Take a trip on The Wine Trail
Quality and Prestige
Although the Romans planted the first grapes, our vignerons have made winemaking into an art. Nowhere in the world can match the variety and quality of the Loire Valley’s white, red, rose, sparkling, sweet, and dry wines. Our prestigious AOC wines include Saumur Brut, Savennieres, Coteaux du Layon, Saumur-Champigny, Anjou Villages, Muscadet, Jasnieres, and Mareuil.
You can taste wines of every colour and flavour, with unforgettable fragrances that reflect the region’s unique soil. From Nantes to the Vendee to Saumur to the vineyards of the Touraine by Le Mans, go along and enjoy a degustation (tasting) wherever you see the sign.
The Wines of Nantais
Start off your wine trail expedition in the Nantes area, one of France’s great white wine producing regions. Muscadet has been the star here since the 16th century – made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape, it is fresh and delicate. Also in this region are the Coteaux d’Ancenis, where the Gamay grape produces fresh and fruity flavours, and the Gros Plant, a dry white that goes perfectly with seafood.
The Vendeen Fiefs
The Vendee vineyards benefit from the gentle coastal climate, and just like the Vendee itself, the wines are perfect for a summer holiday. North of Les Sables-d’Olonne, the Fief of Brem produces light, easy-drinking wines of white and red with hints of apple. The major producer of the Vendee is the Fief de Mareuil, with grape varieties of Pinot Noir, Gamay, Cabernet Franc, and the unusual Negrette. These wines, with a distinctive blackcurrant aroma, are best served young and slightly chilled.
The Wines of Jasnières and Coteaux du Loir
The Touraine wine growing region lies just south of Le Mans on the little Loir (without the e) river, and is highly rated, though not well-known. Here you’ll find aromatic wines aged in cellars dug deep into the limestone cliffs. Both the red and whites are complex and rich, with a long finish. If you see them on the wine list, give them a try.
The Wines of Anjou and Saumur
Continuing along the Loire, you’ll find the famous vineyards of Anjou and Saumur; at more than 50,000 acres, these are the largest vineyards in the Loire Valley. The diversity of soils here produce a variety of wine styles, resulting in 28 appellations, individually recognised wines. These are some of the most sought-after wines in France: Coteaux du Layon from the Layon valley hills, Savennières from the banks of the Loire, and Anjou red from south of the Loire. Saumur wines, from the oldest vineyards in France, are produced on the local limestone and have a natural tendency to sparkle, like wines in France’s Champagne region. Every year, 15 million bottles of bubbly, especially Saumur Brut and Cremant de Loire, are exported worldwide. Bouvet-Ladubay and Ackerman offer degustations and a visit to the troglodyte cellars where the wine is stored.
Bouvet-Ladubay Tasting School
Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent, by Saumur
Tel: 02 41 50 11 12
The Bouvet-Ladubay wine producers offer a Tasting School, created in 1989, designed for amateurs and professionals alike. The teacher is Jean Bellard, former writer of the Hachette guide to Loire wines. There are half-day tasting lessons for up to 20 people, and one-day lessons on harmonising wine and food. You can also sign up for a visit to the vineyard and lunch at a Relais Chateau.
A Slight Detour to Liqueur Land
Carre Cointreau liqueur distillery has a museum and interpretation centre open to the public in Saint-Barthelemy-d’Anjou, a suburb of Angers. Cointreau is a brand of triple sec liqueur, made from bitter oranges. With a 40% alcohol content, Cointreau is strong for a triple sec which usually has an alcohol content around 23%. Cointreau Distillery was set up in 1849 by Adolphe Cointreau, a confectioner, and his brother Edouard-Jean Cointreau. Their first success was with the cherry liqueur, guignolet, but it was when they concocted a blend of sweet and bitter orange peels and pure alcohol from sugar beets that the success of the enterprise was confirmed definitively. In 1875, the first bottles of Cointreau were sold. It is now estimated that 13 million bottles are sold each year, in more than 200 countries. A stunning 95% of production is exported. The production methods and recipe are a family secret, but tours of the distillery are open to the public. Photography is restricted in many areas to protect the production process from being copied.
To arrange a group tour, phone 02 41 31 50 50 or visit their website.
Combier, near Saumur, is the region’s oldest working distillery. With copper stills and secret recipes, the Combier family have been creating their liqueurs here for more than 150 years.
Triple Sec and Royal Combier are award-winning liqueurs that perfectly illustrate Combier’s motto “La Beauté du Zeste.” Triple Sec is made from bitter oranges and Royal Combier is a blend of Triple Sec, Cognac, and Combier Elixir. Discover classical and exotic flavours, making drinks fun to mix.
Guignolet d’Anjou, Pastis, and Absinthe
An aperitif that delighted the court of King Louis XIV, Guignolet owes its name to the Guigne cherry typical to the Anjou region. Pastis, said to be born under a lucky star, is made from about 10 plants and spices. This exceptional blend is highly praised by connoisseurs of pastis. The mythical Absinthe has returned with superior absinthes distilled and naturally coloured by plants.
Fruit Cream Liqueurs
The first smooth taste reveals why the term ‘cream’ is used for Combier Liqueurs. The fruits are macerated slowly, making these liqueurs rich in aroma. The Loire Valley, the “Garden of France” and a UNESCO World Heritage site, gives us the best fruits.
Combier has revived the authentic taste of traditional fruit syrups. Straight from the fruit basket into the copper pan, many of Combier’s fruit orchards are only a stone’s throw from the distillery. Tours of the distillery are available to the public. Hours differ according to season. To arrange a group tour, phone Combier at 02 41 40 23 00 or visit their website.
Other Local Beverages To Try
Cider made from the apples of the Mayenne
Kamok, a coffe-based liqueur Menthe Pastille Giffard, a peppermint liqueur Le Nantillais, a traditional syrup made from ginger, orange and lemon peel, to be mixed with Muscadet or fizzy water.
Loire Wine Tours
Le Clos des Guyons
Le Puy Notre Dame
Tel : 0033(0)241403684
Brian Barcroft an ex wine-buyer, lover of Loire Wines and a long time resident of the region offers varying Tours and tastings of the wines of Anjou and Saumur. Based in the Saumur Wine Producing Village of Le Puy Notre Dame which has the Loire’s newest wine appellation. With a great understanding of local wines and an excellent relationship with many award winning producers Brian is able to discuss and explain the minutia of the various appellations In great and fascinating detail. Accommodation and Gourmet meals are also available.