Land of knights, Saumur is also home to the famous ‘cadre noir’, the French military Equestrian academy renowned worldwide and in existence since the seventeenth century. Splendid equestrian shows take place. www.cadrenoir.fr
The Château. Belonging to the Earls of Anjou then to the Plantagenêt, the château became a royal fortress in the thirteenth century, in the time of King Saint Louis and Blanche of Castille. The Marquis of Sade was imprisoned here. Coco Chanel, the famous fashion designer was born in Saumur.
Saumur wine has been honoured by a vine recently replanted and producing a special vintage. Grape harvest takes place at the château in September. www.ville-saumur.fr
The Chapel of Saint Jean of Saumur, which dates back to the early thirteenth century, belonged to the Hospitaliers of Saint Jean of Jerusalem. Works by modern artists are on display here.
Le Bistrot de la Place. A delicious bistro for lunch, to enjoy with a glass of local Saumur Anjou wine. 16 Place St Pierre. Tel.: +33 2 41 51 13 27
L’Alchimiste by François Deplage, a pleasant venue, recently renovated; a warm welcome and delicate cooking; all one needs to spend an evening where your taste buds are feted. 6 rue de Lorraine Tel.: +33 2 41 67 65 18
Aux Saveurs de la Tonnelle. A large choice of the very best local produce. 4 rue de la Tonnelle Tel.: +33 2 41 52 86 62
From Saumur, a breakaway to Parçay les Pins
Parçay les Pins
Le Musée Jules Desbois. Friend and fellow artist to Auguste Rodin, Jules Desbois, who hails from Parçay les Pins, is unquestionably one of the best sculptors of his time. A hundred remarkable works of art are displayed in the museum, honouring the human body, powerfully, realistically and sensually. The museum is housed in a nineteenth century Post House, very well laid out, celebrating the great local artist. Tel.: +33 2 41 82 28 80
Les Caves Bouvet-Ladubay. Created in 1851 by Etienne Bouvet, the establishment has since become the leader in export of Saumur Brut wine. The origin of the cellars dug out of freestone goes back to the time of Saint Florent and Foulque Nera in 1025. Eight kilometres of galleries running under the Abbey of Saint Hilaire show fragments of monuments carved out of the stone thousands of years ago.
35 sculptures by the artist Philipe Cormand have been added to this engulfed cathedral without forgetting the precious bottles of which the Ogimus 2007 vintage, a sophisticated blend of chenin and chardonnay. Another very IT vintage, is the Taille Princesse, a blend carried out by the actor Gérard Depardieu and the president of Bouvet, Patrice Monmouseau, giving a fine wine, with fine bubbles, liberating the fruit of the vine.
Access to Art of Wine
The Bouvet-Ladubay Centre for Modern Art. Opposite to the cellar, an immense exhibition hall, over 800 square metres, showcasing the work of top quality modern artists and encouraging exchanges between international collectors and artist studios. www.bouvet-ladubay.fr
Caves Ackerman. The father of the fine bubbled Loire wines. The illustrious establishment was founded in 1811 by Jean Ackerman and is celebrating its 200th anniversary. It opens its freestone gallery to art to show off its Blanc de Noir and X Noir vintages in scenography in balance with their typicality. www.ackerman.fr
Le Château de Brézé. Property of the Earl of Colbert, the mere size and beauty of the “Fuie” dovecote marks the greatness and power of the Brezé family going back five generations. The neo-gothic looking château, surrounded by huge dry moats, has been home to the Colbert Bernard family since the fourteenth century, who were great masters of ceremony for the Kings of France. Under the castle, dug out of freestone, is the largest underground noble structure in Europe – 2800 kilometres! Light wells, grain vaults, hideaways, arches… This visit is amazing and finishes with wine tasting in the estate’s cellars.
A 25 hectare vineyard of chenin, cabernet franc and chardonnay grapes for the AOC Coteau de Saumur. Dry whites, very structured, heavily mineralised, offering overtones of peach and wood. The vintage of reference “Le Clos Bonne Nouvelle”, a white mellow wine made of 100% chenin is similar to Sauternes and Chateau Yquem. www.chateaudebreze.com
One village and two châteaux all in one. The medieval fortress built by Foulques Nerra, Earl of Anjou, a faithful follower of King Hugues Capet, became a lavish home in the fifteenth century, the drawing rooms of which, with the tapestries, portraits and furniture, recall a past charged with history.
Domaine du château de Montreuil –Bellay. Winemaking is a family tradition. The Brotherhood of Sacavins was founded in 1904 by its owner, the Baron of Grandmaison, in the cellars of the castle. In the fifteenth century wine store, tasting and sales of the estate’s red and white Saumur wine take place together with visits from 1 April to 5 November. www.chateau-de-montreuil-bellay.fr
Le Puy Notre Dame
A winemaking village full of charm, located in the the Anjou-Saumur-Le Puy Notre Dame appellation, one of the last appellations with 1 500 hectares of vines and 70 producers. Almost four kilometres of recreational and educational pathways have been made available to tourists. Tel.: +33 2 41 38 87 30
La Collégiale. A place of worship where, as early as 1391, people came to worship the relic of the Virgin’s belt brought back from the Orient by William X of Aquitaine. Louis XI and Aliénor d’Aquitaine used to go there on pilgrimages. In the chapel, one of the sculptured stalls represents a canon drinking a barrel of local wine, showing not only the religious but the viticulture vocation of the area.
