Loire Valley: Saumur: One Is In You

So if you have ever spent any time in France you’ll know that everything is closed Sunday and by that I mean everything! Luckily we had planned in advance and had found the two wineries that were still open, but that isn’t to say that they had any plans to open before noon. So we busied ourselves in the morning, generally eating croissants, drinking amazing coffee and watching some of the strangest people I have ever seen, pretty much heaven for me!

But finally we had to do something and our first stop was La Maison Bouvet Ladubay. Now for me the main take-away from this place was that they had an incredibly small carpark and consequently it was rather tricky to park the car, however I don’t think that that was what Rachel remembers so we’ll go back to the tour and the wine.

When we got there they only had a guided tour in French, I was feeling pretty confident (having parked the car and all) and so assured Rachel that I could most definitely translate the tour for her. So off we went. Okay, so I may have lived in France for a year, and visited a lot, but that was a while ago and there are A LOT of wine terms that I had no idea about (come to think about it there are a fair few that I don’t know in English!) Add to this the fact that I maintain that the guide was speaking incredibly fast and wasn’t the clearest with her explanations and there were a lot of times that we were both very lost. Having said that it was a fascinating tour, all about the natural caves were acquired back in 1851 and had been in operation since then. We also learnt about how the sparkling wine (never “champagne”) was made and how the process has been modernized over the years. Then I swear that there was some super confusing section when Gérard Depardieu came up and that is pretty much where I declared defeat on the translations!

But now to the important stuff, the tasting. We must have tried almost 10 different wines, but for ease and because I may have forgotten the finer points of some of the wines I’ll say that the Trésor Cuvée Exceptionnelle was very good. The AOC requires a maximum of 20% chardonnay, and this wine reaches that, the other 80% is chenin blanc. This gives the wine a light peachy nose with hints of yellow apple, flowers and notably, apple blossom. Whilst on the tongue there is a delightful mix of apple, apricot, more peach and butter, a lot of butter! The wine was really light, and incredibly refreshing a good alternative (or addition!) to champagne in the summer.

After that we made it out of the carpark without hitting anything (can you see that it made quite the impression) and plowed ahead to the next place. Gratien Meyer to be precise.Only to realize that we’d arrived at lunchtime and so it was shut. Queue hanging out in a layby for a while, waiting for it to open again!

Luckily there were some amazing views from the chateâu because the wine was not as good. We again had the tour of the caves, though this time in English and a few of the finer points of the sparkling making process became clearer. Obviously, the sparkling had the same requirements as at Bouvet Ladubay, but the difference in the quality was really evident. At Bouvet Ladubay the wine was a lot more complex and had a much more pleasant finish, the wine at Gratien Meyer was a little harsh on the tastebuds and short on the finish. Obviously we still drunk our glasses, no need to throw them away or spit, but probably wouldn’t rush out to buy some.

What does one do after such a delightful day of tasting sparkling wine I hear you say! Well we went out for dinner, and not to just any restaurant but to one that serves horse! Now I’m not a stranger to this, though it was a bit of a surprise for Rachel, but the thing that struck me as a little odd was the fact that this place had pictures of horses all over the walls. By all accounts Saumur is also famous for its horses, it is home to the French National Horse-riding school no less. There was something a little disconcerting about the thought that some of the horses might have made the trip from the school to the plates of our fellow diners. For those that are interested both Rachel and I went with the vegetarian option that night! Furthermore, this was just the beginning of our equine encounters!