When Loire Valley Wines approached me to be flown over to France to experience their region on a 4-day Loire Valley wine trip, I thought they were joking. Seriously there were emails going back and forth for nearly 6 months before I actually believed it.
I also wasn’t sure if I could actually go as for one, I had a 6-month and 2.5 year old at that time with the former still breastfeeding! Thankfully my wonderful Mr Spittoon knocked some sense in me and said he’d hold down the fort for the week and told me I had to do it.
So I did! And below is my ‘wine diary’ of my Loire wine trip (you can also see the trip in pictures on my Instagram profile). The whole blow-by-blow. Grab a glass of wine (preferably one from the Loire Valley) and enjoy.
But before we get stuck in, where exactly is the Loire Valley? The Loire Valley can be reached within about a 2 hour train ride south of Paris. We started our adventure in the most western town of the Loire – Nantes, which was a 3.5 hour train ride from the station at Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Table of Contents
Day 1 – Australia to Paris
The first day was a massive travel day. I was flying from Hobart which meant I had three flights ahead of me (stopovers in Melbourne and Singapore). I left Hobart at 10:30am and got on my third flight in the early hours of Monday.
Due to the 35+ hours of travel, I decided to treat myself and pay for a business class upgrade on my Singapore Air flights, and oh my it was worth it. Just having my own comfortable space to relax and sleep was the biggest bonus but also having good food and wine the whole way + lounge access was lush. It definitely made the trip a lot more comfortable and I showed up somewhat rested.
Day 2 – Paris to Nantes
The first half of Monday (or what felt like the first half) was onboard my longest leg of the trip – Singapore to Paris, a 13hour flight! I landed in Paris just before 8am. I actually found the airport fairly easily to navigate, well Terminal 1 which I flew into.
It was here I meet up with the others on the tour (definitely give them a follow @glendonww, @louthesomm and @winewankers) and finally had some good coffee! You may have Charles Heidsieck Champagne on board Singapore Air, but your coffee wasn’t anything to write home about.
Our train to Nantes was scheduled to depart at 11:20am. It was a 3.5 hour train journey and the free WIFI onboard made it pass pretty quickly. It was comfortable and quiet with some beautiful countryside. There was a bit of a delay so we ended up getting in about 3pm.
Once we arrived at Nantes train station we shuffled into a couple of taxi’s and made our way to our hotel – Best Western Nantes Hôtel Graslin. We all had rooms on the 3rd floor with little balconies and they were super cute. It is located in the heart of the golden triangle formed by the “Passage Pommeraye”, the “Théâtre Graslin” and the “Cours Cambronne” which is part of the historic centre of Nantes.
The rooms are inspired by the famous works of French novelist Jules Verne. They were comfortable and clean. The breakfast in the basement in the morning was also super lovely – your typical European continental breakfast with breads, meats, cheeses, croissants, pain au chocolate, yoghurt, cereal, juice, etc. I loved in!
So once we had checked in and since I had spent the majority of the past 35 hours sitting down, I went for a stroll through Nantes. It was pretty quiet due to it being a bank holiday. However it was great to have a walk down by the river and through the historic part of the city.
After my walk and a much needed shower, I then met up with the rest of the group for a few glasses of Muscadet and Touraine Sauvignon at a local Cocktails and Vins bar – Chez les Garçons and some scrumptious truffle cheese and fresh bread. Glasses of wine were around 5€ (approximately $8 AUD) and the cheese was 10€.
Afterwards we headed to our dinner restaurant at La Cigale. This beautiful French brasserie is super art nouveau inside and is renowned for it’s seafood. As Nantes is located about 50kms from the Atlantic Ocean it makes sense for it to be a seafood destination.
In the ‘Pays Nantais’ region, they are known for their Muscadet wines made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape variety. This is a wine made for seafood, so naturally our dinner was focused on seafood and Muscadet – bliss!!
Plus we ordered some sneaky ‘Organic snails from Vendee, raised and stuffed by Maison Royer’ too for 19€! This was my first time trying snails or Escargot.
