Bonne Fete du Premier Mai!!

Bonjour to all our readers!

Mughet

Les Muguet, (Lily of the Valley) given as a gift on May Day here in the Loire Valley.

We are fast approaching May day. It’s the Fete du Travail or Fete des Travailleurs (National Labour Day) and a public bank holiday in France, but it’s also the celebration of the start of the Spring season.

A long standing custom here in the Loire Valley is to buy or pick sprigs of Lily of the Valley as a ‘Port-Bonheur’ (lucky charm) for your friends, neighbours and loved ones, and they call it La Fete du Muguet (Lily of the Valley Day). 

These beautiful little bunches of fragrant spring flowers are on sale leading up to May Day in shops and supermarkets, either as cut flowers or as plants in little pots. They are indeed a perfect gift for anyone even though they are only last a few days.

We are so lucky to have lots of these delightful perfumed flowers in our garden at Le Clos des Guyons.

Muguet

Our Muguet patch. With a bit of luck it’ll be flooding the garden with its aroma by Mayday.

They fill the air with their aroma as you walk from the courtyard into the garden and soon and  I will be making pretty bunches for our neighbours in rue du Moulin and, of course, our gite guests too!!

Asparagus

Some Asparagus that Brian missed this morning – not to mention the string. Wait ’till I see him!

Another sign of Spring (albiet very late this year), is the masses of Asparagus that are growing at an amazing rate in the hot sunshine.  Brian clears the bed in the morning and the next day there is as much again.  They’re clearly making up for lost time.

And so in accordance with French customs (of which there are many),  here’s wishing you all a Happy May Day!!

‘Bonne Fete du Muguet’

Sheila and Brian

PS. A lovely balmy evening, sitting on “la terrace”  heavy with the aromas of our  Wisteria and Lilac trees. We have a chilled glass of Franck Bimont’s “Vente du Nord”‘  in hand and listening to a Nightingale singing  his head off from the top of a huge Walnut tree!  Heaven!

Gites in Loire Valley

GRATIEN AND MEYER “Balcon sur Loire” Cremant de Loire AOC Brut

balcon sur Loire

The view from the “Balcon sur Loire” at Gratien et Meyer

Bonjour Mes Amis!

One of the things that we find most enjoyable about living in the Loire is the relaxed ‘douceur angevine’ and the sense of a slower pace of life here.

Alongside that, we love the opportunity that running our gites and wine tours gives us to meet new people, not only our guests, but also other partners in tourisme. This Monday morning was  one of those such days having been invited to Gratien and Meyer (France’s premier sparkling wine specialist in Saumur on the route to Montsoreau),  to join them and their other partners Relais Flamme (professionals in tourisme), for cocktails at 11am and to view their new Salle de Reception called  ‘Le Balcon sur Loire’ de Gratien & Meyer in the heart of the Domaine.

Gratien

Slumbering wine in the cellars of Gratien et Meyer

We drove to Saumur using the scenic route through Montreuil Bellay, Fontenvraud and Souzay Champigny, which is a leisurely fifteen minute drive from Le Clos des Guyons.  On arrival, after passing the Chateau and walking through their huge delightful landscaped parc to the reception area,  we found a very convivial group of people and familiar faces, all very happy to have been invited and eager to view this venue we had been hearing about.

After we had all arrived, we made our way through the factory (not open to the public) up a large staircase and viewed their bottling area en route.  We finally reached the ‘Balcon sur Loire’ Reception  and found it to have the most wonderful terraced balcony with exceptional views of the Chateau towering over a panoramic and unique view of the Loire!  It was quite an experience to be so elevated and you indeed felt as if you were suspended between the sky and the Loire, plus the sun was shining to add to the overall ambiance!

What a wonderful venue for any occasion and would highly recommend it, perfect for weddings, meetings or celebrations, holding up to 140 people.  We were shown into the catering areas too where it took me a while to work out that when the guide spoke about the ‘grande chambre frois’ she was in fact referring to a fridge – but gigantic at that – well it would have to be to hold all those bottles of bubbles wouldn’t it!

After the viewing, our guide took us on the tourist circuit deep into the caves. We found  this to be so interesting and full of  history including the Gratien & Meyer family with displays of old photographs of them and of the wine production and workers years ago.  We viewed the ancient wine equipment (labour intensive and clumsy compared to the unique and speedy automation and robots used today). Also to mention the experience of viewing the thousands of bottles of wine thickly covered in dust carefully stacked around in nooks and crannies!

