A 2010 Coteaux de Saumur from the Domaine de Paliene here in Le Puy Notre Dame

Coteaux de Saumur – A Mythical Sweet Wine from the Loire

I recently read a very interesting post about sweet wines from France on Jill Barth’s excellent blog. So I thought I’d do something on the superb but little known wine fom the Saumur vineyard – le Coteaux de Saumur. The reason that this superb wine is so little known is that it is incredibly rare with an appellation of only 12 hectares, (less than 30 acres). The total yield is around 40000 litres but, in reality, it never reaches this quantity and in many years none is made at all and in others just one or two winemakers may decide to do it. This is why I always refer to it as a “mythical” wine when we are tasting it on wine tours.

The cépage is 100% Chenin and the vines have to grown on “islands” within the greater Saumur appellation where the chalky limestone comes to the surface. It is no coincidence that most of the production is centred around Champigny and Le Puy Notre Dame both “lieu-dit”, (named places – sort of Grand Crus) of Saumur.

I would describe the wine as aristocratic, with the limestone giving it an elegance which is sometimes missing in the more alcoholic stickies of the Coteaux du Layon. In the glass you will find a rich golden colour, fine fruit with hints of waxy honey and a cornucopia of exotic fruit flavours particularly lychées. The one I know best and a serial award winner is from just round the corner here in Le Puy Notre Dame from the renowned Domaine de la Paleine. The 2006 developed a distinct nose of mandarins whilst the 2010 had it from the start. There is always a vibrant acidity which balances the luscious sweetness. Made by a selective “tri” with anything between three and five passes through the vineyard it is then normally put in oak barrels for at least a year. The intense sweetness and acidy mean that the wine is almost eternal, (I have actually drunk a wine from 1856 which was still perfect although of course the actual appellation name didn’t exist at that time, it wasn’t granted until 1966).
Here in the Loire, it has several uses; as an aperitif, as the classic accompaniment to foie-gras and, my particular favourite, alongside the soft, salty French blue cheeses like Roquefort and St. Agur etc, a taste made in heaven. Of course it is also used as a dessert wine but perhaps not as often as you would think.
Price wise it is very competitive when compared to a similar quality Sauternes primarily because our region still makes wine to drink and, as yet, wine isn’t really bought for the prestige of its label although I have detected a slow but pronounced upward movement as the quality of the wine attracts more and more aficionados. A half bottle would cost around €17 whilst a comparable Sauternes would cost immensely more.

So, if you can find a bottle grab it with both hands. If you can’t you’ll just have to visit the Royal Valley of France, le Val de Loire



Le Puy Notre Dame, France.

A Loire Valley Vineyard


A recent photo of our guests out in the vineyard, giving their holiday an added value in terms of French Loire Valley wine culture – what a nice idea!

They went with Brian to enjoy the magnificent views around Le Puy Notre Dame and no better place for an introduction than in the local vineyards. The grapes are now well formed on the vines. It was an enlightening visit learning how the vigneron grows and manages his vines whilst looking at the stony soils that give the wines their flavours and the main grape varieties on some of the patches of vines on the slopes around Le Puy Notre Dame.

Amongst several wineries visited was our old favourite the Domaine de la Paleine, a 32 hectaire biodynamic award winning winery around the corner from our home and gites at Le Clos des Guyons  After an extensive visit around their wine chais explaining the processes involved and then walking into the vast underground galleries of caves finishing in the important bottling room, Brian explained the Domaine’s many appellations and conducted a tutored wine tasting for everyone from a selection of their wines and vintages including naturally our village’s own wine appellation, Saumur Puy Notre Dame!

Our guests left with plenty of wine knowledge, wine vocabulary and a few cases for the boot of the car  – a lovely talking point for the family back home and memory of a good holiday!

Santé and bon dégustation!


Loire Valley Wine Tours

Gite Holiday Accommodation in the Loire Valley

Gite and Wine Tour Facebook Page


Exploring the Vineyards of Le Puy Notre Dame

Exploring the Vineyards of Le Puy Notre Dame

Today we have sunny blue skies and heat leaning towards 40 degrees, but our Clos des Guyons guests were not deterred from going on a ‘Vineyard Discovery Wine Tour and Tasting’ in the village.  They enjoyed visiting the vineyards and magnificent vistas around the heart of Le Puy Notre Dame, one of France’s loveliest Loire wine regions (but then we are a little biased as we live here!) before visiting a highly reputed winery and tasting the wines of Saumur Puy Notre Dame.