The seafood platter we had (42€ for 1 person) to start with consisted of:
- 1/2 brown crab
- Pink shrimps
- Oysters from different parts of France
I then followed up our seafood entree with the Red Sea Bream – a roasted redfish fillet with herb mashed potatoes, braised broccolini and a spicy fish fumet. After a quick Google I found at out the ‘fumet’ is a highly concentrated, yet delicate, fish stock that originated in France.
Naturally when you get a bunch of wine lovers together we had to of course enjoy a few delicious local wines too. We enjoyed:
- Domaine de Belle Vue Granite ‘Clos du Perrieres’ 2019 Muscadet (delicious notes of citrus and white fruits with that classic saline character Muscadet has and there was a bit of toasty smokiness too)
- Domaine Luneau-Papin Terre de Pierre 2021 Muscadet (a bit lemony, a bit floral and hints of quince and of course some delicious salinity)
What a meal and what a great first day in the Loire Valley! After dinner I crashed into bed so I could rest up for another big day.
Day 3 – Muscadet’s of Nantais
After a tasty French breakfast at our hotel (cheese, croissant and pain au chocolate + coffee) and a bit of blogging for me, we met our driver and host in the lobby.
Emma Fontaine, our lovely host for the remainder of the trip is the International Export Market Manager for InterLoire. She is a wealth of knowledge about the region and I’m really looking forward to getting to know her better over the next few days.
Our first stop for the day was about a 30 minute drive from Nantes – Château du Cléray. It was here we were introduced to 4th generation winemaker – Pierre-Jean Sauvion. Pierre-Jean is also the spokesperson for Loire Valley Wines. I must say he does a good job as Loire wines are always the best when he is talking about them!
Pierre-Jean and Emma gave us a fantastic introduction to the Loire Valley, alongside a tasting of a number of different styles throughout the region. It was a lot of interesting information to take it (worthy of its own blog post – stay tuned) however here are some of my favourite pieces of info:
- The Loire is all about the 4 F’s – Fresh, Fruity, Floral and Fair (with fair being environmentally conscious)
- There are 4 key sub regions – Nantais (aka “the world capital of Muscadet”), Anjou-Samur, Touraine and Centre-Loire
- Vines started to be planted in the Loire from the 4th century
- It is the largest French UNESCO region
- The river and it’s soils are what give the wines there characters “the river built the terroir of the Loire”
- 50% of production is white, 30% rosé and the remainder red
- The key grapes are Melon de Bourgogne (used to make Muscadet), Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc
- Currently 80% of the vineyards have an environmental certification (e.g. organic, biodynamic, HVE) and they aim to be at 100% by 2030 – they don’t just care about today but their vineyards in the future
- There are about 3,000 producers and currently about 90 export to Australia (hopefully we’ll see that grow over the coming years!)
- “Behind every bottle is a berry, soil, weather and someone”
Those are just a few of the key points I noted down. It was amazing to get to know the region.
After the presentation and tasting 8 wines from throughout the region, Pierre-Jean took us down to the cellar.
It was absolutely fascination to see the ‘sur lie’ process in the example barrel below. It really helped to not only tell us but show us about this process which is important to the Muscadet producers.
I loved how their cellar door was also down in the cellar – a great experience if you were visiting.
Next it was lunch time. I was starving! Wine tasting is such hard work right 😉
They prepared a more traditional lunch for us and wow it was delicious and so much! From asparagus soufflé and salmon to chicken and beans and then of course cheese and some cheesecake (because we weren’t full enough) – I was full to the brim. Naturally we enjoyed this with some Muscadet, a Cabernet Franc from Chinon and some Cremant de Muscadet.
We ended the meal with a coffee to kick us into gear for our next stop.
After checking out the vines we jumped back in the mini van and headed about 10 minutes up the road to Bonnet-Huteau.
Bonnet-Huteau is in the Center of the Sèvre & Maine appellation. They became certified organic around 2005 and then certified biodynamic around 2010. It was here we really got immersed into the world of different soil types to grow Muscadet on.
