About our Loire Valley Gites and Wine Tours

The XVIIIth. Century entrance to our Loire Gites

The XVIII Century Entrance to our Loire Valley Gites in France

Highly Commended by our TRIPADVISOR guests, (rated 5/5).

We receive many emails from our blog readers asking what exactly we do  here in the Loire so we thought that we’d do this static post which explains just that.

The Lounge in le Sauvignon gite.

The Lounge in le Sauvignon gite.

Le Clos des Guyons is a former winemakers house in the village of Le Puy Notre Dame in the Loire Valley.  The village is designated by two french accolades:- Village de Charme and Petite Cité de Caractére. We arrived in the region in 2001 and purchased the property in 2003 on the retirement of the then winemaker, Robert Guyons. His wine, the Domaine des Guyons, still produces wine but the current winemaker, Franck Bimont, uses a larger wine chai on the other side of the village, although we still use our existing tanks for storage on occasions.

We have found that the property is perfect both for normal gite holiday rentals and for wine tours as not only are we perfectly placed to access the bulk of the chateaux and historical sights of this famous region, but we are in the middle of a mass of wine appellations and, since 2008, Le Puy Notre Dame now has its own appellation of Saumur-Puy Notre Dame.

Situated on a quiet road on the edge of the village we are adjacent to the vineyards but, at the same time, only a few minutes walk from the bakery, bar and the two excellent village restaurants:- Le Bouchon Ponot and Le Puy à Vins.

With over 13 years of experience living in the area we have developed a mass of information which is freely available to our guests, many of which return to see us year after year and we thank them enormously for their loyalty and trust!

Brian has worked for years in wine retailing in the UK and has a Wines and Spirit Education Trust Ltd Higher Diploma qualification and so his knowledge plus relationships with local winemakers makes a wine tour here interesting, unique and enjoyable. Not only is Le Puy Notre Dame the newest appellation in the Loire but it has over 50 winemakers each putting their own unique interpretation on the local wines.  Walso do an increasingly popular “One Day Immersion Tour” which includes a day visiting the vineyards, touring one of the best wineproperties in the Loire, lunch and assoerted nibbles.

The courtyard at our gites

The courtyard at our gites

We have two holiday rental properties, “Le Sauvignon” and “Le Chenin” the former for four or six people and the latter for two.  We opened for business after one full year of renovation and both gites are now fully equipped to the exacting standards laid down by the main French gite organisation, “Les Gîtes de France” who, incidentally carry out regular inspections which is very rare if not unique amongst gite rental companies.   At the same time we have tried to preserve the original ambiance as far as possible.

Access to Le Clos des Guyons and to our gites is through the huge XVIII Century gates which guard the property.  We are quite proud of the attractiveness of our courtyard and garden and try our best to make it one of the prettiest in the village. The garden itself is of the courtyard and contains a wooden terraced area and above ground swimming pool (heated mid May to September) great for a quick swim to add to our guests pleasure.  Behind that is a small but productive vegetable garden which allows us to share fresh salad, asparagus and other vegetables in season.

Of course this blog is primarily about our lives here in the Loire Valley, so the individual posts tend not to carry specific information either the wine tours or our gite holiday rentals.  To find details of availability, tariffs, accommodation details, ‘What do do whilst staying here’, etc. etc, you can go to our extensive website:- www.closdesguyons.com or, use the contact widget on the right hand sidebar to contact us for more information.

Talking about the Grape Varieties on one of our Loire Valley Wine Tours

Talking about the Grape Varieties and vineyards on one of our Loire Valley Wine Tours

à bientôt?

Sheila and Brian

Loire Gite Holiday Rentals and Wine Tours

6 rue du Moulins,

49260 Le Puy Notre Dame, France.

Lions in the Bar!

Lions in the Loire

Not usually what you would expect to find outside a village bar in rural France.