The underground world of Le Puy Notre Dam

The underground world of Le Puy Notre Dame

Brian gave an intensive tutored wine tasting from a diverse and distinctive range of the Domaine de la Paleine’s re-known award winning medal winners and various vintages of whites, reds, rosés, sweet and sparkling. Appellations:- Anjou Blanc , Cabernet d’Anjou , Cabernet de Saumur , Coteaux de Saumur , Crémant de Loire, Saumur Brut , Saumur Champigny , Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame.

The last glass was a sparkling and refreshing ‘Crémant de Loire’ (“with notes of pears in rich syrup while maintaining the freshness of fruits – perfect with gateau aperos”) which couldn’t have been better chosen to end such a hot afternoon!

Wine tasting in Le Puy Notre Dame

In the ‘Tasting Room’ at the Domaine de la Paleine, a leading 32 hectare biodynamic winery owned by Marc et Laurence Vincent!

At the end of the wine tasting everyone concluded that they now had a bigger understanding of viticulture and appreciation of wine than before.  They had enjoyed learning so much from Brian about how the wine was made, the colours, aromas, individual taste sensations, characters and qualities.

The wines of the Domaine de la Paleine are exquisite.

Voila – it had been an interesting afternoon!

Bonne degustations a tous!

A votré Sheila

Web Site and Facebook Page

LE CLOS DES GUYONS.  Not only do we run Loire Wine Tours from here but we also offer two charming 3-Star Accredited Gites de France self-catering holiday gites “Le Sauvignon” (sleeps 4/6) and “Le Chenin” (sleeps 2/3) situated on the edge of the village surrounded by vines. HEATED Swimming Pool. FREE WiFi. FREE use of bikes.

Le Puy Notre Dame is a pretty medieval wine village on the route Saint Jacques de Compostelle and Anjou wine route, boasting its own artisan bakery, café, pharmacie, hairdresser, post office (novel it’s in the café!), huge Gothic Collegiale and two restaurants (one restaurant recently awarded a Trip Advisor Excellence label for 2014 and the other our local traditional French Bistro where you can drop in for coffee or glass of wine), all these within walking distance of the gites! It’ a perfect place for an enjoyable holiday. Alongside our holiday gites we offer Wine Tour and Wine Tasting Holidays, including our popular ‘One Day Immersion in Wine Tour’ where you can spend a day immersing yourself in the wines and food of Le Puy Notre Dame A bientot perhaps?!


Vineyard in Le Puy Notre Dame

Photograph of our lovely guests Derek and Mary with Brian in the centre, as he takes them through the vineyard that produces the red wine called “Moulin des Quints” in Le Puy Notre Dame and explains about the special chemistry that exists between a particular terroir, the vigne and climate. (Notice that winemakers are not allowed to use herbicide between the rows).

And so,  after a week of visiting the Loire Valley, its castles, its troglodyte caves, markets and the River Loire, why not stop off in a vineyard too!!  That’s just what our guests did when Brian introduced Derek and Mary to our local vineyards and in particular the “Moulin des Quints” vineyard, belonging to the biodynamic winery of the Domaine de la Paleine  just around the corner from Le Clos des Guyons.

The vineyard, planted exclusively with the Cabernet Franc grape, is located at the highest point in the Puy Notre Dame vineyards (“la butte du Puy Notre Dame”). Here the vines are at the same level as the roof of our huge gothic church and thus are perfectly exposed to the sunshine and the circulating air which produces superb grapes which in turn go on to make a wonderful, single vineyard wine called, funnily enough, “Le Moulin des Quints” !  Afterwards we headed off to visit the winery to meet Patrick Nivelleau the winemaker and to taste wines  – after which a few bottles were squeezed into the back of their car, including of course the “Moulin des Quints” to take

Loire Valley Wine Tours

Our guests and Brian after an extensive wine tasting which hopefully left them more knowledgeable then when they arrived in France.

back home to England to share with family and friends!  Just to explain that this red wine is a beautiful ‘Saumur-Puy Notre Dame’ appellation and has an intense nose of violets, is delicate and complex with rich, black fruits and spices. It’s mouth filling opulent, and impregnated with the aroma of cassis. Simple and rich at the same time – a wine to savour for wine lovers and importantly a wine that wins heaps of awards and medals!

For further wine reading check this Article out about our new wine appellation.