The key different soil types we learnt about were gneiss, micaschist, amphibolite and granite. We even had the opportunity to try a Muscadet made in the same way but on three different soil types – it was amazing to experience the difference that purely each of the soil types could impart on each of the wines.
Winemaker Jean-Jacques kindly showed us around his property from the vines to the winery. We saw underground vats, terracotta maturation vessels and all the behind the scenes equipment that goes into making his wines.
We even got to try an aged Muscadet from 2009 which was pretty special from the Goulaine Cru.
I loved seeing the Bonnet-Huteau property and learning more about Muscadet who the produces around here are so passionate about.
At the end of our tasting we jumped back in the mini van to drive an hour and fifteen minutes to our overnight stop – Angers, a bustling university town.
Our hotel – Hotel du Mail was super cute. Despite having to lug my suitcase up what felt like a million stairs and the sketchy WIFI, my room was very comfortable and with its striking purple/lavender theme!
We quickly dropped our bags and then it was off for our dinner reservation at Le 15 Gourmand.
There weren’t any english menus, but thankfully our hosts alongside Google Translate helped us work out what was what on the menu. I had an amazing salmon entree followed by a catfish main with white wine butter sauce and mash. So divine!
And of course we had some delicious local wines to match which were from the region we are now in – Anjou-Saumur.
- 2022 Chateau de Passavant Anjou (Grape = Chenin Blanc)
- Dumnacus Savennieres (Grape = Chenin Blanc)
- 2020 Domaine Escogriffe Grolleau Gris (Grape = Grolleau Gris)
After dinner it was time to head back to the hotel and before heading off to sleep I had to pop up a wee Reel on Instagram about my new love for Muscadet!
Day 4 – Rosé d’Anjou & Cabernet d’Anjou
Who else loves a hotel breakfast? I am always so excited to see what there is, especially when you are in another country. The absolute star of the show at the Hotel du Mail’s breakfast was the croissants. For on the were massive, and secondly they were crunchy on the outside and so soft and melt in your mouth in the inside. Sooooo delicious!
After eating my weight in croissant for breakfast, it was time for a bit of blogging before jumping back in the mini van for another day of wine and food adventures in the Loire.
The first stop for the day, and where we spent the majority of the day was about 30 minutes from Angers – Domaine Leduc Frouin.
Leduc Frouin is owned and operated by Nathalie and Antoine Leduc who are fourth generation winegrowers on the family estate. They are located in the village of Sousigne, which is a town of 50 people. Yes just 50, not 50,000!
The main red grapes they grow and produce wine from are Cabernet Franc (we saw some of their most prized Cab Franc vines which were 65 years old), Cabernet Sauvignon and Grolleau. I was super intrigued by Grolleau, which you can learn a bit more about in my Instagram Reel below.
For their white wines, they grow Chenin Blanc mostly, but also a bit of Chardonnay to make their Crémant-de-Loire sparkling wine.
Like all the other producers we have visited on this trip, they are so focused on sustainability and respect for the environment.
I was super happy to find out that they do export to Australia too – through Two Ducks Fine Wines.
The Leduc Frouin property is so amazing to visit. We firstly went out to the vineyards and then this was followed by a walk around the property which has so much history. Below is a picture of me with the 60 year old Grolleau vines.
We saw the old cellars dug into the rock walls and even the old carts and barrels where Bordeaux mixture was made (a combination of copper sulfate, lime, and water —is an effective fungicide and bactericide to help control diseases on vines).
We also visited the winery and had a few barrel samples which was extra special. We tried the 2022 Anjou Blanc (made from Chenin), which was pretty darn tasty and also their Coteaux du Layon Le Grand Clos 2022, a sweeter style Chenin but oh my it had the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity.
Before we had lunch, we visited the neighbouring church for a glass of the Leduc Crémant. Rather random, but it was impressive to see the old church and the history of the property and area.
Lunch was served picnic style up in the most gorgeous setting. The food was fantastic, plenty of charcuterie, a yummy herring and potato salad, cheese (of course!) and an almond tart to finish. As we tasted our way through the Rosé of Leduc’s, we were also joined by a couple of other local winemakers Catherine Motheron of Domaine de Flines and Vincent Rousseau from Domaine des Fontaines. They of course also brought some of their Rosé for us to try.