I was in the village bar the other evening with a group of assorted locals, all busy finding the solutions to life, the universe and everything as one does when Stéphane, sitting on a bar-stool, next to me with his back to the bar and looking through the glass door, quietly said,
“There’s two lions outside”.
Immediately everyone said; “Ouaiss Stéphane”, using that long drawn out “oui” which generally translates as “yes, of course there is, keep taking the pills”- especially as Stéphane had been in the bar for a while and was, shall we say, relaxed.
“No there are”, he insisted – and there was!
Obviously they were part of the travelling circus which was setting up in nearby Saumur and leaving aside the moral question of animals in circus’ at least it was a change from seeing pink elephants.
It did get me thinking however about the difference in attitude between the UK and France over questions of health and safety. Imagine someone leaving a couple of lions in a street in England and think what the repercussions might have been. Here everyone soon returned to the conversation which, if memory serves me correctly, was about the second leg of the Monaco -Arsenal match. And that, apart from a passing glance from the odd driver or cyclist, was that. Of course we did try to persuade Stéphane to put his hand in so that we could see what happened but, although he was drunk, he clearly wasn’t that drunk.

à bientôt

Brian

Gite Holidays in the Loire Valley

And our final Galette des Rois this season, a very French tradition!

The Gallette de Rois

The Gallette des Rois, (or Epiphany Cake) a very French tradition.

The seasonal tradition of having the cake Galette de Rois for Epiphany in France has at last come to an end for us after eating lots of them this year. Thank goodness and I say that because of all the calories we have consumed following Christmas! (The plus side though is they are so delicious).  In the Loire region, as you can see from the photograph, it’s made from puff pastry and then filled with frangipane, jam or chocolate, Mmmmmm! Each gallette contains a plastic or porcelain feve (that is a small charm) with the finder being King for the duration of the occasion, who then wears the cardboard gold crown supplied with the cake and  has the obligation to host an evening in the following year. The family tradition is for everyone to gather together and the youngest child (or adult) goes under the table and points out the guests, who are then given their portion of the cake;  Easy!  This year the tradition has had added appeal as 100 gold Napoléon coins have been hidden in random gallettes by leading French Patissiers giving a valuable surprise to the finder!  Not us unfortunately. And as you can see in the picture we had our Galette with a glass or two of Anjou Rosé.

Until next year then. Bonne Galette

Now back to work again.

Sheila and Brian

Roast Pork Stuffed with Boudin Noir, Apples and Sage

Roast Pork, black pudding , apples and sage

Je suis CharlieThis is what we served to our guests as part of the main course and it was very well received.  It’s basically the side of pork after the loin has been removed.  Depending on what side of the pond you’re on it’s either belly-pork or pork-belly.  Here in France it’s call the “poitrine” and whilst a lot cheaper to buy than prime cuts with a bit of work it can be a really impressive dish.  It’s true that it can take a while to prepare but not that long and it’s quite simple, even I can do it, and with the addition of carefully chosen ingredients it can be really stunning.

So off we go.  Buy the poitrine.  Ask your butcher to remove the ribs or do it yourself.  I find it strangely satisfying but I’ve always been a bit odd!

poitrine de porc

This is one of the few meat purchases which doesn’t really depend on weight but on length. Work out how long you want it to  be depending on the number of people you want to feed. Then visit  your butcher and wave your arms around like you’re describing a fish you’ve caught.  A length of as little as 10/12cms. will easily be enough for 4 people.

Make sure that you choose a poitrine with lots of meat on it as some can be very fatty.  It’s worth going to a really good butcher even if you have to pay more.  And, during the preparation, remove any excess fat that you come across.  If pork fat bothers you you’ll just have to make yourself a green salad instead I’m afraid!
So you’ve got your poitrine and now you’ve got to pretend you’re a surgeon and proceed to carry out the necessary operations.

Boning out belly pork

Don’t worry if you leave more meat on the ribs than you intended, all the better when you turn them into BBQ’d pork ribs afterwards.

Place the tip of a really sharp knife under one edge of the ribs and saw merrily away with the cutting edge inclined slightly upwards so that it closely follows the rib.  Prod around with your fingers to make sure that there aren’t any crafty pieces of bone pretending that they aren’t there.  Later you can marinate the ribs in a BBQ sauce and cook them in the oven, under the grill or even outside, on that strange bonfire thing in a box known, I think, as a BBQ.  This always confused one of my favourite, fictional characters, Rumpole of the Bailey, as he could never quite understand why people didn’t use the perfectly good cooker which was standing redundant in the kitchen. You’ll notice on the picture above that, after removing the ribs there is a section of the poitrine which is standing higher than the rest of the cut.  You need to slice this but leave the far edge attached like an hinge and simply fold it back so that the overall depth of the poitrine is as even as possible making it easier to roll.  The following picture shows you what I mean.

Leveling out the poitrine.

Leveling out the poitrine. You will need to use your judgement on where to slice, always bearing in mind that you want the same depth to the joint.

