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.

The Singing Nuns of Doué la Fontaine

A group of Nuns enjoying themselves - no reason why they shouldn't of course!

A group of  Nuns enjoying themselves during a fête- no reason why they shouldn’t of course!

Went to our nearby town of Doué la Fontaine the other day where there was a fête in progress.  I forget what the reason for the festivities were, (if any is needed), but everyone seemed to be having a good time including the nuns who were singing and dancing along with the best of them!

à bientôt
Brian

Gites in the Loire Valley
Loire Wine Tours
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Is Asparagus an aphrodisiac?

Pasta with asparagus, lardons, mozzerella and basil.

Pasta with asparagus, lardons, mushrooms, onions, cream and scattered with parmesan

We are celebrating the arrival of our lovely garden asparagus again – a wonderful time of the year and in abundance in our vegetable garden.

There are so many recipes to try with it both fresh and raw, we have it in quiches, soups, salads, pastas – the list is endless. Our favourite is in pasta with mushrooms, lardons, onions and cooked asparagus thrown in at the last minute. Apparently in ancient times, asparagus was renowned as an aphrodisiac! Regardless of its powers to put you in the mood though, this savory vegetable contains a stimulating blend of nutrients, making this member of the lily family alongside onions, leeks and garlic a fantastic food for your health. We will have to let you know if it lies true to its ‘aphrodisiac’ reputation, (Brian insists that this is a fallacy – as with oysters and he’s eaten enough so he should know)!  but one thing we can vouch for is it causes stinky pee!  Scientists aren’t entirely sure why. Most evidence seems to suggest that not everyone can smell the odor and some scientists think that not everyone produces it. Either way, there are no harmful effects.

And so we will continue enjoying our harvest and sharing garden produce with our Clos des Guyons guests during their stay! Not sure if they will let us know about the asparagus aphrodisiac affects though!!! That would be telling wouldn’t it!!

The asparagus season has about another week to go and we’re now into cherries – and that’s another story!

Bon Appetit

Sheila and Brian

Gites in the Loire Valley
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Loire Valley Wine Tours

A 170 Year Old Champagne

An 170 year old nectar.

An 170 year old nectar.

Those of you who know me or who have done one of our Loire Wine Tours will be aware that I am unashamedly biased in favour of our two local sparklers “Saumur Brut” and “Crémant de Loire”.  I am not a fan of the upstart “Champagne”.  And I am in good company with many wine writers both here in France and abroad considering that the average standard of our sparkling wine is superior to the average standard of the sparkling wine made in Champagne.  Therefore I very rarely write about the latter. However, I make an exception in this case because it is a truly unique story.  170 years ago a ship sunk in the Baltic.  On board were

168 bottles of Champagne from the houses of Veuve Clicquot, Ponsardin, Heidsieck and Juglar.  In 2010 the bottles were discovered, still intact, lying at a depth of 50 metres. They were salvaged, chemically analysed and tasted.  The results of this research has given an intriguing idea of the tastes of wine lovers in the middle of the XIXth. century. Philip Jeandet, professor of Food Chemistry at the University of Reims, (in Champagne of course) said that it was still an impressive wine, with a long length and notes of tobacco and leather.  Professional wine tasters said that, despite it’s age, the wine still seemed young with floral notes and lots of fruit.  Which is some achievement.

So what have we learned:  Firstly that the wine must have been very well made indeed and secondly that, if you wish to keep your wine for as long as possible, put it under 50 metres of sea water.

So I’m going to raise a glass of Crémant de Loire to those anonymous winemakers of 170 years ago – and hope like hell I don’t find any taste of leather in the wine!

Bon Dégustation
Brian
Loire Valley Wine Tours
One Day Loire Wine Tour

VISIT TO CHATEAU DE FESLES DEEP IN THE HEART OF BONNEZEAUX

Chateaux de Fesles, Grand Vin de Loire winemakers known to be the Yquem of the Loire Valley,  fronted by its Italianate rose gardens. This wine appellation has the benefit of a temperate but dry oceanic climate known as the "Angevin sweetness". The winemaker is Jean Pierre SAUVION.