Manoir de la Tête Rouge. In the heart of the village, lie an eighteenth century manor house, wine making property and lodgings. Guillaume and Sophie Reynouard, both viticulturists, proffer a hearty welcome. They own 13 hectares of organic vineyards. Going by the names of “Fat Head”, “Angel Head”, “High in the Sky”, the red and white Saumur wines can be tasted together with those of their fellow wine makers. The “Fat head” vintage created in 2003 has been vinified from a strip of vine in cabernet franc and is especially successful. Sophie, an excellent cook, serves her guests good food in a warm atmosphere. www.manoirdelateterouge.com
The Clos Cristal
A walled-in property in AOC Saumur Champigny.
By far the most amazing vineyard and the most immeasurable means of maturing wine conceived by Father Cristal at the end of the nineteenth century. Vine stems to the north, grapes facing south, so that the vines, protected by the surrounding walls, could grow successfully. He put his ideas into action. In this wonderful 10 hectare vineyard where it is so agreeable to wander, the parallel walls are pierced 50 cm from the ground in order to let the vine head pierce through. Father Cristal, a friend of Clemenceau, bequeathed his strips to the Saumur Hospices. Nowadays, the estate belongs to the town hospital and is run, following organic cultivation methods, by Eric Dubois, master of the wine store. Visits by appointment. 49400 Champigny, France. Tel.: +33 2 41 52 96 08. www.clos-cristal.com
Wine-making villages of Coteaux de l’Aubance and du Layon
Perched on hill tops on the border of where the Vendée wars took place, the windmills still appear to keep an eye out for invaders. Here, slate making and wine making still go hand in hand with excellent vine stock. A landscape of vineyards, vine cabins dotted here and there meander along the Aubance River.
Château de Cheman. The château, a winemaking estate since the fourteenth century is located in a park surrounded by vineyards, the vine stocks of which are over 70 years of age. Gerdie and Jan Liebreks, the new Dutch owners, are passionate about wine and have tastefully re-styled this grand residence. The wine store and tasting room allow you to discover their certified Anjou Village, Cabernet, Coteaux de l’Aubance wines.
Château de Brissac.
Inhabited by the family of the Duke of Brissac since 1502, the castle is surrounded by seven hectares of park, including a vineyard on seven levels. The 200-roomed château is more like a museum, adorned with painted ceilings, furniture, tapestries, galleries, a Belle- Époque theatre and kitchens dating from the Middle-Ages. At the end of the visit one can taste the estate’s wine in the vaulted cellars. www.chateau-brissac.fr
Champs sur Layon
La Table de la Bergerie restaurant
La Table is run by the young and talented cook, David Guitton and is a surprising restaurant stuck in the middle of nowhere but surrounded by century old vines. The modern elegant décor compliments David’s cooking. Light and tasty dishes enhancing local produce go well with the estate’s vintages. 49380 Champ Layon. France www.latable-bergerie.fr
Domaine de la Soucherie. In the heart of the Coteaux du Layon. This large, modern looking, winemaking property has been taken over by new investors who are carrying out their dream of owning a vineyard. A park, high gates, reception and tasting rooms together with shops whose interior design is cutting-edge… The Soucherie’s concept of management resembles that of Bordeaux estates with running, cultivation, welcome and commercial teams. The 36 hectares is run according to sustainable growing methods. www.domaine-de-la-soucherie.fr
Le Château de Vaults. A whole dynasty of women such as Vicountess Walsh, Michèle de Feligonde, then Evelyne de Pontbriand have succeeded one another at the Château de Vaults. It is well worth visiting, in the heart of the certified Savennières region. The dwelling, the well-maintained grounds and flower beds, the welcome of Mrs Evelyne de Jessey-Pontbriand, make for an exceptional place. The neighbouring Domaine du Closel offers a selection of the estate’s wine – as poetic as its owner. Wines for conversation in Savennières grapes “La Jalousie” and “Une Emotion”, gourmet wines such as “La Tentation”, a cabernet from Anjou with amber notes or exceptional wines such as the Special Vintage “Le Clos du Papillon”, suave, delicate, highly mineralised and very fresh, wines for women! Concerts, literary evenings, and holiday promotions at the Chambres au Moulin are also on offer according to what you fancy… www.savennieres-closel.com
Access to Ladies & Wine
La Coulée de Serrant. A passionate wine producer Nicolas Joly believes in authenticity, biodynamic winemaking and respect. The estate’s three unique wines are the Savennières Roche aux Moines, the Savennières and, a rarity, the Coulée de Serrant, which is a designation in itself. Only seven hectares for a vine coming from a chenin vine plant averaging 40 years old. The vineyard lies on a layer of red shale and is worked either by horse or by hand and the grape harvest is done in five times over a three to four week period in order to obtain a very colourful maturity. A whole process, which makes the Coulée de Serrant a rare and precious wine. www.coulee-de-serrant.com
Les Chambres au Moulin. Sylvie Leclerc lets three divine rooms with access to the swimming pool and sauna next to her Mill, having fallen for the peacefulness of the Anjou area. Water and Wine. Sylvie offers her guests an wine tourism discovery trail of the vineyards and wines of the area including the Coulée de Serran. Tel.: + 33 2 41 72 24 47
Saveurs. The Savennières cooperative grocery store is a convivial and unusual place where most of the produce is organic and where wine from small local producers are promoted. A good discovery. Place du Mail Tel.: +33 2 41 19 28 11
A La Pointe. A restaurant “with a view”, located at the confluence of the Maine and the Loire rivers, it is a gastronomic restaurant and the chef Luc Bertrand promotes local river fish such as brill, pike, shad, sea lamprey. Magnificent view and excellent cooking. 2 place de Ruzebouc. Tel.: +33 2 41 77 11 96