Now, if you’re still with me, when you’re happy flip the whole thing over and remove around half of the skin as below.  Or all of it if you are strange and don’t like “Crackling”.  If you leave all the skin on it will be difficult to roll.

Preparing poitrine de Porc

After removing half the skin make cuts in the remaining a couple of centimetres apart but try not to cut into the flesh.  Also use the opportunity to remove any excess fat.

You’ll notice that the sheet of meat isn’t exactly oblong it’s more a quadrilateral or, for all I know – or care, maybe even a Triskaidecagon or a Icosagon! Anyway, you need to make it as near as possible a perfect oblong so cut the short sides to make them square with the longer sides BUT, don’t just lob off a vaguely triangular lump but, take your time, and cut in slices, thereby giving yourself bacon for breakfast. Stuffed pork belly, BBQ’d ribs and now bacon.  What value you’re getting!
Now, flip the whole thing over again.  ……..Wake up at the back!! and lay your “stuffing ingredients”  on the flesh after you’ve seasoned it well with salt and pepper and rubbed it into the meat.

Stuffing the rib of pork

So start off with a layer of sage leaves. No need to chop them but don’t use very large leaves and stems as, for some reason that escapes me, they tend not to cook properly even after several hours in the oven and they develop a slightly bitter taste. Then a layer of sliced eating apple, take out the cores and seeds but no need to peel them.  And finally remove the casing (skin) from your boudon noir, (black pudding ) and gauge where to place it to make the whole thing easier to roll.

You know.  I wish I’d never let myself be persuaded to do this, it takes longer to write than to cook!
But hey, ho, onwards and upwards.  Of course you can stuff anything you like into the pork.  Apricots  or peaches would probably work and when the trees in and around Le Puy Notre Dame are full of cherries I’ll try those and the same later on with wild blackberries.

Now we come to the most important, the messiest and also the most satisfying stage of all.  The rolling. The picture below is what it should look like afterwards. Firm, solid and you should be able to bounce it in your hands without it collapsing about you.  If it does artistically surround your feet with a mixture of black pudding, apples and sage – it’s your fault, don’t blame me!

Rolled belly pork

Your knotting needs to be tight, tight, tight.  On this one I strung it longitudinally as well but it’s not really necessary – I just got carried away with the joy of knotting.  Don’t worry if the string goes between the cuts you’ve made in the skin.

Right.  If you can’t do a butchers knot then you will not get it tight enough.  If I tried to explain how to do one  you may well finish up throttling yourself so ask that nice Mister Google and practice on a baguette, the cat, your partners arm, (or even his/her neck if things have reached those depths).  If you don’t want to bother then you’ve wasted a lot of time reading this far.  Sorry.  I’ve embeded a Youtube video below which is one of the clearest that I’ve found
The thing about a butchers knot is that, if you yank on one end, it will tighten and tighten until you can’t pull no more.  The problem with a poitrine is that it is actually quite short as your money-grabbing butcher has already lobbed off the valuable loin and is probably sunning himself in Barbados as we speak.  In fact quite often the ends don’t overlap but simply meet in the middle. (the meat meets as it were – with apologies to Douglas Adams).  But although the two sides will probably not overlap it will still be perfectly formed as long as the stringing is…. altogether now, “TIGHT”.  So gently roll/bend it into shape and then encourage it to stay there by applying a moderate amount of grievous bodily harm.  It other words give it a gentle thumping.  When you have taught it who’s boss and it decides that discretion is the better part of valour and that it had better follow your instructions you can then start to string.
I always start in the middle and then string as near as I can to to the ends.  Then simply repeat the process equidistant between the existing strings.  As you’re doing it some of the ingredients will have the cheek to pop out from the ends.  Just cut off the escaping portions to keep your ends straight, that’ll teach ‘em.  Now rub salt, (preferably sea salt) and pepper around the exterior of your rolled poitrine paying particular attention to the scoured skin which will become the crunchy “crackling”.  And now, finally my good people, you can put away your knives and that bloody string.  Clean down your chopping boards and dispose of escaping bits of ingredients because now the preparation is essentially finished and believe me, I’m as relieved as you are!

What you do now is to place the joint in the fridge preferably overnight.  Don’t cover it and find some way of supporting it so that the air can flow all around it.  A grill or something.  I’ve used half a dozen walnuts before now!  It looks like a log on legs.  Make sure you leave a container or something underneath as it can sometimes lose a fair amount of liquid.  And that is why you do it – so that it dries out a little.

