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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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:-


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.


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 


Open Day, le Domain de la Paleine

Open Day, Domaine de la Paleine, Brian hosting a tasting.

Bonjour à tous,

We took our Australian guests, to the Domaine de la Paleine in Le Puy Notre Dame for their annual Open Day to the public. The Domaine is a biodynamic wine producer that has been producing wine for more than a century, it consists of 35 hectares planted mostly with Chenin and Cabernet Franc on limestone and chalk soils, and is owned by Marc and Laurence Vincent. It’s involved in the promotion of our new village appellation, Saumur-Puy Notre Dame, an appellation born in October 2009 and Monsieur Vincent is the President of the  Saumur-Puy Notre Dame wine makers association.  His 2010 Saumur-Puy Notre Dame has just been awarded a gold medal by the 2012 Concours des Vins de Saumur as did the 2010 Saumur Champigny.

It was a hot sunny day and on arrival we were met and welcomed by Monsieur Vincent, his wife Laurence and Patrick Nivelleau who is the Chef de Chais, (not forgetting ‘Blackberry’ the Domaine’s Alsation dog who cheerfully greets all  guests)!

Brian knows these wines very well, regarding the multitude of wines produced as amongst the best in the region with a constant emphasis on quality. Courtesy of his friendship with both Marc and Patrick, he is trusted to conduct theIn the Vineyards

tour for guests and, on this occasion, we started in the vineyards, then explored the underground caves and tunnels, extending for 1.5 kilometres, which maintain a necessary and constant 12C temperature needed for storage and maturation. Here lies more than 100,000 bottles. We saw the old pressoir and machinery and he explained the methods applied to create the famous sparkling wines of the region, Saumur Brut and Crémant de Loire. We then viewed the bottle labelling machine which has a speed of 600 bottles an hour – very impressive! (Always fascinating to find out what work goes into producing your bottle of wine and for the price!!). He then showed us this opaque, black wine glass – have a guess what it’s for – answer at the bottom of the page!  Finally, we entered the spotless chais with its state-of-the-art equipment.  We covered around eighteen tastings of new and older vintages of Saumur blancs, Saumur rouges, Saumur rosés, Saumur-Puy Notre Dames, Bruts, Crémants, and then lastly the Coteaux de Saumur with its delicious honey and walnut palate and citrus fruit finish, a fantastic way to finish the tastings, but all are lovely and delicious to sample. We also discussed the appellation Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Chateau de Pasquette from the newly acquired vineyard in St Emilion, and on tasting the 2010 it was an extremely good expression of the merlot cepage.

What's a black glass for?

These wines are a pleasure to taste but I need to mention that their names are inspired by Marc Vincent’s love for Italy and opera, so trying to get your head around the challenging pronunciation is not easy!  Just to say that we love Italy too and have visited so many times in the past, (all our friends know we almost bought a vineyard in Piedmont before coming to France), and love it with Southern Italy being our favourite, even though it’s noisy, congested, has famous lightning strikes (bit like here really), it’s a great country!  Anyway Brian loves pronouncing the names of the Paleine wines and sounds like a true Italian!   Here we go:- Traviata, Papageno, Pamina, Moderata Cantobile (a red Saumur 2005) or Casta Diva (being more simple to say) from Bellini’s opera ‘Norma’.  Casta Diva by the way is a Saumur blanc, a very limited production of 3,000 bottles and made from the best chenin grapes thus a perfect expression of Chenin blanc. My current favourite, (name wise)  is “Allegro ma non troppo”, a Saumur-Puy Notre Dame oak aged for 2 years.  Brian says it is almost as good as his all time favourite name, “Recioto dela Valpolliccelo Amarone”.  A great name for a stunningly different Italian wine.   I am secretly hoping that one day perhaps there will be a wine named Pagliacci as my all time favourite is “Vesti La Guibba” because I once had the great honour of having an Italian sing this to me in Naples and whilst he bowed down on one knee to sing, I admit the tears just poured down my face.  I will have to have a word with Monsieur Vincent some time and suggest this name – you never know. (Funnily enough our Australian guests, Roslyn and Graham, had  just holidayed in Southern Italy on the Amalfi coast before arriving here in the Loire Valley, so they well appreciated the Italian influence)!

In village restaurant,Le Bouchon Ponot

In the village restaurant ‘Le Bouchon Ponot’

They didn’t leave without buying some memorable bottles to drink during the course of their stay, including a bottle of Coteaux de Saumur to pair with their Foie Gras (bought from one of the local producer’s who had stalls in the chais exhibiting gourmet food), for a special meal planned at chez nous later in the week. They also had plans for another meal in the village restaurant after they had asked Jean Yves, the Chef, if he had Ox Cheek as this was one of their favourite meats in Australia?!  He didn’t but offered to prepare it for them one night so no problem!  Here is a picture of us altogether in the Bouchon Ponot Restaurant on Ascension Day evening along with our good neighbours, Robert and Jeanette Guyon, who joined us too while celebrating their birthdays  –and  why not!  By the way, the Ox Cheek was formidable being the main ingredient of “le Boeuf Ponot” Jean-Yve’s take on the famous Boeuf Bourguignon of Burgundy.

Wishing you all happy times.


Loire Valley Wine Tours

Le Clos des Guyons, Le Puy Notre Dame.

Oh almost forgot to give you the answer about the black wine glass! It’s for use in blending wine.  The Paleine, like most vineyards around here, have many relatively small parcels of vines scattered throughout the village and it’s hamlets.  Patrick then vinifies each parcel separately and then blends each cuvée, (vat). So a lot of the wine is the same grape from the same vineyard but from different parcels.  This allows the estate wines to take advantage of slightly different soil types, orientations etc.  The reason that the opaque glass is important is that it prevents the blender from being seduced by the colour of the wine, concentrating just on the nose and the taste. Voila!!