Their  message in our Visitors Book reads:- “Thanks so much for making us so welcome at Le Clos des Guyons.  We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay and we found the area very beautiful and interesting.  Brian’s wine tour was the highlight of our stay …. we learned an awful lot about the whole process.  We may return one day again, who knows”!!! 

Why not come and visit Le Clos des Guyons this summer in France’s Loire Valley and come

La Donaine de la Paliene

A ‘Bon Moment’ in the Tasting Room L. to R. Patrick, the Paleine’s winemaker, Dominic Monnier, Conseiller General Comité Departmental du Tourisme de l’Anjou (who arrived to deliver their recent Gold Medal Award Certificates) and Brian, later than afternoon after work had finished.

and meet our village winegrowers?  We have two fully restored self catering holiday gites to offer in our former winemakers XIII Century house waiting for you and we will be happy to say Bienvenue!  Le Puy Notre Dame is a friendly and delightful place where we feel we have finally found home – we love the village,  people, french wine, food and culture and we are sure you will too!


Sheila and Brian

See our “TripAdvisor” reviews”for each gite ‘Le Sauvignon’ (sleeps 4/6) and ‘Le Chenin’ (sleeps 2/3). Comprehensive details on our  website. and facebook page



Loire Valley Wine Tours

Guests, Glenis and Chris with Brian, enjoying our popular ‘Wine Tour’! and finding out about the ancient wine press.

Our guests Glenis and Chris combined days sightseeing with a keen interest in the wines of the Loire Valley and hence an ‘Immersion in Wine Tour’ was chosen!

The visit was to the highly reputed organic and biodyamic winery of le Domaine de la Paleine just around the corner from Le Clos des Guyons in the village here at Le Puy Notre Dame. On arrival we headed into the vineyards where Brian explained the Domaine’s appellations including  new appellation of Saumur-Puy Notre Dame  and the annual work involved with cultivating the vines – right now the shoots are well advanced and flourishing for this time of the year, the reason being the current onset of April showers mixed with days of very warm sunshine – that’s perfect!  Then followed a tour around the state of the art ‘wine chai’ with its huge stainless steel and wooden cuves and beautiful picture window overlooking the vineyards, at the same time explaining the wine making processes involved.  Finally, we strolled deep down  into the vast underground galleries and walked through many tunnels of caves where the wine is stored, taking a deeper detour to the area where the fine sparkling wines are processed using the Gyropalette which is a piece of equipment  used in the production of sparkling wine made by the traditional method where the second fermentation takes place in the bottle. To remove the yeast sediment (‘lees’) formed in the bottle after the fermentation a ‘riddling’ is performed so at certain intervals the bottle is gently twisted, shaken slightly and moved slowly to a vertical position with the cork pointing down by means of motors and automatic controls. This used to be done manually many years ago – it’s just so difficult to imagine the labour that was involved!

We then resurfaced……..! and went into their chic tasting room for Brian’s ‘tutored’ tasting, to thus appreciate further the expertise of the wine maker, Patrick Nivealleau, who turns the vineyards grapes into a diverse range of award winning bottles of wine, which is nice to see and of which they have an awful lot so credit to him.

Glenis and Chris didn’t leave without some purchases (at winery prices) and also left this kind note in our visitors book, which made us feel happy because they clearly had a great stay:-

……..”The Wine Tour yesterday was just brilliant – Brian has so much knowledge!  We have both been to a few wine tastings, but we have never tasted so many diverse wines at one time and learnt so much about them.  It was obviously a testiment to Brian’s professionalism the way in which the patron gave you and Sheila the freedom to take clients around their winery.  Thankyou and good luck for the future wherever it takes you”!

Our guests enjoyed the visit (as they do) and tasting, being amazed at the Paleine’s range of wines. From the Saumur Rouge, “Cuvée du Moulin”; Saumur Puy Notre Dame “Moulin des Quints”, “Allegro ma non troppo”, “Tamino”; the Saumur Champigny, “Papageno”; the Samur Blancs, “La Paleine”, “Toccata”, “Traviata”, “Pamina”, “Casta Diva’ and newcomer “Aria”; the Bulles, Saumur Brut, Brut Rosé, Cremant de Loire, Cremant de Loire Rosé and Rouge Petillant; the Rosé Cabernet d’Anjou and delicate Cabernet de Saumur and then the luscious Coteaux de Saumur! And so many medal winners amongst them every year!!

