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.
Gites in the Loire Valley
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.
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This morning we have wall to wall sunshine and a beautiful blue sky. The church bells are ringing loudly to remind us that it’s a special day in the vllage of Le Puy Notre Dame (translated ‘the hill of our lady’) dominated by its massive Collegiale and imposing spires and pinnacles, built in 1163 (the choir was finished in 1182 followed by the Nave in 1208, and the towers sometime between 1225-1250). Today is the annual pilgrimage where a celebration and hommage is taking place to the Saint Centure starting with mass this morning and then glass of wine and picnic in the Salle de Fete, finishing with prayers again in the afternoon.
The history to this is that Le Puy had become known as Puy-la-Montagne by 1793 and the hill of Puy as Mary’s Mountain. William 9th, Duke of Aquitaine, is reputed to have brought back a waistband of the Virgin Mary from the Crusades and deposited it in the church. His granddaughter Eleanor of Aquitaine founded a Collegiale church to honour the relic which, according to legend, facilitated pregnancies and favoured the birth of a son. Louis XI founded a chapter about 1480 and this became a site of pilgrimage the Sunday after 8 September. The relic (Holy belt) can still be viewed here – it’s placed in a belt of fine silk and measures 1,60 m x 4 cm. On the choir stalls at the back of the photo is the carving which became the emblem of Le Puy and it’s winemakers.
Le Puy Notre Dame became a stop on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostelle and 17th century hostelries used by the pilgrims still exist showing clearly the scallop shell, a symbol of the route and badge of the hostelries.
And so there it is.
Why not come and pay a visit to our beautiful Collegiale and appreciate its rich history. You won’t be disappointed.