April in the Loire Valley

Spring in the Loire is one of our favourite seasons.  The mass of tourists have not yet arrived yet the bulk of the chateaux and other attractions are open, almost all of them from Easter onwards.  But for us it’s the colours and the freshness of the countryside which we find very appealing.  The vines are bursting into leaf in the mass of vineyards around Le Puy Notre Dame.  The area is dotted with the vibrant yellow of rape and spring flowering plants are bursting out with the exuberance which comes after the short days of winter.  The courtyard and garden here at Le Clos des Guyons becomes a riot of colour, the asparagus starts to go into overdrive producing masses of edible shoots every day, the vegetable garden becomes alive with lettuce and radish, potatoes, peas, beetroot, cauliflower, chard and sprouts are all growing apace. The real bonus is that the whole of our outside space has a glorious aroma of Wisteria, Lily of the Valley and Lilac.  Here are a few photos:  Just click on any to start the gallery.

Happy Spring Gardening


Gites in the Loire Valley




At the end of the afternoon's escorted and 'tutored' "Wine Tasting Discovery Tour" with our guests last week, Angela, Andrew, Bernard and Jan, at the organic vineyard of the Domaine de la Paleine, within walking distance of our holiday gites, making visits all the more enjoyable!

At the end of the afternoon’s escorted and ‘tutored’ “Wine Tasting Discovery Tour” with our guests last week, Angela, Andrew, Bernard and Jan, at the organic vineyard of the Domaine de la Paleine, within walking distance of our holiday gites, making visits all the more enjoyable!


Angela, Andrew, Jan and Bernard, have been returning wine guests since we moved to the Loire Valley in 2001, so naturally they were welcomed with a few glasses of chilled sparkling Saumur Rosé Brut ‘Method Tradionelle’  bubbly after their journey from the UK!

Loire Valley Wine Tours

Sheila on glass washing duty after the wine tasting.

We do so love their comments in our guest book and this one made us feel happy! It said:-

“Another superb holiday in your beautiful part of France! Le Sauvignon is a lovely comfortable gite and your friendly hospitality guaranteed a memorable holiday which was all too short! Many thanks to you Brian for the private Wine Tasting and Tour of the local vineyards which was easily the most enjoyable and interesting one we have ever experienced. We are glad we didn’t miss that! We spent lovely days at interesting places such as Fontenvraud and Montsoreau but sadly eventually ran out of time so we will have to return! Hope the car suspension can cope with all the boxes of wine”!  Voila and Au revoir!

They enjoyed their week’s wine trail around the Loire vineyards and really did struggle to get their boxes into the car!  But as they explained it was for a good reason, as Angela and Andrew’s daughter was getting married next month and they wanted to have the Loire Wines for the big day!  Nice idea!!



…….. wishing everybody a really Happy Easter Weekend and some warm sunny days!

A bientot!

Sheila and Brian

Loire Valley Wine Tours


Take a look at our new website. You can take an informative and entertaining ‘ Wine Discovery Tour’ during your gite holiday. You will have a personal guided tour of the winery including meeting the winemaker, walking the vineyards and galleries of underground caves learning about winemaking methods, then afterwards an extensive ‘tutored tasting’ of their wines. Combine your stay with a visit to Saumur – see the imposing fairytale chateau overlooking the Loire, just one of many local attractions in the Loire Valley France. See our “What to do in the Loire” page





le puy a vins

In Le Puy a Vins Restaurant with our regular guests and friends, Jim and Sue from Kent, who came to Le Clos des Guyons for a March break.

It’s always been a bit difficult for us to eat at Le Puy a Vins Restaurant at 10 rue des hotels, in our village of Le Puy Notre Dame, as we are such good friend of Jean-Yves who is’ le patron’ of the older village restaurant, le Bouchon Ponot  but, as he was on holiday, we ate at le Puy A Vins Restaurant without feeling guilty!  Situated in a wonderful position at the side of the gothic, Collegiale church, the restaurant is just a five minute walk from our holiday accommodation gites “Le Sauvignon” and “Le Chenin” at Le Clos des Guyons  in rue du Moulin.

