As Brittany’s front door, Ancenis has had a fortress with two towers to oversee the river and the arrival of the enemy since the Middle-Ages. The castle, so many times vanquished, up until the seventeenth century, witnessed the preparation of the Edit of Nantes. Along the waterfront, the statue of Joachim de Bellay headed towards the river encourages us with these words “More so my little Liré than the mount Palatin”; his native village, Liré, should also be visited. www.ancenis.fr
The Turmelière manor. A remnant of the fourteenth century castle, which burnt down during the Revolution was the home to the Lords of Liré and the childhood residence of the poet Joachim de Bellay who was born in 1525. The new castle, in baroque style, was built in 1887 with remnants salvaged from the previous one. A museum is devoted to Bellay in the ‘Grand Logis’. www.lacommune.fr
Le Domaine de la Pléiade. A small family holding lead by Bernard and Brigitte Crespin, which to be in sync with the group of poets names La Pléiade, have named their estate after it. Standing out from their other vintages, a Coteaux d’Ancenis Malvoisie, a semi dry pintot gris grape with seducing amber notes and a rosé Coteaux d’Ancenis from gamay grapes, a fresh and fruity summer wine. www.vinsdelapleiade.com
Le Domaine Les Genaudières. Vines atop hills plunging down to the Loire riverbank since the fifteenth century. Steep hills giving a coarse, fruity wine. Anne Athimon has a similar character to her wines – generous and assured, she knows how to give her AOC Muscadet, Coteaux de la Loire and Coteaux d’Ancenis the right dose of minerality, the necessary freshness so that they can fulfill themselves accordingly. Anne also has produces some Coteaux d’Ancenis, supple and fruity wines with raspberry overtones. Tel.: 02 40 25 40 27. www.lecellier.fr
Le château de Clermont. The hugely successful actor, Louis Germain, David de Funès de Galarza known as “Louis de Funès” inherited this castle from his aunt. A medley of Louis XIII style with chapel and barn. He lived here in the latter part of his life and is buried in the village churchyard.
Inhabited by the Goulaine family since the fifteenth century, this castle is a real gem. Flanked on the furthest western side of the river, this castle is the last of the great Loire valley castles. Jean de Goulaine, Captain of the town of Nantes, was a go between for the Kings of England and France, thus his coat of arms bears leopards and fleurs de lys, and to thank him for services rendered, Henri IV awarded him the title of Marquis.
Historical Castle, wine producing estate with 23 hectares of vines in burgundy melon, a glasshouse for butterflies – a passion of the Marquis’ – and above all the LU museum – a must see!
In the seventeenth century wing of the château and on two levels, the real story of the little butter LU biscuit is told, through posters, biscuit tins, drawings and advertisements. Works of artists such as Mucha, Sempé, Mime Marceau or Folon – to name but a few – are on display here. 44115 Haute Goulaine, France. www.chateaudegoulaine.fr
Saint-Fiacre sur Maine
Domaine du château du Coing. A very educational visit of the castle is split up between the land and wine culture and offers visits of the barrel wine store and the modern wine store complete with wine press. There follows the history of Muscadet de Sèvre and Maine and then on to tasting some of the estate’s great vintages. www.chateau-du-coing.com
La Chapelle Heulin
Domaine de la Cassemichère. An eighteenth century castle, the cradle of Muscadet since 1740, when the first vine stocks were planted. 45 hectares of vines in appelation muscadet, a light, dry, fruity and bouquet white wine but also Chardonnay, a red and a rosé Gamay. The Muscadet Sèvre and Maine on Lie vintage from burgundy melon grapes produces a mineral wine, supple and subtly perfumed, so much so that it has been noticed by the Vins de France magazine. www.chateaucassemichere.com
Le Pallet is the city of Abélard. The philosopher Pierre André Abélard, canon of Notre Dame in Paris, known for his love affairs with the beautiful Héloïse, was born in the village in the year 1079. The Saint-Anne chapel is known as the “Abelard Chapel”.
