A trip to the wineries of the Loire Valley
Yesterday, I was looking over my pictures from my trip to the Loire valley. We went there for a few days in July to visit some wineries and do wine tastings. The Loire Valley is a great destination because not only is the scenery absolutely gorgeous but it has some amazing and refreshing wines, that often times do not get exported out of France. At the time, I didn’t have time to write up a blog entry on the trip but now I think that it would be a shame to not share it. So even though this entry is a couple of months late, here it is!
The Loire Valley is a vast region that can be split into three sub-regions: 1) the Upper Loire, known for its mineral driven whites made from the sauvignon blanc grape, namely Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé; 2) the Middle Loire, a diverse wine area where the cabernet franc and chenin blanc grapes thrive; 3) the Lower Loire, known mostly for the Muscadet made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape (which pairs wonderfully with oysters).
We chose to go to the Middle Loire because I really wanted to explore the wines of Bourgueil, Saumur, and especially Savennières. The Middle Loire is only a two-hour drive away from Paris so we rented a car. We left in time to stop at le Bon Laboureur in Chenonceaux for lunch. I had the brill with seaweed tartar sauce and artichokes.
We then continued on to Bourgueil. We visited two wineries: Yannick Amirault and P-J Druet. Amirault produces wines under both the Bourgueil and the St. Nicholas de Bourgueil appellations and I bought a nice selection of both. When I returned to Paris, I paired one of the wines – La Petite Cave – with a homemade seared free-range chicken breast that I served with jus, chives, and red currants. The red currants really brought out the fruity and berry qualities of the Bourgueil. Great pairing!
P-J Druet spent a long time with us, talking about how he got started in the wine making business, explaining his wines, and opening a variety of different vintages (even very old ones). I bought three of his wines, pictured below. The 2009 Grand Mont was just exquisite!
Our hotel for the first night was in Huismes and the views from my room were just spectacular!
That evening we had dinner at La Cave Voltaire in Chinon, where we tried different wines from that area with cheese and pork platters.
This place had very interesting wines and I bought a bottle of La Diablesse (meaning she-devil) that still needs a couple of years of aging before it is ready to be drunk.
Next day, we moved on to Saumur. The only winery visited in Saumur was Chateau Filliatreau. On the premises, they had lots of informative displays, including on where cork comes from, which I found really interesting.
We tasted many bottles and I really loved their 2003 old vine red. Delicious! Of course, I bought a few bottles of this (among others).
While in Saumur, I really wanted to visit the frères Foucault, two brothers who are 8th generation wine makers at Clos Rougeard. They make reds that are considered to be the best expression of the cabernet franc grape. So much so that they have acquired a cult following of their wines. But apparently nobody gets a visit at Clos Rougeard. So I had to make do with a bottle of their wine we ordered at a lovely gastronomic restaurant in Angers – Une Île. I highly recommend this restaurant!
The wine that we ordered at dinner was a bottle of Clos Rougeard Les Poyeux from 2009 – an excellent vintage for Saumur Champigny.
This was truly an amazing bottle of wine! I was surprised that such a complex and rich wine can come from cabernet franc grown in a cool climate. Clos Rougeard also makes a wine called Le Bourg, which is supposed to be even better. Next time I’m in France, I will definitely try to score a bottle of each of these wines.
Our next wine region was Savennières. Made from the chenin blanc grape, this, in my opinion, is the most complex white wine produced in the Loire Valley. On our way to Savennieres, we stopped by Domaine Saint Pierre in Chaudefonds-sur-Layon for lunch. The views were unbeatable!
In Savennieres we went first to Nicolas Joly. Joly has whole ownership of the famous Coulée de Serant plot, which produces the most complex wines from savennières. Savennières is not easy to drink – it requires a lot of time to age and a lot of time to breathe once you open a bottle. And more importantly, this is a food wine and not to be enjoyed as an aperitif. We tasted a number of wines at Joly:
Our last winery visit was at Damien Laureau. During this visit, we learned a lot about the wine-making process. Unfortunately, he was sold out of many of his more complex bottles so I got a few of his simpler ones, namely Les Genets and Le Bel Ouvrage. Savennières pairs well with boudin blanc and when I got home to Paris, I paired a bottle of les Genets with it. I also had some herb roasted potatoes and celery rémoulade, which all went superbly with the wine.
Overall, I brought back 24 bottles of wine from our visit to the Loire Valley! It’s time to create meals and dishes that pair well with these wines. Can’t wait 🙂
For lots more pictures of food and wine, check out my Instagram account:@thatperfectbottle