The ambiance of the restaurant is lovely, with a warm welcome, nice fresh tablecloths and lots of softly lit candles making it all the more inviting. The food was prepared by their excellent chef, David Beaufreton, who offers lots of culinary creativity.  This was accompanied by a bottle of 2010 AOC Saumur “Puy Notre Dame” Vin Rouge made by fifth generation winemaker Bruno Albert of the  ‘Domaine du Vieux Pressoir’ situated in the adjoining commune of  le Vaudelnay. Of course we were not disappointed!  This Domaine now has 26 hectares of AOC Saumur  and Saumur-Puy Notre Dame vineyards located on two hills of different terroir (Turonian and Jurassic) and a high reputation for excellent wines.

We liked the restaurant wine list having an extensive range of over 60 Loire wines, all from the Loire Valley but with an emphasis on the local wines within a 20 kilometre radius. Romain Amblard, is in charge of the wines and he has made his clients very spoilt for choice!

Le Puy a Vins Restaurant offers ‘Cuisine Gourmande” to its customers and is open all the year round for service at midday and evenings. Lunchtimes prices are a  two course menu at 14 Euros or a three course menu for 18 Euros. Evening prices ares a two course menu at 19 Euros or a three course menu at 24 Euros. We are looking forward to making another visit very soon and recommending to our guests but don’t tell Jean-Yves who’s restaurant we will, of course, continue to frequent as well!  In fact we are very lucky indeed to have two quality restaurants in such a small village.

Bon appétit a tous! Sheila and Brian

Gites in the Loire Valley

See all our restaurant reviews here


Aperitifs in the Loire

Barbara and Nick enjoying nibbles and a few flutes of Saumur Brut Sparkling Wine.

It’s been ‘Apero Time’ outside in the courtyard at Le Clos des Guyons this week and our new guests enjoyed the arrival of some wonderful warm Spring sunshine to make their stay in Le Puy Notre Dame complete with temperatures at times up to 25 degrees!  We’ve even got the first asparagus popping through.

Barbara and Nick from Tasmania, who headed to the Loire for a short stay here, enjoyed daily strolls around the village and nearby Chavannes, Sanziers and Vaudelnay, where they were fascinated by the architecture of many beautiful mansions and gateways to be found. Also the many underground caves and and cellars  –  indeed this is the complex basement of the village incorporating 100’s of kilometres of wine cellars and mushroom caves.  Of course they had visits to the Cafe/bar for refreshments after their excercise and to the two restaurants for a lunchtime value ‘Plat du Jour’ at Jean Yve’s Le Bouchon Ponot and neighbouring Le Puy a Vins.  Food is always the essence of French life and culture and so to be part of France you have to be part of the food too! And this is one of our great passions of French life!!

Being wine lovers, on their last day they managed to indulge in a wine visit and tasting session of Loire wines with Brian before they left for their journey to Paris.  Also, courtesy of the Domaine de la Paleine, whose wines they tasted, they managed to organise a delivery of their chosen favourites to be forwarded on to Paris for their extended holiday stay.

Bonne degustations Barbara and Nick and happy memories for us both – we loved to hear of your amazing travel adventures and feel honoured you came to stay with us in Le Puy Notre Dame!


Why not visit our NEW website www.closdesguyons.com?  If you are interested in coming to the Loire Valley combining relaxation with tasting Loire wines, then take a look at our holiday accommodation.  We have Three Star ‘Gites de France’ gites and are ideally situated in the village both for wine domaine tours and tastings, sightseeing and walking to the local restaurants and artisan boulangerie too!


Map of the Wine Appellations of the Loire

Map of the Wine Appellations of the Loire

In February, we accepted our annual  invitation to the 2014  Salon des Vins, one of France’s largest Trade Wine Fairs held at the Parc des Exhibitions d’ Angers and the largest Regional Wine Fair in France. This event is when the entire, enormous  Loire Valley Wine region comes together with 550 Exhibitors in an exhibition area of 15,000 square metres, offering an ever increasing range of reds, rosés, whites, dry, sweet, still and sparklings. The map above which myself and friend Bob are discussing, gives an idea of the multitude of appellations which cover the length of the Loire. This year there were between 8,500 and 9,000 visitors, being a slight increase on last year which contradicts those who said that numbers were down.  

