Aperitifs on Christmas Eve here at Le Clos des Guyons in the Loire Valley.

Aperitifs on Christmas Eve here at Le Clos des Guyons  in the Loire Valley, France.

From our guests and neighbours at Le Clos des Guyons, Le Puy Notre Dame, in the heart of the Val de Loire, we are raising our glasses to wish all our lovely clients both old and new, friends and family far away, a “Joyeux Noel” and “Very Merry Christmas”!

the local "tuffeau" limestone.  Totally inefficient of course but what a centre-piece!

The 300 year old traditional Loire fireplace made from the local “tuffeau” limestone. Totally inefficient of course but what a centre-piece!

Here we are in the photograph (Sheila is missing because she is taking it) with our neighbours and current guests from Kent and New Hampshire, USA, in our Salon in front of a roaring fire at the start of our Christmas Eve Reveillon, sharing conversation and aperitifs over a Magnum of the Domaine de la Paleine’s Saumur sparkling wine.  It was such a perfect Christmassy evening before the feasting of our delicious six course meal paired with other amazing Loire wines.

We sincerely hope you too enjoy a lovely Christmastime and holiday wherever you are!

There are lots of things to do over the next week, Christmas markets everywhere to enjoy with all the local artisan production of gift ideas, foods and wines and Chateaux and castles to visit ALSO last but not least our Wine Tour around the Le Puy vineyards and Wine Tasting in the village.


Sheila and Brian and

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.

How much does a French Vineyard Cost?


A vineyard in the Loire side village of Montsoreau. How would you like to own something like this?

Imagine a beautiful warm evening, you are sitting on your terrace, sipping a glass of your own luscious wine as the sun sets behind your rolling vineyards.  This scenario has long been a dream for many lovers of French wine and culture but how much will it cost?  Let’s have a look.

We’ll leave aside the cost of tools and equipment which can vary enormously depending on a number of factors but is always a huge expenditure but we’ll concentrate here on what is clearly the biggest expense of all which is of course, the vineyard itself and the valuation of that depends on a multitude of factors including the appellation, the region and the position and orientation of the vineyards.

So, to give you an idea, here are the current average prices throughout France.  Cheapest appellation vineyards are probably priced at around €10 000 per hectare, (an hectare is 2.47 acres), in regions like Gaillac in the south west or Valençay in the Loire, whilst a hectare of vineyard in the Nantais, (Muscadet) would come even cheaper at €8 000.  At the other end of the scale are vineyards in Margaux which would come in at €1m per hectare and just next door in Paulliac you could expect to pay up to double that for the privilege of owning an hectare of vines, but then again the appellation is the home of three of the most expensive wines in the world:- the Chateaux Latour; Mouton Rothschild and Lafite Rothschild.

If you’re into Champagne be prepared to fork out €1m.  In the middle range are Châteauneuf de Pape at €350 000 with €140 000 required to make a glass of grassy, fruity Sancerre and €95 000 for a sturdy Crozes-Hermitage from the Northern Rhone.

Here in the Western Loire it’s quite complicated not least because of the multitude and complexity of appellations.  A hectare of Anjou or Anjou Village would probably set you back some €13 000 with another €3 000 required for vines in the Coteaux du Layon.  The “lieu-dit” of Quarts du Chaume would cost €18 000 as would Savenierre near Angers.  A Saumur hectare would be around €17 000 and here in the new appellation of Saumur Puy Notre Dame you would have to pay up to €36 000.  In the better known and longer established appellation of Saumur-Champigny you would be looking at €56 000 on average.

So there you go, have a look down the back of the sofa and see what you can afford!

à bientôt

Loire Valley Wine Tours
Holiday Rentals in the Loire Valley



Wines of Saumur

Old poster advertising the health benefits of Ackerman’s “Royal” Saumur Brut for combatting gout.

La Maison Ackerman, established in 1811, with its 7 kms of caves carved in the tuffeau, is the Loire’s oldest sparkling wine producer and their home is in Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent, on the outskirts of Saumur, in rue Léopold Palustre.   In July 2009 Ackerman Rémy Pannier, the leading producer of sparkling Saumur wines of the Loire Valley bought Ackerman but used the name themselves.  Along with other colleagues in tourisme, we received an invitation to the inauguration of  the 2014


The Caves of Ackerman

At chez Ackerman in Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent, just outside Saumur the team have created a mystical, unworldly theme in one of their caves.

‘New Scenography Tourist Circuit’ deep in the caves!  This changes every year and so we were curious as to how different this was going to be compared to last year. We found two new galleries had been opened to extend the usual visit. The inspiration for their new works is the Jules Verne classic ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’. Here called the journey to the centre of a “bubble”!  This year’s artists are sensationally imaginative and one creator is an expert in shaping glass thereby creating many different shapes of  bottles, all reflecting in exceptional colours of light. The display of  this brilliant colour and art is mixed with sails exhibited in different colours and  I have to mention the large jelly fish playfully hanging from the ceiling blowing in a little soft breeze! Quite extraordinary! Oh and then there is a huge Spider Man racing around the tuffeau walls looking for some action!

