Chestnut and oak trees, forests, chateaux and grand houses, the river Loir, medieval towns, boulangeries and brasseries – welcome to the Vallée du Loir…
We’ve all heard of La Loire with its famous Chateaux and fabulous vineyards. But Le Loir, its neighbour is not quite so well known. Literally translated it means the Valley of the Dormouse. Venture off the beaten track to discover an area of France that is a haven of tranquility, an authentic and historic place that surprises and dazzles at every turn…
The wine route Le Loir
Le Loir has a meandering wine route with the chance to try some unique wines such as Jasnières and Côteaux du Loir. I stopped at the wine cellars and shop of Fresnau Wines in Marçon for a wine tasting. The tourist office website recommends ten wine stops that offer great tastings (see website below). Amandine Fresnau explains that this is a family run business. She tells me that Henri V loved the local wines of this area I have to agree with him! She says that they are “wines that speak” and explains how the wine is made with traditional methods. The grapes are grown in a flint stone soil. There’s nothing quite like it being produced anywhere else outside this area. The Côteaux du Loir takes me by surprise. A lovely mellow red, that has a distinct hint of pepper. Served on top of an old oak barrel in the shop with the image of Saint Vincent – it’s delicious. Amandine, who speaks English, says that many wine makers call their sons Vincent after the patron saint of wine makers!
Wines to make you sigh
I’m hooked on the peppery Côteaux du Loir. I know little about wine except what tastes good. It’s a shame that its not so well-known that you can just buy it anywhere but I’ll just have to go back. In the meantime I buy a crate to take home and am surprised at the price. I’m used to UK wine prices and I know that this would be far more expensive in the UK, here its positively cheap! I decide it’s not a problem that they don’t export en masse around the world (though they do have outlets in the US and Taiwan). Its a beautiful part of France and there’s a lot to explore, I’ll definitely go back. In the vaulted cellars of Fresnau wines, which you can tour, it is humid and a constant 12–13 degrees. The wine has been made and stored here for many years. Some of the bottles look as though may have been there since the dawn of time. The walls and older bottles are covered in mould where the wine evaporates in miniscule amounts. They call it “the angel’s share”.
Not far away in Domaine de la Charriere is the lovely little shop of Gigou Wines. Another outstanding place to taste and buy a souvenir to take home from this special area.
Le Loir is a brilliant place to tour with lots of places to stop, explore and discover with some real surprises. And, the wine is outstanding!
Hotel in the area: I stayed at the friendly Hotel de France, loved by Le Mans racing drivers and fans over the decades and a little art deco jewel in this pretty, sleepy little town of La Chartre-sur-le-Loir on the wine route.
What else to see in the area:
The Chateau de Lude, a step back in time and an incredible castle that’s still inhabited
The Zoo with rooms with a view – in the animal pens! La Fleche Zoo offers a most unusual stay…
The stunning and ancient apothecary of Bauge in the loveliest French town
Tourist office website: www.vallee-du-loir.com for loads of great ideas for what to see and do