The history is that in 1864, Alfred Gratien bought a piece of land known as “Le Petit Puy” in the Saumur that was riddled with old mining shafts created during the mining of limestone (locally known as “pierre de tuffeau” or tuffeau limestone) in the 12th Century, and established 10 km of underground passages founding the winery. In the same year, Alfred Gratien, who was 23 years old at the time, founded two wine houses, one in the Loire Valley near Saumur, and the other in the Champagne region in Epernay. In 1874, he made Albert Jean Meyer, an enthusiastic wine connoisseur from Alsace, his partner to ensure the continuation of the company. Today, the house of Gratien & Meyer continues this legacy by producing traditional wines of character and elegance, which are matured for many months in the underground passages dug out of the tuffeau limestone bedrock.

To end the visit we indulged in delicious cocktails and a degustation  of  their new Gremant de Loire AOC  Brut

The new Crémant de Loire from Gratien et Meyer, "Balcon sur Loire".

The new Crémant de Loire from Gratien et Meyer, “Balcon sur Loire”.

appropriately named after the new Salle de Reception ‘Balcon sur Loire”.  This is an elegant, refreshing sparkling wine with a clear bright colour and persistent bubbles galore through the glass.  For this part of the Loire the cépage of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir is quite unusual but the Chardonnay gave a distinct buttery feel whilst their were distinct toasty notes in the mouth.  I am sure it’s going to be a very popular addition to an already prestigious range of Saumur sparkling wines!

This is a friendly place to spend an afternoon whilst visiting Saumur and all the staff are well versed about their wines and the language is not a problem with most speaking English for their guests. I would recommend a tasting of the Cremant Flamme D’Or – and their sweet fizzy Cardinal Rouge enjoyed with strawberries or chocolate on a hot summer day. Wine tastings are available all the year round and in the summer months English tours are available on certain afternoons by appointment.

Guests of Le Clos des Guyons are offered free admission of these guided wine tours and tastings during their stay with us (which also includes a generous discount on  purchases) and we  make that rendezvous for you!

jass and bubbles

Throughout the summer Gratien et Meyer run a series of Jazz Boules(Bubbles) evenings.

Just to mention that in the summer months the Chateau hosts a Jazz Bubbles evening most Fridays in July and August (see our ‘What’s On’ on our website).  There are plenty of seats on the terrace and it’s such a pleasure listening to the jazz, whilst looking down on the river and town of Saumur enjoying your flutes of fizz!!  Also you can enjoy watching the hot air balloons around the chateau.  The terrace is on a steep hill, but there is parking both at the top and bottom of the parc, however, if you have a mobility problem you can usually park at the top.  During the Jazz Bubbles evenings Gratien and Meyer run a Minibus to get you up and down the hill so  ‘pas de problem’!

We were just back in time for lunch in the village to sit outside on the little terrace of Le Bouchon Ponot Restaurant for their Plat du Jour and some crusty bread, followed by a little siesta ……..!

Living in the Loire and the ‘douceur angevine’ is a nice way of life, which returning guests each year can vouch for!!

Allez!! The Gratien and Meyer experience is highly recommended!

A bientot!

Sheila and Brian

Wine Tours and Accommodation in the Loire Valley 

Salon des Vins et Terroirs à Thouars (79)

Wine tasting

Tasting glasses at the ready

Another busy week at Le Clos des Guyons  progressing with lots of spring cleaning and painting.  However, despite these chores, we find life is really never dull around here!

Last Saturday morning, saw a blue sky and 19 degrees midday sunshine in Thouars, when we visited the 66th Salon de Vins in the Orangerie at the Chateau des Ducs de la Tremoille with104 viticulteurs from various regions and 50 appellations. We went along with our friends, Robert and Jeanette Guyons, en route to a family birthday party in Louzy where these family events are reknown for being very long but very entertaining, so we were looking forward to it!

On arrival, the entrance to the  Salon had been decorated lovingly with lots of plants and foliage and wine barrels!  We had been invited by Frank Bimont to visit the Stand at DOMAINE DES GUYONS from Le Puy Notre Dame which naturally we all had an interest in, especially Robert being it was his family Domaine!

In the picture below :- Brian, Frank Bimont (current winemaker Domaine des Guyons), Sheila, Robert Guyons (retired winemaker of Domaine des Guyons), wife Jeanette, and a rare picture of us altogether at that, a reminder of the vineyards history and many years of hard work  by retired vigneron Robert and the current winemaker Franck Bimont (and ourselves who bought the property when Robert retired and have continued to enjoy everything about it including the maison, wine chai and history in rue du Moulin, Le Puy Notre Dame)

Two generations of wine makers

Ourselves with Robert et Jeanette Guyon and Franck Bimont. The old and the new winemakers at the Domaine des Guyons