So what did we learn?
Cabernet d’Anjou is Rosé made from the Cabernet Franc grape variety. They are off-dry so have a bit of fruity sweetness to them which make them great for matching to foods. Think spicy dishes especially. Then you have Rosé d’Anjou which is a similar style in terms of being off dry, but it can be made from other grape varieties like Grolleau.
If you prefer a drier style then look for a Rosé de Loire 😉
In the glass they are a low-intensity pink shade, leaning towards a salmon colour. On the nose I was picking up a variety of aromas from red (currant, raspberry), white and yellow (peach, pear) fruits to even some peppery notes and and floral nuances. They are super fresh and ‘tender wines’ as the locals call them. They can contain up to 10g/l of sugar, so definitely more an off-dry style.
I typically like my wines bone-dry, however these off-dry pink wines seemed to nail that balance of sweetness and acidity which made them quite easy to drink!
With our cheese course – there is one in every French meal right! Antoine shared with us some of his recently awarded Cabernet Franc – La Seignewrie which one a gold medal at the 2023 Interloire wine show. Delicious!
After our leisurely long lunch we headed up the road to Dumnacus Vins & Elixirs new shop to taste through some red wines made from Cabernet Franc and have more cheese!
By the end of the day, I felt like I was rolling round and regret not packing more stretchy pants 😉
Our hotel for the night was in the beautiful city of Saumur called the Hôtel Le Londres. Again no lifts (argh why did I pack so much!!), however the rooms are so lovely and spacious, with good WIFI and my room had a coffee machine which was sooooo good!
For dinner we headed to Bistrot de la Place. I didn’t think I’d be able to eat after such a big day of food, but alas I had a 3-course meal! When in France right…
I ended up having a cucumber gazpacho for my entree, the market fish for my main and some ice-cream, fruit and meringue for dessert. We matched this with some sparkling Saumur and a white and red for the region. Bliss!
Another day of so much good wine and food – it’s safe to say I am absolutely loving the Loire Valley – however my waist line is not liking it so much!!
Day 5 – Crémant de Loire & Saumur Blanc
It was lovely waking up in Hôtel Le Londres in Saumur, I think it may be my favourite hotel on the trip. While getting in some blogging pre-breakfast I was able to have a coffee and it was just nice and roomy.
Breakfast again was stellar. And again, I ate way to much pastry. However when the staff said that the croissants and pain au chocolat were from a local bakery + they looked sooooo good, how could I refuse? It would be rude right?
So after a yummy breakfast and finishing off my blogging, it was time to pack up and jump back in the mini van.
This morning we were heading to a the Saumur Champigny appellation which was about a 15 minute drive away. We were headed to the village of Parnay where we would find Domaine de Rocheville – the owner Philippe Porché must be one of the biggest advocates of Chenin Blanc that I have ever met!
Philippe started the vineyard in 2004 and his first vintage was in 2005. He produces Saumur Blanc (white wine made from Chenin Blanc) and Saumur Champigny (red wine made from Cabernet Franc, of course, then in Saumur Rosé (made from Cabernet Franc) and a few years later in Crémant de Loire (made from Chenin Blanc). The vineyard is certified organic and is on the tufa soil – if you haven’t picked up on my notes so far, the soil and terroir is so important to the Loire Valley and their wines so trying to understand the complexities of these really can help you understand the wines better.
It is a very modern winery which is built around the original long farmhouse on the property. And did it mention it has underground cellars?? I will never get sick of looking at underground cellars! The troglodytic cellars is where a lot of bottle ageing occurs and he also has some reds in clay/sandstone eggs too – super interesting to see and hear about.
After adventuring through the cellar, the winery and soaking up the beautiful views from the deck of the Loire Valley and Saumur vineyards, we then came to the tasting part. You’d think I would be sick of wine tasting by now, but goodness no. Especially not when it comes to Chenin Blanc!