Wine Tasting in the Loire

‘ Wine tasting at Le Salon des Vins de Loire

There are, however, valid points of view particularly about the cost for wine makers being 1 200€ for a shared stall and 2 000€ for an independent one.  And don’t forget that they already pay large annual  subscriptions to “Inter-Loire” who organise the show.  One idea put to me whilst I was tasting the medal winners was why didn’t the organizers think about lifting the ‘professionals only’ restriction on the last day, opening it up to the public with a small admission fee and the potential for wine makers to extend their list of clients.  Good question!  Anyway these are questions for the future and we shall continue to enjoy the show no matter what the format.

We  love meeting  both well known local producers and those from further afield always being eager to taste their new offerings and find  new ‘hidden gems’ and new producers – and we do our best but always run out of time as the day is so busy!

And so we joined the swarm of visitors in the entrance hall and ventured into the designated tasting areas to quickly familiarise ourselves with the tables of wines and  afterwards we ventured into the nearside area for the lucky medal winners.

Wine Tours of the Loire Valley

One of the multitude of Tasting Tables

Amongst the fine display of wines we were particularly happy to see the new appellation of Saumur Le Puy Notre Dame Rouge from Domaine de l’Enchantoir  had received a gold medal for their 2011.  Bravo to Pierre et Bridgitt Van Den Boom who are receiving more and more awards each year but this one was well deserved, being a delicious example of Saumur Puy Notre Dame, tasting of rich fresh blackcurrants  with a  savoury twist.  Equally good for this appellation was the offering from Marc Vincent at la Paleine, (rich, velvety and spicy),  and Bruno Albert at the Domaine de Vieux Pressoir (2012 –  red fruits, cherries and spices).

Award winning Saumur Blanc from "Robert et Marcel", the Saumur Co-operative.

Award winning Saumur Blanc from “Robert et Marcel”, the Saumur Co-operative.

 Another familiar name, ROBERT ET MARCEL, previously the Caves des Vignerons de Saumur, had received an array of awards and we really enjoyed tasting their 2011 Blanc, which  had a distinct taste of lychees and pineapples with a citrus fruit finish and a long length. Definitely a good start for them under their new brand name!

We  want to mention that we met Anthony and his wife Stephanie from the Famille HUET being now the fifth generation of winemakers from Domaine de Montfort situated on Route de Brossay, in the beautiful small village of Montfort, just a five minute drive from Le Puy Notre Dame.    Domaine de Montfort is a family Domaine of 15 hectares of vines.  They enjoyed sharing their wines with us including their Bronze Medal winner, Saumur 2013 Blanc, a dry white wine, having a golden reflection and  tasting lively with citrus, mineral aromas and fruity. Very refreshingly zingy – perfect for the hot summer  evenings to come!  The majority of this vineyard we learned is on flints and limestone not like the rest of the Saumur appellation and therefore the flint gives a different taste and aroma. They have lots of passion for their winemaking and we want to pay them a visit soon perhaps with one of our wine tour guests.

We visited the Domaine des Guyons stand and chatted away to Franck Bimont, who was eager to share his latest cuvées.

Domaine de Monfort

Anthony et Stephanie Huet from the Domaine de Montfort

This Domaine is always a treasure trove of new wines so it was not to be missed!

Some other gems were:-

La Domaine du Petit Clocher from Cléré sur Layon produced the most superb Crémant de Loire, my favourite sparkler in the show:- 100% Chardonnay, buttery, full of toast and enlivened by a zing of acidity.  Congratulations to Jean-Noel and his team.

One of my favourite reds was a quirky rouge from Sancerre:-  Mattias and Emilé Roblin have produced a light 2012 which was brimming over with Pinot Noir fruit.  Perfect for summer drinking.

The most stunning white I tasted was a 2009 Savennieres from the Clos de Closel, cuvée Clos de Papillon.  This wine was not only majestic but it restored my faith in Savennieres which had been rapidly eroding:-  Rich caramelly nose, lots of white fruit with an overlay of citron.  Dry, mouth filling and complex.  A great success.

By the way, the date for next year’s edition is already organised for the 2nd – 4th February 2015 and is in our diary!