Chateaux de Fesles, Grand Vin de Loire winemakers known as the Yquem of the Loire Valley, fronted by its Italianate rose gardens. This wine appellation has the benefit of a temperate but dry oceanic climate known as the douceur angevine  “Angevin sweetness”. The winemaker is Jean Pierre SAUVION.

One of the advantages of ‘Living in the Loire’ is that it enables us to indulge in our pleasure of visiting lovely chateaux and discovering new wines of the region whenever we get chance and yesterday was one of those days when we were invited to visit the renowned Chateaux de Fesles, (pronounced “Felle”) situated in the district of Thouarcé in the Anjou region very close to the village of Bonnezeaux itself, lying about twenty kilometres south of Angers and about thirty minutes from our gites at Le Clos des Guyons. So, off we went through the delightful countryside around Thouarcé, driving past the sloping vineyards and herds of white, Charolais cattle lying in the sunshine.  That is the cattle were lying in the sunshine not the vines!.

A presentation bottle of the 2010 Chateau Fesles Bonnezeaux

A presentation bottle of the 2010 Chateau de Fesles Bonnezeaux

Chateau de Fesles is a magnificent estate dating back to 1070, however, records of producing superb wine are really found in the 1870’s when purchased by the Boivin family. It has one of the greatest reputations in Angers and is certainly the grandest. Several owners later it still has an enormous reputation.  The estate covers 33 hectares of which only 14 are classified as AC Bonnezeaux. These 14 hectares lie on the slope of the hill immediately around the chateau and are planted with Chenin Blanc.  These vineyards slope down to the river Layon and it is the humidity and the rising Autumn mist which encourages the “Noble Rot” which gives their impeccable Bonnezeaux its unique taste.The soil here is stony, Silurian soil covered by a mixture of decomposed shale as well as blue and red clay.  As well as Chenin Blanc on the slopes on the plateau both Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are planted for an Anjou Rouge and some Grolleau and Gamay for the Anjou Rosé. On entering their reception/tasting room we had a friendly welcome before being guided through various tastings including their Chenin Sec Blanc “La Chapelle” Vieilles Vignes, Anjou Rouge, Cabernet d’Anjou, Rosé d’Anjou and lastly different vintages of their prestigious and delicious Bonnezeaux sweet wine which was mind blowing making you appreciate the subtle differences between each vintage; How these wines age so gracefully over the years!

Wine slumbering in oak at Fesles

Wine slumbering in Oak and Arcaia barrels at Chateau det Fesles

We were not disappointed with any of the wines we tasted and were tempted to buy a few bottles including their 2014 ‘La Chapelle’ Vieilles Vignes Anjou Blanc (limited edition No 18088) a dry white wine made with 100% Chenin grapes and matured in oak casks for 12 months. It has a lovely straw colour and a nose of, lime and elderberry and the typical Chenin white fruits and citron. Very well balanced and a lingering finish – we loved it. Also we chose their 2014 Rose d’Anjou, a beautiful salmon pink colour, delicately perfumed with strawberries, well balanced and we thought an exceptional aperitif wine!  The local grolleau, when used judiciously gives an almost pinot noir feel to a Rosé.  Finally, a visit to Chateau de Fesles wouldn’t have been complete without purchasing some of their exquisite Bonnezeaux. This is a hand crafted production  and like all great sweet wines takes patience and courage with harvesting taking place ‘berry by berry’ by ‘multiple passes’ through the vineyard, a process known as “tri”.  Its work which is intensive, time consuming needs a lot of belief. We selected their 2010 Vin Rare – an excellent year – the wine was bursting with luscious honey, lychees and melon with that typical lemon on the finish.  As Sheila pointed out this would be perfect to share with our guests for her special birthday celebration looming in a few months time and so now it’s slumbering in our wine chais at Le Clos des Guyons waiting for the occasion. However it is important to realise that Sheila is a bit like the Queen in that her birthday celebration can take well over a month so when it will get opened I’m not quite sure!. Before leaving we had a quick tour of the operation including their cave fitted with rows of Oak and Arcaia barrels full of Bonnezeaux and Chenin just resting in air conditioned tranquility! What a grand and noble sight! After we had filled our car boot we decided to enjoy the hot sunshine and took a walk around outside and admired their beautiful rolling vineyards next to the Layon river. All in all a memorable visit with helpful and friendly staff !  Indeed we have always found that the Loire wine region welcomes its visitors with warmth and friendliness and the only problem is that tastings can last much longer than anticipated!  Well, when I say problem…………..?!

