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.

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



Le Puy Notre Dame, France.

A Treasure in Cars

Millions of Eros worth of classic cars.  Forgotten in an old barn

Millions of euros worth of Classic Cars forgotten in an old barn!!

Les Deux-Sèvres is our adjoining Departement, just a few minutes down the road.  It is not particularly famous, very rural with a handful of large towns.  However, it is very much favoured by ex-pats who enjoy living in the countryside and the reasonable property prices. Echiré is a village of around 3 200 on the edge of Niort, one of the largest towns in les Deux-Sévres.  It is also the last place one would have expected to find …… ‘treasure’!  Not, it is true, a cashe of medieval objects which you would perhaps expect to find in a country as historic as France, in fact something much more modern but extremely valuable nevertheless.

The Ferrari 250 California, owned for a time by Alain Delon and worth it's weight in gold!.

The Ferrari 250 California, owned for a time by Alain Delon and literally worth it’s weight in gold!.

Roger Baillon was a haulier and also an avid collector of old vehicles.  He died in the early 2000’s and his collection, stored in a ramshackle barn, was simply forgotten about by his family and, when his son died recently, the inheritors of the estate asked for the collection to be valued.  I imagine that both the family and the valuer have still not recovered from the shock of the said valuation.
In fact, the collection, covered in dust, straw, old newspapers and old rubbish revealed some of the most valuable cars in the world. To name just a few:-
A Ferrari 250 California owned by the French film-star Alain Delon. Designed by Pinifarina, only 52 were ever made.  All of which have now disappeared.  The car behind the rubbish is now valued at a stunning 9 to 12 million Euros.  Alongside it was a 1948 A6G Gran SportTalbot Lago T26 formerly owned by King Farouk of Egypt.  Nearby was a Maserati A6G Grand Sport Frua dating from 1956 and now one of only three in existence and, behind a stack of empty oil drums a Hispano Suiza H6B dating from the 1930’s.
In all the collection included up to 300 vehicles and, despite the efforts of les Deux-Sévres to keep the collection in the Departement, it now looks as if it will be auctioned in Paris on the 6th February in Paris.  The total value is expected to be over 16 million Euros.

So, there you go, have a look in your old out-buildings, you never know.  I’ve had a look in mine and I’ve found an old bucket and a load of empty wine bottles.  No treasure for me then!

à bientôt

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How much does a French Vineyard Cost?


A vineyard in the Loire side village of Montsoreau. How would you like to own something like this?

Imagine a beautiful warm evening, you are sitting on your terrace, sipping a glass of your own luscious wine as the sun sets behind your rolling vineyards.  This scenario has long been a dream for many lovers of French wine and culture but how much will it cost?  Let’s have a look.

We’ll leave aside the cost of tools and equipment which can vary enormously depending on a number of factors but is always a huge expenditure but we’ll concentrate here on what is clearly the biggest expense of all which is of course, the vineyard itself and the valuation of that depends on a multitude of factors including the appellation, the region and the position and orientation of the vineyards.

So, to give you an idea, here are the current average prices throughout France.  Cheapest appellation vineyards are probably priced at around €10 000 per hectare, (an hectare is 2.47 acres), in regions like Gaillac in the south west or Valençay in the Loire, whilst a hectare of vineyard in the Nantais, (Muscadet) would come even cheaper at €8 000.  At the other end of the scale are vineyards in Margaux which would come in at €1m per hectare and just next door in Paulliac you could expect to pay up to double that for the privilege of owning an hectare of vines, but then again the appellation is the home of three of the most expensive wines in the world:- the Chateaux Latour; Mouton Rothschild and Lafite Rothschild.

If you’re into Champagne be prepared to fork out €1m.  In the middle range are Châteauneuf de Pape at €350 000 with €140 000 required to make a glass of grassy, fruity Sancerre and €95 000 for a sturdy Crozes-Hermitage from the Northern Rhone.

Here in the Western Loire it’s quite complicated not least because of the multitude and complexity of appellations.  A hectare of Anjou or Anjou Village would probably set you back some €13 000 with another €3 000 required for vines in the Coteaux du Layon.  The “lieu-dit” of Quarts du Chaume would cost €18 000 as would Savenierre near Angers.  A Saumur hectare would be around €17 000 and here in the new appellation of Saumur Puy Notre Dame you would have to pay up to €36 000.  In the better known and longer established appellation of Saumur-Champigny you would be looking at €56 000 on average.

So there you go, have a look down the back of the sofa and see what you can afford!

à bientôt

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Angers – The best place to live in France.