A big bravo to all the organisers of this huge event despite its difficulties of clashing with other important wine events on these dates.  Bizarre they can’t co-ordinate it better especially as the cost to hire the stands at these fairs is really astronomical and so important for the winemakers to capitalise effectively on their expenditure and effort.

Loire Valley Wine Tours

And Santé! from us all at Le Clos des Guyons (Pat, Bob, Sheila, myself) and Franck Bimont from the Domaine des Guyons.

A bientot

Brian at Loire Valley Wine Tours

We offer self catering holidays at Le Clos des Guyons.  Our accommodation has been awarded  ‘Three Stars’ with the ‘Gites de France’ network and you can stay in either ‘Le Sauvignon’ for 4-6 persons and ‘Le Chenin’ for 2-3 persons. An ideal place to recharge your batteries and enjoy a half day or full day wine tour and tasting during your stay.  See our new website for details:- http://www.closdesguyons.com


Why the Saumur Wine Producing Cooperative was re-branded “ROBERT ET MARCEL”

The new label of the Saumur wine co-operative

The new label of the Saumur wine cooperative

The ‘Caves des Vignerons de Saumur’, Route de Samoussay, Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg   is the Saumur Cooperative, about 12 kilometres from our gites at Le Clos des Guyons and a  real must visit for our guests during their holiday!  The tour begins with a large, twelfth century vaulted cellar and from there it continues in the maze of 100 kms of underground galleries. Indeed an underground ‘safari’ and great place to visit, taste and buy wines of the region.

And now a change! If you did not know – everyone is talking about their new brand name of “Robert et Marcel”.

Initially we thought why would they want to call a Cooperative Cave Robert and Marcel but apparently the reason for the new name is that Robert and Marcel Neau  were the names of the founding Chairman and Director back in 1957 and hence the Cooperative wanted to put this story forward.  Marc Bonnin  became President of the winery in January 2013.

The new name was unveiled on November 14th 2013, so  with continual quality improvement over the past few years and a respectable haul of medals, a new logo and new marketing strategy, they have chosen this concept to be at the heart of their new strategy whilst all employees are now  apparently called Robert or Marcel!

At first, the new brand will apply to wines sold in the basement of the Cooperative at Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg, which annually hosts 56,000 customers a year, the biggest individual selling point in the Val-de-Loire (10% of turnover of the cooperative, or  2.5 million€ ).

Afterwards the label Robert and Marcel will be available throughout region in 2014 through Alliance Loire, responsible for marketing the wines of the cooperative, and finally at the national level in 2015.

Good Luck to the new initiative!!

A bientot!


Wine Tours of the Loire Valley

Hotel Le Bussy, Montsoreau – Restaurant Review

Hotel le Bussy, Montsoreau

Since we moved to the region in 2001 one of the things that we have noticed is that it is actually quite difficult to eat anywhere with really great views of the Loire.  There are some restaurants of varying standards but they are few and far between.  However, one that we have found only recently, (don’t know why because it’s not far away), is the Hotel Le Bussay in Montsoreau, just the other side of Saumur.

Montsoreau is one of the “Plus Beau Villages de France” and worth a visit just for that.  It has a famous Chateau and a stroll on the “coteaux” the narrow, winding streets on the hillside opposite the chateau, is well worth the time and effort.  The hotel is just past the Chateau, heading East towards Candes-Saint-Martin on the higher road which passes in front of the Chateau although there is a track up to the restaurant which goes from the road alongside the Loire.  It starts just past the Chateau again heading East.

The Hotel is one side of the higher road and the restaurant on the other, overlooking both the river and the Chateau and the views are truly stunning. We have only eaten there at lunchtime because we called in on the last day before it closed for the winter so we can’t say what the full evening dinner is like.  Lunch was the typical three course formula which is so common in these parts.  For around 12€ it was extremely good value, simple local produce mostly cooked on a giant BBQ outside the kitchen.  As in any eating establishment around here it provided good, well made wine from local producers.  So, well prepared and tasty, to be fair, not exactly a gastronomic masterpiece but, then again, what would you expect for that price.   Certainly when the restaurant re-opens at the start of the season, we will be eating off the menu and, if it is as good as the ambiance, I’m sure that we won’t be disappointed.

Brian and Sheila

Restaurant Reviews

Loire Holiday gites and Wine Tours