We tasted through four wines, a Brut Nature (extra dry, no sugar added) Cremant de Loire made from Chenin (soooo good and apty named ‘La Favourite’. Followed by three different styles of still Chenin. I enjoyed them all, I love Chenin and compared to their Aussie counterparts I found these a bit more elegant and delicate in flavour. Plus all the mentions of foods to match from scallops to asparagus to curry and cheese was making me so hungry!
Which meant we were just about ready for lunch! Lunch was booked at a cosy little restaurant back in the village of Parnay called La Mangeoire. As with most French restaurants, there was a lunch menu to choose from which consisted of a couple of different options for entrees, mains and desserts.
While deciding what to eat, I opted for the house cocktail of the day which was some kind of Crémant de Loire bubbly with a strawberry twist. It was refreshing!
For lunch I had the leek and salmon tart followed by the steak frites which I was excited about. My first steak and chips of the meal. It was delicious and it matched the Saumur Champigny from Rocheville well.
And I was full again. I swear I won’t need to eat for a week after getting back to Australia!
We were back in the minivan after lunch and off to our next stop – and guess what, there was no wine at this stop! Shock horror I know!!
To be honest it was quite nice to have an afternoon off and have some time to “miss” wine again 😉
Our next stop was the amazing Château de Villandry. The Loire Valley is a World UNESCO site because of all the amazing castles and château, so it was great to visit one. Villandry was impressive and it wasn’t the actual castle that amazed me, but the gardens, woweee so beautiful!
The ‘kitchen garden’ as they call it, had 20,000 decorative lettuces in!! Our guide said that the end of May is an even better time to visit as the roses are all blooming on the property, but September is probably the best time as everything is blooming.
The medieval fortress of Villandry was built in the 12th century and was used a lot for peace discussions between Philip II and Richard the Lionheart of England. It really is a spectacular property with its renaissance gardens (there are only 10 gardeners who are employed to look after the gardens today!) with all the boxwood hedging and geometric patterns. I would highly recommend stopping here if you love a good garden!
After our guided visit we were back on the road to our next overnight stop – Tours. And what a beautiful city it is. We had a bit of time before we had to meet for dinner, so I managed to get in about a 3km walk around the cobblestoned old town with it’s unique medieval, looking buildings. A lovely clean city to walk around and I found some super pretty gardens too.
Dinner was at Le Bistrot d’Odile with its very art nouveau interior. The menu was fairly simple, as I am finding most French menus – which I like, as it’s always a hard decision to choose what to eat!
I ended up going for the gazpacho of peas, tataki of salmon and lobster chip. It was not only stunning but so tasty, there were bits of pomegranate, edible flowers, mmm it was divine.
I followed this up with the fish of the day with carrots with black lemon mousseline, mini vegetables and sorrel cream. Again a stunner of a dish and delicious.
We shared a bottle of Vouvray as a bit of a prelude to our adventures tomorrow.
By this time I was so full and it was time to head back to our hotel for the night – Grand Hotel de Tours for some rest and relaxation. Tomorrow is our last day in the Loire before we head to Paris.
Day 6 – Vouvray & Touraine
And just like that it’s Friday and it’s the last day of our Loire Valley wine tour. I don’t want it to end!!
Now before I delve into today’s ramblings, I just want to point out how I love in the Loire, and throughout France that on both the wine bottles and at the cellar doors they point out that they are a ‘Vigneron Independant’ – this is viticultural trade association based in Paris that aims to help small and independent winemakers within France. I love it and wish Australia had something similar!
We ended the day on a high note and headed directly to the Vouvray appellation in the morning. It was here we visited Alain Robert Vineyard to continue our Chenin Blanc journey.
I loved our visit to Alain Robert in the village of Chançay. It is a family business which is now run by a brother & sister team – Cyril and Catherine. Catherine was absolutely lovely and gave us a good introduction to the property, a tasting through some of their amazing sparkling, dry still and sweet still wines alongside taking us through the hand dug (with a jackhammer) limestone cellars!!
Hot tip: Limestone is locally known as “tuffeau”.