As well as the New Scenography Circuit the visit is combined with uncovering the history of Jean-Baptiste Ackerman, the pioneer behind the house of Ackerman!  As you walk through the cellars you see interesting old vintages of wonderful old sweet wines such as 1900 Coteaux du Layon as well as bottles of Vouvray dating back to 1945 and 1947. There are pieces of ancient wine machinery exhibited with descriptions of how they were used, reminding us of how wine production has dramatically changed and  all this interspersed with interactive displays of  black glasses to test senses of smell against mesmerizing aromas, so you can see how clever your nose is!  In the last cave there is a ‘boules court’ and table games from five continents – amusing for both children and adults to play for an hour or so!  It’s easy to understand why a house established over two hundred years ago is still thriving today.  It’s run by an innovative and very dynamic team of creative thinking people. At the end of the tour visitors enjoy wine tastings of the different appellations of the Loire Valley, starting with the Saumur Brut and Cremant de Loire.

Garden Party at Ackerman, Saumu

“le Chef” in action preparing his pan fried Foie-Gras with raisons and port

Afterwards, we happily joined other guests at the Cocktail Party held on the lawned area at the front of the winery where there were lots of tables, colourful Ackerman parasols and chairs to rest weary feet! The gourmet cuisine, provided by les service traiteur’ Hotel Les Terrasses de Saumur’, was skilfully prepared, but the highlight was watching the’ Chef’ in action with his ‘pan-fried’ foie gras with raisons and port!  He made it look so easy – that’s Chefs for you!

Well worth a mention is the winery is adapted to receive visitors of reduced mobility and has been awarded the label “Tourisme et Handicap” in fact it is the only winery in Saumur to have this award. They have received a second award too for ‘’L’Accueil d’Excellence des Caves Touristiques du Vignoble de Loire” (excellent welcome).  Parking is easy it’s just across the road.

A visit is recommended if you are staying in or around Saumur or …. better still at our holiday gites at Le Clos des Guyons!   We offer all our guests a FREE PASS to Ackerman’s wine tours and tastings during their stay, plus a generous discount on any purchases made ! There are lovely gift ideas in their boutique to take home too!

Loire Valley Wine Tours

Preparing the “Garden Party” before the guests have finished their tour.

We wish all the Ackerman team a great 2014 season!

Why not visit the new Scenography Tour? – We tell all our guests you won’t be disappointed because this winery offers great fun for all ages in a magical setting.

Bon Visit!


Sheila and Brian

Le Clos des Guyons.  Two quality self-catering holiday gites in the Loire Valley ‘Le Sauvginon’ (sleeps 4-6) and ‘Le Chenin’ (sleeps 2-3) in a former winemakers property with ancient wine chais and caves.

Take a look at our new website and see if we can tempt you to discover the Loire Valley, a great holiday destination with its royal river, pretty villages and host of tourist attractions – there”s something for everybody!  We also offer Loire Wine Tours for lovers of wine (including our popular ‘One-Day Immersion in Wine’ with or without accommodation).

Smelling the essence of Chenin Blanc

Each grape used at Ackerman has an appropriate “smelling machine” as Brian calls them. You stick your nose in each glass and are rewarded with a typical flavour. Here, for Chenin Blanc; lemon, apples, pears, honey etc.

Situated in the pretty wine village of Le Puy Notre Dame, surrounded by vines and little rues boasting an imposing Collegiale church built in 1154 at the request of Aliénor d’Aquitaine and on the route Saint Jacques de Compostelle. Le Puy Notre Dame is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites, a  village ‘typique de vignerons’ with 60 vigneron families working 1500 hectares of vines.  It’s classed ‘Village de Charme’, and ‘Petite Cité de Caracteré’. A superb region, rich in viticultural heritage, architecture, centuries of history and it’s definitely no secret that Brian and I are both very passionate about its charm and enjoy sharing this with our guests who wish to experience our home and gites, including an aperitif of  refreshing Saumur Sparkling Brut on arrival!!




Gites in the Loire

Left to Right:  Heather, Roger, Jeanette, Robert, Brian, Mick and Karen. (I’m taking the photo).

We had a fabulous dinner on the arrival of our new guests this week, Heather, Roger, Karen and Mick, after their long car journey travelling through Southern Spain into France and finally reaching the Loire Valley to Le Clos des Guyons in the village of Le Puy Notre Dame!  We were also joined by our neighbours ‘en face’ in rue du Moulin, retired vigneron Robert Guyon and his lovely wife Jeanette. Not only were we all having a great time, but at this point in the photograph above, a wonderful memorable moment too enjoying a very special bottle of wine which had been made by Robert, but we were all staggered when he announced it was his VERY LAST BOTTLE of 1990 Saumur Blanc, being just as good as it was when he made it 24 years ago in the old wine chai here at Clos des Guyon (his former family home where he was born and worked all his life, formerly ‘Domaine des Guyons’)!  It was also a perfect accompaniment to my home made Tarte au Pomme! Merci Robert!  The wine had a lovely delicate Chenin nose even after all this time, proving how good the Chenin grape can be. Aged Chenin loses most of it’s aroma and taste of white fruits and lemon and gains  a complex, minerally feel, reminisent of the local tuffeau limestone together with intense waxy honey.