The stunning chateau at Angers

The stunning chateau at Angers

Angers is the prefecture of Maine et Loire the modern departement which roughly coincides with the ancient dukedom of Anjou, effectively its capital. It is part of the large and varied region of Pays de la Loire with its main town of Nantes. Like Anjou the region of Pays de la Loire is very different depending where you are, from the resorts, oyster beds and ports on the Atlantic Coast to the inland Loire of wine, chateaux and history.  One thing is certain however and that is that for the rest of France the region is one which the French themselves love and think is the best place to live.  For several years now both Nantes and Angers have  had the annual accolade of having, “La mieux vivre en France”,  the best life in France.  For the last three years a survey, carried out by the French daily L’Expresse,  has rated Angers the best with Nantes the second.  Every year the survey uses 24 different criteria  to reach it’s decision including things like greenspace, transport, health, leisure, crime and the general solidarity of its population.  It is very difficult to find one major reason but, for us the mildness of the climate and the way that we normally seem to avoid extremes of storms, hail, floods etc.  is very important.  For example, this year thousands of hectares of vines have been destroyed throughout famous French Wine Appellations such as Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne whilst here in the Saumur and Anjou we are looking forward to a  2014 Loire Vintage which the president of the winemakers association has called, “presque parfait” – almost perfect.  As storms and heavy hailstorms hit both North and South the meteorologist on TV explained the Anjou had escaped and, as always, was, “between the two”.

The Place de Ralliement in Angers.  Ancient buildings, Restaurants, theatre and a modern Tram system.  A snapshot of Angers.

La Place du Ralliement in Angers. Ancient buildings, restaurants, theatre and a modern tram system. A snapshot of Angers.

I have often mentioned the “Douceur Angevine”, the terms used to describe life in general in Anjou and which literally means the sweetness of life.  The term is far from being a myth and refers not just to the climate but to the general easy going, gentle way of life and the pleasant, pretty countryside fertile and full of livestock, crops and vines.  And through it all rolls the mighty Loire with it’s own riverside towns and chateaux and which effectively links the whole of this lovely region.

Angers itself has always been one of our favourite towns: clean, vibrant, dripping with history, full of museums and art galleries which reflect an intellectual side emanating from it’s famous university.  Add in the literally hundreds of bars, restaurants and theatres and it’s ongoing calendar of music both classic and modern and it’s very difficult to beat.  But, for all that, we would say that,for us, our pretty wine village of Le Puy Notre Dame with it’s gothic church, it’s vineyards and it’s position on both the Route du Vin and the Pilgrim’s route to St. Jacques de Compostelle is of course “the best of the best” but, being unashamedly biased, we would say that wouldn’t we and we are proud to think of ourselves as adopted “angevin”

à bientôt

Brian and Sheila

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Language Minefields

Poster in a shoe shop in Doué la Fontaine. Don't think that they were quite aware of the nuances!

Poster in a shoe shop in Doué la Fontaine. Don’t think that they were quite aware of the nuances!

Many of our French friends think that English is very simple to learn and to start with, of course, they are quite right.  None of that confusing le and la or tu or vous.  But, my contention has always been that when a non-native speaker tries to go to another level the sheer complexity of possible constructions which English uses can lead to a whole minefield of potential “faux-pas”.  Of course for a non-french speaker French has exactly the same problems it’s just that I think that English probably has more of them.

This poster was in a shoe-shop in nearby Doué la Fontaine and obviously the publicist hasn’t really been made aware of another potential meaning!

Doué la Fontaine

October in Anjou

There are times when the term la Douceur Angevine really does live up to it’s name. The term means the sweetness of life in Anjou and Saumur and throughout France the term is used to describe the region adding to the fame of its wine, history, culture and, of course, its chateaux. It doesn’t just mean its mild weather either, but the general laid back, relaxed attitude to life. The picture was taken on a Sunday morning from within the Bar le France, (as usual I have to say that it is “le France” and not as you would expect “la France” nobody really seems to be quite sure why)! The bar is also a licensed betting shop called a “PMU” and that is how it is normally referred to. For me It’s a meeting place for what a group of us call our “charity work” i.e., making sure that bars continue to survive in these hard economic times. It’s hard, selfless work but someone has to do it.  The temperature was around 28°C, not bad for late October and the stall that you can see in the background is selling shellfish from the region’s Atlantic seaboard.

à bientôt


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Crémant de Loire

Cremant de Loire

Must apologise for the shake on the video. I couldn’t get rid of it no matter what software I used!

Crémant de Loire is a sparkling wine from the Loire as the names suggests.  Normally appellations this size can produce wine of some questionable quality but what makes Crémant so special is the individual rules within the appellation.  For example everything has to be cut by hand and then put in the containers which you can see on the video.  Because it is a Loire appellation it allows grapes which are grown throughout the Saumurois, Anjou and the Touraine including Burgundy like cépages of the Eastern Loire, (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay over to the melon of the Nantais (Muscadet). Here, on the limestone soils of Saumur the pre-dominant white grape is Chenin (Blanc) although most Crémants are a blend.  This particular one from La Domaine de la Paleine is normally 80% Chenin and 20% Charrdonnay.  The Saumurois is France’s second largest producer of sparkling wine after Champagne and a combination of soil types, know-how, (or savoir faire, I suppose I should say) plus the severity of the appellation rules can make a wine full of flavour with fine, elegant bubbles and up there with the best.  There is also a Rosé version normally made with Cabernet Franc or Pineau d’Aunis but La Paleine does a very interesting one using Pinot Noir with a distinct taste of the fruit and “compost” that we traditionally associate with Pinot.  

Bon dégustation


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