Bon dégustation Brian Loire Valley Wine Tours Gites in the Loire Valley

A Rare Rosé from the Loire – AOC Touraine – Noble Joué

Touraine-Noble_Joué

Touraine-Noble-Joué

“Le Salon des Vins de Loire” in Angers is the largest professional wine event in the region, however this year I am not going to write about all the new wines as I do every year but instead I’m posting about a particular wine that I have long known about for many years but never got round to tasting until this year when I found it on the stand of Jean-Jaques Sard. The wine is Touraine – Noble Joué, a relatively unknown wine appellation. However, it’s more than merely a wine because it has an incredible history of which could be titled, “the fall and rise of a wine”.

It’s a very good Rosé or more correctly a “Vin Gris” ie., a white wine made from red grapes. In this case a subtle blend of the three “P’s”:- Pinot Noir, Pint Gris and Pinot Meunier, which are not exactly common grapes in this part of the Loire.

Some weeks after tasting the wine at the “Le Salon des Vins de Loire”,  I decided to take a trip over to the vineyard together with my friend Robert, to meet Jérémie Pierru who has taken over the management of the vineyard from Jean-Jaques Sard. After a pleasant lunch on route in the medieval fortress town of Chinon, we continued our journey onwards to the vineyard at the hamlet of Le Pavillion just outside the village of Esvres to the East of Joué le Tour.  We had an uneventful journey apart from the GPS bizarrely saying that we had reached our destination whilst we were in fact in the middle of a three-lane motorway!  There you go!  When we finally arrived we were met by Jérémie who gave us a superb welcome and guided tour, clearly very proud of both the wine and what he had achieved as slowly but surely he develops the vineyard and the commercial presence of what is a unique wine.

It was fascinating to discover it was a favourite of the Valois King Louis XI who reigned from 1461 to 1483 thus the wine has an ancient and honourable history!  However the wine then became lost as the vineyards were swallowed up by the encroaching city of Tours, although it was still winning several awards at the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris.  In fact its “home”, Joué le Tours is now an urbanised suburb of the city full of petrol stations and DIY stores so,  on first appearance, it’s difficult to see where the vineyards are.

The wine was resurrected in 1975 using the original cépages, by a group of winemakers including Jean-Jaques Pierru together with the help of the IANO, the French appellation control body.  Thus we can really say that this wine has been brought back from extinction. Like the sweet Coteaux de Saumur which I spoke about on my last wine blog, the wine is incredibly rare, the whole appellation being no more that 30 hectares, tiny for a Rosé.

We tasted the 2014. In the glass, Noblé – Joué has a very attractive pale pink aspect which reflects the red grapes used.  On the nose, what hit me first of all was an almost Chenin like note of pears and beneath that red fruits and a very aromatic floral overlay.  Really refreshing and with an excellent length for a Rosé. This wine would be excellent nicely chilled on a warm summers evening, accompanied with charcuterie and the famous ‘Rilletes’ of Touraine, fresh pasta, meat or fish grills.  Esentially dry the wine has a tiny hint of sugar which pleasantly rounds it of.

Winery at La Perrieres

Winery at Le Pavillion

I don’t suppose that it will be easy to get hold of this rare wine outside the Loire, but certainly those staying at our gites at Le Clos des Guyons or doing one of our Wine Tours here will be able to taste it and we can only hope that as the wine becomes more established so will its availability and success.  I loved it!

Bon dégustation!

Brian
Loire valley Wine Tours
Gites in the Loire Valley

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