The château de la Galissonnière. Found in the heart of the Nantes region vineyards, this castle was the home of Louis XV’s admiral Roland Barin de la Galissonnière, governor of Canada and a fine botanist. All that remains of the castle today is the tower and large outbuildings, in which the reception hall is to be found today. Philippe and Pierre Yves Lusseaud welcome you in their tasting cellar and let you enjoy their local produce and their Muscadet Sèvres and Maine on Lie, Muscadet, not forgetting their Cabernet, Chardonnay and wine said to be produced using the ‘traditional method’. www.chateaugalissonniere.fr
Château de la Sébinière. Anne Cannaferina’s manor house is like her, elegant and warm, quiet and peaceful. A few rooms to let in the midst of a great park filled with horses and with the vines nearby. The estate’s muscadet awaits you chilled! www.chateausebiniere.com
Au Fil des Saisons. On the village square, a small restaurant, which emphasises kitchen garden products. Tel.: +33 2 40 36 30 05
Domaine de L’Oiselinière. The château de l’Oiselinière’s estate has just been bought by Isabelle and Georges Verdier – a dynamic couple. The castle’s winemaking history dates back to the twelfth century when the designation “white vines of Muscadet” is mentioned in parchments. The villa, outbuildings, orangery, and the “Gallery of the Famous”, in a style of Italian inspiration, have been classified historical Monuments. The “Gallery of the Famous” is quite remarkable with busts of Olivier de Clisson, Condé, Duquesne, Jean Bart, Bayard and Guesclin on the façade. The 43 hectare vineyard, planted on the hills with muscadet vine plants, produces Muscadet Sèvre and Maine sur Lie of a great typicality, flowery and fruity. The “Illustres” vintage, made from old vines with ripe grapes, expresses intense aromas. www.chateau-de-l-oiseliniere.com
So impressive is this chateau that Gustave Flaubert described it like this “The Clisson château raises its battered head above the tall trees. All around is calm and quiet.” The ruins of the castle with its monumental towers allows one to imagine the strategic position Clisson once held in the English /French conflicts between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries and during the wars of religion. In the eighteenth century, Clisson, along the river bank, is influenced by the Italian style, giving it a Florentine look with its red tiled roofs, loggias and pink brick. Clisson Tourist Board Tel.: +33 2 40 54 02 95
La Villa Lemot. Modern art museum. In 1790, the sculptor Lemot, Grand Prix of Rome, bought the Garenne wood and called upon other artists to create a villa and park in the Antiquity and Renaissance styles. The Museum of la Garenne Lemot set in such idealistic and romantic a setting becomes a work of art in itself and exposes modern art. www.loire-atlantique.fr
Restaurant de la Vallée. Opposite the château, the summer terrace overlooks the Sèvre. An ideal place to taste the chef’s menus made of fish of the day, woodcock kebabs and accompanied with a glass of Loire valley wine. Tel.: +33 2 40 54 36 23
The Domaine de Bel Air. This is a wine producing estate with 25 hectares of vines run by the Bouin Jacquet family. Ten hectares are in appellation Muscadet and Muscadet Côtes de Granlieu and 15 others are reserved for red and white wines in sustainable agriculture with traditional vinification. Catherine, as well as working on the winemaking, runs a shop also on the estate, where one can find fine bed and table linen, together with a fine selection of teas and tea related objects without forgetting the tasting cellar, the vineyards and the wine makers’ house are just nearby. Tel.: +33 2 51 70 80 80
Saint-Philibert de Grand-Lieu
The heart of the abbey site was founded in the year 900. The blend of stone and brick, the elegant arches are rare witness to the Carolingian period. Classified Historical Monument, the sarcophagus of Saint Eponyme is sheltered here. Just next door to the Abbey are the simple gardens where the plants used in the time of Charlemagne are still grown. Tel.: +33 2 40 78 73 88
The Château de Champtocé, of which only ruins remain, was that of Gilles de Rais born in 1404. A comrade in arms to Joan of Arc, French Marshall, later to become known for less grand things such as witchcraft and murder and consequently condemned to death, yet the bloody legend of Blue Beard lives on.