We first tasted the Saumur Blanc ‘Vent du Nord’ from the vineyards in rue du Moulin and ‘L’Ardile’,a lovely golden coloured wine – on the nose violets and smoke with a note of toast; this a powerful and substantial wine. Then followed a Saumur Rouge ‘Odyssée de Franck Bimot’ 2009, a deep garnet coloured red with intense notes of red and black fruits which evolved in the mouth to a long rich finish a good bottle and  lastly we were treated to a glass of Coteaux de Saumur ‘Cuvée des Dame’ 2003, a luscious honeyed wine with a nose of fruit desserts, rich and unctuous – perfect for aperitifs or with chocolate.  Our wine tour guests at Le Clos des Guyons can vouch for these wines which they have tasted during their stay.  There is an opportunity if you are coming to France wine tasting this year, either staying with us in our holiday accommodation or visiting the Loire region, to join in with us on one of our wine tours and tastings.  See our website http://www.closdesguyons.com for details.

We couldn”t get around all the exhibitors, there were so many interesting regional wines but we did our best with more tastings of local Thouarsais wines plus Saumur, Anjou Village, Saumur Champigny, Chinon, Bourgueil, St Nicholas de Bourgueil.

We sampled the Souzay Champigny from Domaine des Cordeleiers, always a warm welcome from Madamme Ratron but by now it was running into lunchtime and we had to leave but not before one last tasting which was a local aperitif called ‘Duhomard’ and there is a story to this which apparently all actually started as a joke.

Sardines from St. Gilles Croix de Vie.

Sardines from St. Gilles Croix de Vie in Brittany. One of the simplest and tastiest of fish dishes BBQ, salt, lemon – done!

Back in 1921 Emile Diacre, a broker in wine and spirits, was taking part in a fishing contest in the Argenton river in the Deux-Sèvres. Feeling a tug on his line, he pulled it out of the water and much to his surprise discovered… a lobster!  His friends weren’t shocked, however, as they explained that they had played a practical joke on Monsieur Diacre, placing the poor crustacean just where he would hook it!  In the end, though, it was Emile who had the last laugh – four years later he invented an apéritif which he called Duhomard in honour of his lobster catch. It is still going strong today, and proudly recognised as an original product of the Thouarsais region. There is even a brotherhood to protect the drink, called the Confrérie du Duhomard!  It’s a mix of alcohol and quinquina bark, gentian roots and soft and bitter orange peel. The fruit is macerated in alcohol for quite some time, and the resulting drink is both bitter and sweet. It comes in a red, white and cherry, the white being sweeter than the red with the cherry having more of a tang. It is mostly drunk neat with ice or with a slice of orange, lemon or lime or is used in cocktails.  A nice one to try!

As we wandered through the Salon des Terroirs to the exit,  it was amazing to see so many different foods ranging from tantalizing cheeses, fois gras, bread of all shapes and sizes, baskets and baskets of oysters from various regions, sardines from  the ville de St Gilles Croix de Vie, charcuteries from Corsica and jams and chutneys made from secret recipes by Les Delices de Flo (The Delights of Flo) in the village of Le Puy Notre Dame!  Before leaving we bought some oysters and sardines from St Gilles Croix de Vie and unusual charcuteries from Corsica in particular a very long black sausisson which looked rather like a huge vanilla pod, I think it’s call Figatellu and apparently it is made from the famous black pigs of Corsica which live in a semi wild state stuffing themselves full of acorns, walnuts and the various herbs from the Maquis.

Oysters Galore

A superb display of Oysters from Brittany. We bought some of the largest. Sadly I can’t eat them because of an allergy but Brian reckoned they were amongst the meatiest and sweetest he has ever tasted.

The visit had been superb not to mention taking advantage of that sunshine too.  We found the welcome and conviviality from all the exhibitors heartwarming  and they showed a  passion and love of their region which was a joy to see.  It is one of our favourite wine fairs and already diaried for another visit next year!

So, onto the village of Louzy where Sandra and Jacques were celebrating their Anniversaire de Marriage and Sandra’s 75th Anniversaire!

We had a  bonne fete starting at midday and finishing late into the night eating many many plates of food and drinking copious glasses of aperitifs, wines, eau du vies not to mention flutes of sparkling wines and chinking of glasses for the endless toasts in between accompanied by singing traditional songs to Sandra and Jacques at the head of the table!  Sandra’s friend, Giselle, shared the same birthday too, so we had to toast and sing everything twice!!!  Mais, c’est la France!

What a day, as I said it’s never dull!

On that note we wish all our guests, family and friends a happy holiday weekend.

Salle de fête Louzy

L’Anniversaire de Jacques et Sandra in the salle de fête at Louzy

Bonnes Pacques et Bon Appetit!

Santé

Sheila and Brian

gites and loire wine tasting holidays