One of the pleasures of living in the village of Le Puy Notre Dame is to enjoy the wines from not only the new commerical winemakers around us, because of course the choices are endless, but for me it’s also about the wines made by the old retired vignerons who often surprise you, like Robert last night, by pulling out a cracker of an old wine from his cellar.  We never take anything for granted living here, it’s a winemaking village so there is a lot of history out there to be found and I do so love their stories when they tell us about their certain vintage years and remembering working days with their fathers and grandfathers – some good stories and some not so good when harvests had been very difficult.  Robert explained that 1990 had been one of those excellent quality vintages when growers produced some superb wines and I can’t explain the feeling we all  had sharing that bottle with him and Jeanette. It was magic!

Chin chin to wonderful guests and wonderful neighbours.

Thanks for a great evening!


New website

Loire Wine Tours and Tastings 

We offer superb holiday gite accommodation with heated swimming pool and also Loire Wine holidays in the village of Le Puy Notre Dame in the Loire Valley, deep in the Saumurois vineyards and now in its own wine appellation of Saumur Puy Notre Dame.  Ideally located for the sights of the Loire and visiting the surrounding majestic chateaux and troglodyte caves in the region.


About our Loire Valley Gites and Wine Tours

The XVIIIth. Century entrance to our Loire Gites

The XVIII Century Entrance to our Loire Valley Gites in France

Highly Commended by our TRIPADVISOR guests, (rated 5/5).

We receive many emails from our blog readers asking what exactly we do  here in the Loire so we thought that we’d do this static post which explains just that.

The Lounge in le Sauvignon gite.

The Lounge in le Sauvignon gite.

Le Clos des Guyons is a former winemakers house in the village of Le Puy Notre Dame in the Loire Valley.  The village is designated by two french accolades:- Village de Charme and Petite Cité de Caractére. We arrived in the region in 2001 and purchased the property in 2003 on the retirement of the then winemaker, Robert Guyons. His wine, the Domaine des Guyons, still produces wine but the current winemaker, Franck Bimont, uses a larger wine chai on the other side of the village, although we still use our existing tanks for storage on occasions.

We have found that the property is perfect both for normal gite holiday rentals and for wine tours as not only are we perfectly placed to access the bulk of the chateaux and historical sights of this famous region, but we are in the middle of a mass of wine appellations and, since 2008, Le Puy Notre Dame now has its own appellation of Saumur-Puy Notre Dame.

Situated on a quiet road on the edge of the village we are adjacent to the vineyards but, at the same time, only a few minutes walk from the bakery, bar and the two excellent village restaurants:- Le Bouchon Ponot and Le Puy à Vins.

With over 13 years of experience living in the area we have developed a mass of information which is freely available to our guests, many of which return to see us year after year and we thank them enormously for their loyalty and trust!

Brian has worked for years in wine retailing in the UK and has a Wines and Spirit Education Trust Ltd Higher Diploma qualification and so his knowledge plus relationships with local winemakers makes a wine tour here interesting, unique and enjoyable. Not only is Le Puy Notre Dame the newest appellation in the Loire but it has over 50 winemakers each putting their own unique interpretation on the local wines.  Walso do an increasingly popular “One Day Immersion Tour” which includes a day visiting the vineyards, touring one of the best wineproperties in the Loire, lunch and assoerted nibbles.

The courtyard at our gites

The courtyard at our gites

We have two holiday rental properties, “Le Sauvignon” and “Le Chenin” the former for four or six people and the latter for two.  We opened for business after one full year of renovation and both gites are now fully equipped to the exacting standards laid down by the main French gite organisation, “Les Gîtes de France” who, incidentally carry out regular inspections which is very rare if not unique amongst gite rental companies.   At the same time we have tried to preserve the original ambiance as far as possible.

Access to Le Clos des Guyons and to our gites is through the huge XVIII Century gates which guard the property.  We are quite proud of the attractiveness of our courtyard and garden and try our best to make it one of the prettiest in the village. The garden itself is of the courtyard and contains a wooden terraced area and above ground swimming pool (heated mid May to September) great for a quick swim to add to our guests pleasure.  Behind that is a small but productive vegetable garden which allows us to share fresh salad, asparagus and other vegetables in season.

Of course this blog is primarily about our lives here in the Loire Valley, so the individual posts tend not to carry specific information either the wine tours or our gite holiday rentals.  To find details of availability, tariffs, accommodation details, ‘What do do whilst staying here’, etc. etc, you can go to our extensive website:- or, use the contact widget on the right hand sidebar to contact us for more information.

Talking about the Grape Varieties on one of our Loire Valley Wine Tours

Talking about the Grape Varieties and vineyards on one of our Loire Valley Wine Tours

à bientôt?

Sheila and Brian

Loire Gite Holiday Rentals and Wine Tours

6 rue du Moulins,

49260 Le Puy Notre Dame, France.



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