Christmas day at le Clos des Guyons

Here we are on Xmas day with the stuffed pork, celeriac purée, quinelle of beetroot purée, braised endive, a cream sauce of morilles and cêpe mushrooms  and of course all the traditional xmas veg. L to R:- Sheila, me and the charming Family Hofley from New Hampshire, USA; Pamela, Catherine, (on her birthday), Marc, Maureen,Carolyn, (currently at college in France). Our friends Jim and Sue from the UK were also there but Jim was taking the picture and don’t know where Sue was – probably raiding the wine cellar!

The rest is simple: preheat the oven to at least 220°C, take the poitrine from the fridge, rub some more salt and pepper over the skin and put it in the oven in the middle and crackling side up.  After half an hour reduce the temperature to 180°C and lower the shelf.  At this stage you should be able to see the crackling crisping up.  Get rid of any melted fat from the dish and replace the meat in the oven.  You can safely leave it for a least two hours before checking it. (I heartily recommend a cheap meat thermometer for this).  You’ve now got nothing much to do for several hours so use these free hours to prepare the rest of a meal, read a few chapters of War and Peace or, if you are a masochist, a few excruciating lines of Proust or, if you don’t want to exercise your brain too much, a Tom Clancy.  I would however draw the line at Geoffrey Archer.  If, when you check it, the meat has not reached pork temperature simply stick it back in, forget about it for another hour or so and return to your previous activities.  Of course if you have misguidedly started to read Geoffrey Archer you will now have dumped it in the bin so you’ll have to find something else.

In fact the great thing about the dish is that it is almost impossible to overcook, it’s almost “the longer the better” but, when you do take it out, tap the “crackling” it should not be soggy but have a crispy, solid feel to it.  It is now imperative that you loosely wrap it in foil and leave it to rest for at least 45mins.  For meal planning purposes I’d allow around at least 3.5 hours plus the 45min. resting period.  What? Well , you’ll just have to get up earlier won’t you!  And that’s it, after resting I’d cut it into hefty portions around 10cms. thick and not as thin slices.  Arrange on the plates with your bits and pieces arranged around it and enjoy your hard work – whilst you bore your guests to death explaining how to tie a butcher’s knot.  Me, I’m going to Chez Sonia, the village bar.

Bon courage

Brian

Gites in the Loire Valley

Loire Valley Wine Tours

Je suis Charlie. Amazing Scenes in France as the Population Unites

Angers, je suis charlie

Angers, Sunday. Picture taken from our local paper as we just couldn’t get the right perspective.

Je suis CharlieOn Sunday the French people came out onto the streets in a amazing display of unity after the horrors which they have suffered in the past few days.  In fact it’s ironic that these brutal terrorists have succeeded in bringing the French together more than anything else could have done.  Millions were in Paris and here, in the ancient dukedom of Anjou, there was overwhelming support.  The centre of our “prefecture” of Angers was crammed with 45 000 people all holding their “Je suis Charlie” signs and holding aloft pencils as a sign of press freedom.  In the Place du Ralliement, on the steps of the magnificent theatre were hundreds of candles and giant white boards placed for people to write their own heartfelt messages.  We left ours.

“Nous sommes anglais et toujour Charlie”

à bientôt et bon courage
Brian et Sheila

Gites in the Loire Valley
Loire Valley Wine Tours.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Happy 2015 from us all in the Loire Valley.

Happy 2015 from us all in the Loire Valley.

Bonjour Everyone,

People around the world have been busy celebrating Christmas and at Clos des Guyons it has been go go go too, but one that we have thoroughly enjoyed with guests and friends, which included not only the usual Christmas festivities but birthday celebrations along the way too!

As we are step into a fresh New Year, Brian and I wish our clients, family and friends a marvellous New Year filled with joy and treasured moments ahead.

Its the start of the slow season for us now for a while and so we are looking forward to peace and tranquility to recharge our batteries!

But we would like to say a big thankyou for all the wonderful support, friendship and encouragement given by our Clos des Guyons guests old and new, it is so appreciated. This year we have clocked TEN years running our gites in Le Puy Notre Dame and many happy memories have been made during this time.

May the year 2015 be a beautiful, blessed and magical New Year for you all.