It was absolutely fascinating learning about their 37 hectares of vines, the different soils and terroirs. Chenin is their main grape and it’s mostly grown on clay and limestone and clay and flint soils in both their village of Chançay alongside in Noizay too.
We tried both the Extra Brut and Brut sparkling Vouvray’s, the former being my favourite as I love those super dry and mineral driven bubbles. It spends 3 years in their limestone cellars before being released and the grapes are from those vines on the clay and flint soils.
To be honest I enjoyed both the Terroir Wines with the Dry Ammonite being my favourite. The grapes are from 50 year old vines (the oldest on the estate) and are grown on clay and flint soils. This wine is really special as it’s the first wine that was created when Catherine joined the family business in 2013. It is aged for 12 months in French oak barrels.
We then moved onto the Four Seasons range, which is Alain and Christiane’s legacy. These follow the four seasons with the first being dry (Les Charmes), the second is a off-dry (Carpe Diem), the third is sweet (Les Larmes) and the fourth being super sweet (L’Enchanteur)
Gosh I thought I loved Chenin Blanc before, now I am obsessed with it! Catherine even treated us to a ‘doux’ aka sweet Chenin Blanc from 2005. I was so impressed with how perfectly balanced the sweetness and acidity was, even though it was nearly 20 years old.
After the tasting we took a stroll through the cellars. They do have gyropalette which is a tool for riddling (aka slightly turning a bottle of sparkling wine to loosen the sediment so that it collects in the bottle neck) sparkling wine, however they do still hand riddle about 5,000 bottles a year!
I loved checking out the limestone cellars and meeting Catherine. If you are in Vouvray make sure to pop by for a visit. They do export to Australia too, so if you see any of their wines, do try them and let me know what you think.
Our next stop was lunch, another 3-course meal which I probably didn’t need, but hey, when in France right 😉
Our lunch stop was in the town of Amboise which has a fantastic looking castle. I have added it to my list for when I come back for another visit. Our lunch was at the swanky L’Ecluse Restaurant which is in the Michelin Guide.
I opted for the following:
- Duck Ravioli
- Sea Bass Fillet & Thai Curry with a Goats Cheese & Asparagus and Tarragon Tart
- Cheese Plate
Oh my was I stuffed by the end of it. So bloody good!!
After lunch we headed to Père Auguste in the Touraine and Touraine Chenonceaux appellations. The vineyard dates back 145 years and currently at the helm is a 6th generation winemaker – Adrien who kindly hosted us on our visit. Adrien has worked around the world (including New Zealand) so had really good English, which was fantastic.
Adrien took us on a nice walk through the village and his vines (much needed after all that food at lunch!). Sauvignon Blanc is the hero grape in the Touraine appellation and his Sauvy grapes are on a gently sloping hill. We haven’t seen much ‘hilly’ vineyards yet on this trip, everything has been rather flat, so it was fantastic to climb up through the vines and have some great views.
They have 45 hectares of vines and grow 7 different grape varieties on the property. Plus they also have the HEV accreditation (High Environment Value).
After our much needed stroll it was a walk through the limestone cellar under the hill where the vines are growing and we also had our tasting down there! We tried through a few of the current releases and Adrien also pulled out a 2015 and 2012 Sauv Blanc for us to try from the cellars!! I have actually had a few aged Sauvignon Blancs so I found this really interesting. And of course, it’s not France without a little cheese on the side right.
After rolling ourselves out of the Père Auguste cellars, it was time to head to the train station to catch our train back to Paris 🙁
I so would love more time in the Loire. I do hope when my kids are a bit older that maybe we can head back for another visit!
To finish of this post (I am currently sitting in Singapore on the way home) I would like to say a huge thank you to InterLoire for inviting me over to your beautiful region and the lovely Lea from Sopexa for organising.
This won’t be the last you’ll hear about the Loire on this blog, I plan on doing some more focused content on the region, the grapes and more. Stay tuned!!
PS: For even more visual deliciousness from my Loire valley wine trip, make sure to check out my Loire Valley Story Highlight on Instagram.