We try to offer our guests an interesting holiday whilst visiting the Loire Valley.  We can help with ideas of places to visit and what to do to make your stay enjoyable. Certainly one of the highlights during your stay in Le Puy Notre Dame is to have a short guided wine tour and tasting (included in the rental for our weekly guests) or, if you prefer a more comprehensive wine tour and tasting, we can offer our popular ‘One Day Immersion in Wine Tour’ available for guests staying at Le Clos des Guyons or indeed visitors in the area. We also offer two day short break wine holidays.

So why not come and visit us this summer!  in France’s Loire Valley. website

See you soon perhaps to say Bienvenue!!!

Bonne degustations!


Sheila and Brian

If you are looking for something different and unusual this year why not have a look at our website http://www.closdesguyons.com   We have two lovely gites and you can spend some time sightseeing in the area. There are lots of magnificent chateaus nearby and pretty little villages to explore.





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!


Two generations of wine makers

Happy New Year from ourselves with Robert and Jeanette Guyon and Franck Bimont. The old and the new winemakers at the Domaine des Guyons in Le Puy Notre Dame.

A Happy New Year  to you all from Le Clos des Guyons!

It’s true that the 31 December in France marks the last day of the year but it also marks the beginning of a very long night of eating and drinking!  The New Year’s Eve called ‘Saint Sylvester’ celebrations are between friends as Christmas was for the family.  And so last night there was another food orgy in local restaurants and village salle de fetes, with  all the decadent food ‘encore‘ of foie gras, oysters and many bottles of Saumur wines including Crémants de Loire!  Traditionally Saint Sylvester finishes around dawn with Onion Soup, that is if you have the stamina to keep going that long, usually in Le Puy that will be  5.00 or 6.00 am!  And, on New Years Day, it’s not over in Saumur and Angers as many restaurants continue working with a specially prepared ‘Menu du Fete‘!.  Another guarantuan meal if you are up for it.

This period is  followed by Epiphany and the tradition of sharing the ‘Galette des Rois’ – or known also as the ‘Twelfth Night Cake’ or ‘King Cake’ celebrating the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem. This cake is in all French Boulangeries and is made of puff pastry and has a small porcelain hand painted charm called the féve hidden inside.  The cake is usually filled with frangipane (a cream made from sweet almonds, butter, eggs and sugar) but it can be fruit or chocolate and is shaped as a crown  with a cardboard gold paper crown placed on the top.  Whoever the lucky person is to find the little féve in their slice of cake is then named King or Queen of the New Year and wears the gold paper crown – it is then that persons turn to buy a cake and repeat the occasion.  January is a very sociable time and endless aperitifs are going to be held with the Galette des Rois accompanied by glasses of Coteaux du Saumur and delicious bubbly from Saumur.  Ah a wonderful tradition!  The sparkling wine houses in Saumur are many and include the prestigious Gratien and Meyer located high above in the cliff rocks on the route to Montsorea and Ackerman, Langlois Chateau, Bouvet Ladubay to name but a few in Saint Hilaire Saint Florent, just outside the centre of Saumur,  so you see we are really spoilt for choice and all these alongside Le Puy’s fantastic fizzy sparklers as well!!  All are well worth a visit when here in the region!

Brian, Claire and Liz doing the first wine tasting of 2014

Brian, Liz and Claire doing the first wine tasting of 2014 in the first week of January.

We had our first winery visit in 2014 this week! Here is a picture of our guests at Le Clos des Guyons, Claire and Liz from the UK, enjoying an afternoon with Brian on a wine tour and tasting in the cosy and chic atmosphere of the tasting room at the Domaine de la Paleine! As ever, many wines were sampled from their diverse and superb range.

Hoping you have enjoyed some memorable wines over the festive period and here’s to a Very Happy and Healthy New Year to everyone!

We are looking forward to welcoming both old and new guests to our home in 2014 and sharing some interesting Loire wines together.

For now bon apetit!

Sheila and Brian

If you are thinking about a holiday in the Loire Valley in France this year, relaxing and enjoying some lovely Loire wines, then visit our new website wwwww.closdesguyons.com for more details of our wine tours (with or without accommodation) and charming self catering holiday gites:- “Le Sauvignon”(4-6 persons)/“Le Chenin” (2-3 persons), at Le Clos des Guyons, a former Wine Domaine, in the medieval village of Le Puy Notre Dame.