The pretty village of Le Thoureil yesterday - a 10 minute walk from our home
What can you expect from the Loire? First and foremost - the river itself. The last 'wild river' in France, the Loire is 629 miles long (over 1000km). Wide and shallow, it was the main means of transport in days gone by with all manner of boats carrying everything from textiles, charcoal, stone, sand and of course wine dominating the water before the railway came to the region in 1849. The levy on the North side keeps it under control during the winter months (something that was introduced by Henry II in the 12th Century). Although it still floods from time to time, the river could reach a width of 7km before this time. If you come in from Paris on the train, don't expect to see vineyards as you reach Angers. There are no vines planted between Angers and Saumur on the North of the river as the land is far too rich. Instead you'll see flowers, maize, pears, apples and quinoa.
The river at Le Thoureil early morning in April 2011
The river at Le Thoureil February 2012 - a very different scene
All over the region you'll find beautiful architecture. Homes are built from local tuffeau limestone which was quarried over the centuries and also used to build the great chateaux of the region leaving thousands of kilometres of tunnels today used for the storage of sparkling wine (the Loire is France's second biggest producer of sparkling wine after Champagne). In Angers the working slate mine provides the roof tiles that are so characteristic of the region.
Each tile is individually hand cut and attached with copper nails on this historic building
What about the vineyards? Well, you can expect to find small estates that are often family run, unpretentious, unglamourous but real and welcoming. Don't look for wineries with restaurants attached - with one or two rare exceptions they don't exist here in the Loire. What you will find is a shared passion for wine, a welcoming smile and a relaxed attitude. They don't call it la douceur Angevine for nothing - this expression sums up life in the Loire valley. Big marketing budgets and fancy tasting rooms are unusual here but you can expect to be guided by the owner, the owners son, daughter or even grandma.
Mathieu Vallée - owner of Chateau Yvonne in Saumur in Champigny. He makes just 3 superb wines
Eddy Oosterlinck-Bracke makes what he calls 'noble sweet wines' in the Coteaux du Layon
Sometimes you'll find something a little special for a different reason. A beautiful chateau, great wine and a friendly owner who is happy to show you around and give you a glimpse into their life.
Beautiful Chateau du Petit Thouars close to Chinon - a historic place that is also a home and makes great wines
Chateau de Pimpéan - an ongoing restoration project, a stunning 15th century chapel, a lovely wine and a gregarious owner Maryse Tugendhat who loves to show visitors around
Last year we welcomed people from America, Russia, England, Holland, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, Sweden and France. Some came for a relaxing day out - a change of pace from Paris, some were passing on their way down South. Some had an in-depth knowledge of wine and others were complete beginners but they all shared the same passion and interest for a region that is the most diverse wine-making region in France.
Tasting a range of wines from the Loire valley with visitors from the US, Australia & UK
So, if you're contemplating a visit to France this year, why should you come and spend a day with us? Wine is something that can be enjoyed by everyone. No need to be an expert to take pleasure in spending a day here in the Loire valley. So many subjects are touched by the business of wine - geology, geography, biology, chemistry, history, gastronomy. Sharing a glass of wine is the result of all of these things and we are lucky enough to be able to share them with you.
Enjoying an aperitif in the garden before lunch
What can you expect during a one day wine tour with us? We pride ourselves on providing a unique and personal wine experience and by the end of the day you'll have tasted a wide range of wines from a number of different appellations in the Loire valley. You'll have a good understanding of French wine labelling, the different grape varieties planted in the region and the differences between them. You'll have enjoyed a home cooked 3 course lunch in our delightful barrel maturation cellar and have had the chance to retaste all the wines you have tasted during the morning with food. You'll have the chance to enjoy one high quality wine visit during the afternoon. Best of all you'll have met other like minded people from other parts of the world who are here for the very same reason - to have a lovely day out in the beautiful Loire countryside, taste some great wines, discover some local dishes and meet some great people.
Enjoying a relaxing lunch in the cellar with guests from Chicago
And why us rather than other people? Well - only our clients can tell you that. I can tell you that we won't rush you - your time with us will be relaxed and leisurely. We don't drive you around lots of different wineries in one day (in fact we often have difficulty persuading our clients to leave the lunch table in order to meet our rendezvous in the afternoon!). le tasting room is our home and we take great pleasure in welcoming you here as our guests. Don't be mislead though - at the end of the day you'll have tasted a range of wines from no less than 7 different producers and have the opportunity to buy them from us at cellar door prices so whether you'd like to take a bottle or two back to enjoy during your stay in France or are looking to source wines for a party, event or wedding, we can help.
We've 25 years wine trade experience between us, speak good French and work closely with a large number of top quality producers in the region.
So, if you're like us and appreciate fine wine, great food and good company, we'd love to welcome you here; just a stone's throw from the river Loire.
The TGV offers an excellent service from Paris. What's more; we'll collect you and deliver you back to the station inAngers for your return journey to the capital.
Whether you're a complete beginner or a dedicated oenophile; we have something to offer. Don't take our word for it - see what our previous clients have to say about us on Tripadvisor and here are a couple of recent testimonials taken from our website.
Thank you for giving us the very day we were looking for, the lunch was so very fresh and tasty and what a magnificent setting. As for the wines of the Loire I now have a much greater understanding and received an education in the history and wine styles of the region. Thank you for tailoring the day to suit those requests.
Your knowledge of 20 years in the wine industry clearly shows through during the day and the insight you have with the winemakers gave us a true feel of the Loire wines and the beautiful region.
The whole day was fabulous, Kate, Miles and I really had a great time and came away much better informed about the region and its wines.' Jonathan - Australia 2011