GRATIEN AND MEYER “Balcon sur Loire” Cremant de Loire AOC Brut
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.
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
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!
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!
Sheila and Brian