Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

About our favourite Loire wine

If you are a regular reader of my blog you probably know by now that our two favourite Loire Valley wines a white dry Vouvray (chénin) and a red Saumur-Champigny (mainly cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and pineau d'aunis). Mind you, we are no real connoisseurs, although we do the mandatory glass swirling and sniffing when we open a new bottle.

What we like best about the Saumur-Champigny is the fact that it is light on tannins. Wines containing too much tannin have a very unpleasant effect on me! It starts by a disturbing stinging feeling in my ears. Next my throat tightens and swallowing the wine becomes really painful. Then I get shivers down my spine, until the wine hits my stomach where it leaves a burning feeling. And if that wasn’t enough, an hour later a splitting headache starts creeping up from the bottom of my skull. Reasons enough to avoid tannic wines!

A slightly chilled Saumur-Champigny has the complete opposite effect. It makes my ears tingle, refreshes my throat, warms my body and caresses my stomach. It leaves me pleasantly light-headed and makes me sleep like a baby.

Although Belgium is the biggest consumer of Bordeaux wines, Saumur-Champigny has become increasingly popular over the last decade. The first ‘brands’ that conquered the Belgian restaurants and supermarkets were Château de Villeneuve and Les Perruches. The latter is a large winery on the Tours-Saumur road just outside the village of Montsoreau. The first is further up the road in the village of Souzay-Champigny.

In 2002 we were still novices when it came to Loire wines. We therefore decided to stick to the little we knew and build it up from there on. A visit to one of the two wineries we actually knew of and of which we liked the wines, seemed logical.

We went to the Château de Villeneuve. The steep and narrow village streets of Souzay-Champigny are lined with wineries. If you were to go from door to door and taste a glass at every house bearing a Saumur-Champigny sign, you would be very, very drunk by the time you leave the village.

Finding the Château de Villeneuve took a lot of skilful driving by my friend. At some point we thought we were completely lost. Moreover, there was not a soul in sight, so we couldn’t even ask for directions. Finally we found a small sign indicating the way to the château.

2002: Château de Villeneuve - Souzay-Champigny

The 18th century building sits on a plateau overlooking the Loire River. Besides the Saumur-Champigny the domain produces a white Saumur. We tasted several ‘cuvées’ of both wines and liked them. However, having set ourselves a ‘wine buying budget’, we didn’t get any Saumur, but only two dozen bottles of Saumur-Champigny. They ‘travelled’ well and we enjoyed them over Sunday lunch at home.

Since 2002 we’ve become far more knowledgeable about Loire Valley wines and we are more adventurous when it comes to tasting and buying. We’ve recently discovered a lovely bio-organic Saumur-Champigny called ‘Initiale’ by Agathe Vatan of the Château Hureau domain in Dampierre. Maybe we should pay her a visit this year!



Nadege said...

I think women are more sensitive to sulfatites than men.

Leon and Sue Sims said...

We too enjoy the wines of the Loire, having tried the ones you mentioned, when summer returns we enjoy the Rose as well.
Tasting the wines is also one of the joys of travelling.

Nadege said...

Duh!!! I meant to write sulphates.

Jean said...

We love Saumur-champigny too. We also love wine tasting, especially knocking on the door of a small, unknown producer and seeing what they have. The only problem is, you can't hurry it, each tasting always takes longer than you think, in my experience.

ladybird said...

Nadege, That wouldn't surprise me, given the effect tannins have on me.

Leon, One of the most surprising Loire Rosé's I've ever tasted, was a Chinon. Uptil then I didn't even know the Chinon region produces rosé wines.

Jean, Wine tasting is very time consuming, especially when you like all of them. It's easier when the wine is of inferior quality. Then you just move on to the next winery :)

Lynn said...

Oh, I would love to visit this place since we too love the Saumur-Champigny wine but it is a little too far west from where we are staying. Any places east of Tours that you can recommend???????

ladybird said...

Hi Lynn,

I'm glad you like my blog and I feel honered that you use it as a reference to prepare your trip to France. Just send me an email if you want more specific information about some sites or restaurants.

Regarding the Saumur-Champigny, I agree that Souzay-Champigny is a bit out of the way when you’re staying East of Tours. A drive down there will take well over an hour. However, you can always combine it with a visit of the Château de Brézé (which btw makes its own excellent Saumur wines). If I remember well, you have two teenage daughters. They will just love Brézé as the visit of the ‘souterrains’ is very unusual and adventurous. Or maybe you’ve already been there?

In that case I can recommend the Château de Pintray at Lussault-sur-Loire (a few km. West of Amboise). You won’t find any Saumur-Champigny there, but Mr. Rault makes the best Amboise wines ever! Best is to give him a ring in advance as he spends most of his time in the vineyard. He’s a real character and you’ll have a great time tasting his delicious wines. (

If you want to taste an exquisite Rosé, you should visit the Frères Rousseau in Esvres-sur-Indre (south-east of Tours). They make the very unusual and rare Noblé-Joué, The Noble-Joué AOC is the smallest appellation of the Loire, with only a handful of winegrowers producing it. It’s a Rosé with the body of a red wine and the freshness of a white one. (

Good luck and 'santé'!!!