglodyte cave where tastings are given in the warmer months (the cave dwellers having long since departed). The cellars too are cut deep into the stone hillside and house many thousands of bottles. One aisle was cut relatively recently for stone to build a new house – in fact most of these underground caves were originally quarries. Also made from the same soft, pale stone are the Baudry’s two gîtes. The smaller of the two is a diminutive house perched on top of the côteau looking down across Jean’s potager and the vineyards below it. The larger gîte is an impressive building with an immense airily light dining room that can seat 30 for dinner. Most guests take the opportunity to taste the domaine’s wine. Marie-Claire began our tasting with a rare Chinon blanc that produces a floral bouquet reminiscent of elderflowers. Next, and also little known, a Chinon rosé which is produced par saignée – by ‘bleeding’ the whole red grapes of their first juice which has only the palest hint of pink from the grape skins. The famous red wines of the property followed including the Côteau des Chenanceaux 2005 which is concentrated and dark with aromas of black fruit, tobacco and a hint of liquorice. From here you can go chateau hopping along the Loire valley, follow the wine route for hours (with a nominated driver, of course) or spend time shopping in Chinon or fishing the local rivers and lakes according to your bent.