We hope a visit to the Loire Valley may be one of your holiday destinations to enjoy in 2015.

With Much Love and of course ‘Bon Santé’

Sheila

CHRISTMAS GREETINGS FROM ‘LE CLOS DES GUYONS’ IN LE PUY NOTRE DAME.

Aperitifs on Christmas Eve here at Le Clos des Guyons in the Loire Valley.

Aperitifs on Christmas Eve here at Le Clos des Guyons  in the Loire Valley, France.

From our guests and neighbours at Le Clos des Guyons, Le Puy Notre Dame, in the heart of the Val de Loire, we are raising our glasses to wish all our lovely clients both old and new, friends and family far away, a “Joyeux Noel” and “Very Merry Christmas”!

the local "tuffeau" limestone.  Totally inefficient of course but what a centre-piece!

The 300 year old traditional Loire fireplace made from the local “tuffeau” limestone. Totally inefficient of course but what a centre-piece!

Here we are in the photograph (Sheila is missing because she is taking it) with our neighbours and current guests from Kent and New Hampshire, USA, in our Salon in front of a roaring fire at the start of our Christmas Eve Reveillon, sharing conversation and aperitifs over a Magnum of the Domaine de la Paleine’s Saumur sparkling wine.  It was such a perfect Christmassy evening before the feasting of our delicious six course meal paired with other amazing Loire wines.

We sincerely hope you too enjoy a lovely Christmastime and holiday wherever you are!

There are lots of things to do over the next week, Christmas markets everywhere to enjoy with all the local artisan production of gift ideas, foods and wines and Chateaux and castles to visit ALSO last but not least our Wine Tour around the Le Puy vineyards and Wine Tasting in the village.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL!

Sheila and Brian

http://www.closdesguyons.com and http://www.facebook.com

A 2010 Coteaux de Saumur from the Domaine de Paliene here in Le Puy Notre Dame

Coteaux de Saumur – A Mythical Sweet Wine from the Loire

I recently read a very interesting post about sweet wines from France on Jill Barth’s excellent blog. So I thought I’d do something on the superb but little known wine fom the Saumur vineyard – le Coteaux de Saumur. The reason that this superb wine is so little known is that it is incredibly rare with an appellation of only 12 hectares, (less than 30 acres). The total yield is around 40000 litres but, in reality, it never reaches this quantity and in many years none is made at all and in others just one or two winemakers may decide to do it. This is why I always refer to it as a “mythical” wine when we are tasting it on wine tours.

The cépage is 100% Chenin and the vines have to grown on “islands” within the greater Saumur appellation where the chalky limestone comes to the surface. It is no coincidence that most of the production is centred around Champigny and Le Puy Notre Dame both “lieu-dit”, (named places – sort of Grand Crus) of Saumur.

I would describe the wine as aristocratic, with the limestone giving it an elegance which is sometimes missing in the more alcoholic stickies of the Coteaux du Layon. In the glass you will find a rich golden colour, fine fruit with hints of waxy honey and a cornucopia of exotic fruit flavours particularly lychées. The one I know best and a serial award winner is from just round the corner here in Le Puy Notre Dame from the renowned Domaine de la Paleine. The 2006 developed a distinct nose of mandarins whilst the 2010 had it from the start. There is always a vibrant acidity which balances the luscious sweetness. Made by a selective “tri” with anything between three and five passes through the vineyard it is then normally put in oak barrels for at least a year. The intense sweetness and acidy mean that the wine is almost eternal, (I have actually drunk a wine from 1856 which was still perfect although of course the actual appellation name didn’t exist at that time, it wasn’t granted until 1966).
Here in the Loire, it has several uses; as an aperitif, as the classic accompaniment to foie-gras and, my particular favourite, alongside the soft, salty French blue cheeses like Roquefort and St. Agur etc, a taste made in heaven. Of course it is also used as a dessert wine but perhaps not as often as you would think.
Price wise it is very competitive when compared to a similar quality Sauternes primarily because our region still makes wine to drink and, as yet, wine isn’t really bought for the prestige of its label although I have detected a slow but pronounced upward movement as the quality of the wine attracts more and more aficionados. A half bottle would cost around €17 whilst a comparable Sauternes would cost immensely more.

So, if you can find a bottle grab it with both hands. If you can’t you’ll just have to visit the Royal Valley of France, le Val de Loire

Brian

http://www.closdesguyons.com

Le Puy Notre Dame, France.