We’ll be based in Chinon for three days in May. Looking for some recs for wineries in Chinon/Saumur/Bourgueil that are open to visits.
The short-list so far:
Fosse-Seche (A must-go for us… have someone in the business setting up an appointment for us)
Château de Villeneuve
Arnauld Lambert (Not quite sure if a visit is possible, though)
Domaine du Collier (Again, not sure if they welcome visitors)
Marc Plouzeau (Will be staying right next to the cave)
Sparkling producers on Rue Jean Ackerman, Saumur. A lot of the wines are good rather than spectacular, but you can try a lot of them in a short walk.
Bonnezeaux/Chaume/Layon worth a day trip.
tasting at Couly-Dutheil is a nice experience. The wines are on the uptick (in my opinion). You can walk there from Chinon town quite easily. In fact, you look right into Clos l’Echo from the top of the Chateau.
about a half hour out of Chinon is the interesting planned town of Richelieu. It is an easy drive. The architecture is diverting and there is (at least) one very good restaurant. I will look for the name.
Baudry is a must, if you ask me. Mathieu speaks excellent English, is very passionate about explaining what he does and visits are easy to arrange through the website.
I have never visited winemakers in September, so I would definitely shedule visits in advance, especially at a one-man operation like Baudry.
I had a decent lunch at Chapeau Rouge in Chinon. The other places around Place General de Gaulle were OK, but the outdoor setting was more of a selling point.
One of the more impressive “reveals” is first seeing Chinon castle perched above the river as you drive in from the east. It is well worth the time to walk along the river for the view, the view from the left bank is best.
ETA: I remember dining windows for both the lunch service and dinner service are even more restricted than the rest of France, so you might want to plan accordingly.
Thank you all for the responses so far! I’ve sent requests to Baudry and Couly-Dutheil and am in the process of sending out several others.
Am I correct in assuming that the Loire will be similar to other areas in France regarding time spent at a Domaine/Chateau for tasting, i.e., for appointments, plan on a couple hours. I’m thinking of doing one touristy thing and one wine tasting appointment per day.
Are there many opportunities for drop-in tastings?
I was in Chinon and Saumur last month and had a great time. I went to the following producers:
Catherine & Pierre Breton
I had appointments at all wineries except for Plouzeau, where I popped into the cave that you just mentioned. Breton had me meet them at their boutique in Chinon, which has quite limited hours. Aside from these two, I went to the wineries proper.
That said, Joguet and Couly-Dutheil have boutiques where you can taste right in Chinon without an appointment. They are actually across the street from one other, right beside the fortress. Couly-Dutheil’s place is at the aforementioned Clos de l’Echo, where Joguet is across the street and also serves flatbreads and other snacks. Joguet had ample back vintages available at the winery, but I saw some through the window at their boutique also.
Highly recommend going to the fortress as the view over Chinon is fantastic! You get quite the view of Clos de l’Echo from a couple of the watchtowers also.
There is a big parking lot next to Clos de l’Echo so you can drive instead of taking the elevator up and walking the rest of the way to get to the fortress area.
I’ll go back through my notes for a few restaurant recommendations in the two areas also. I had a great time! BTW, depending on the winery and what you’re tasting, I found visits to be in the 1-1.5 hour range. If you’re not at the winery proper and going through the cellars, I wouldn’t expect them to be in the 2+ hour range (again, it depends on what you’re tasting and how you get on with the person performing the visit).
Strongly agree with this suggestion, especially if you are unfamiliar with these wines. Our first visit to taste and discover these wines was eye-opening. Our most recent visit was several years ago, but we enjoyed friendly tastings and good to excellent wines at Domaine du Petit Clocher (Cléré-sur-Layon), Domaine LeBlanc (Faye-d’Anjou), and Domaine Les Grandes Vignes - Vaillant (for their Bonnezeaux especially). Easy day trip.
FWIW, Here’s another suggestion if you do not already have a good knowledge of the wines in this region. Visit the “Maison des Vins” in Saumur and Angers. https://federationviticole.com/maison-des-vins/ These are sort of “tourism offices” for wines in the area , and will offer you tastings and information. Interest and questions on your part will bring out more wines to sample. We have used these visits as an introduction and a zeroing in on wines we like to give us ideas for follow up visits at specific properties. English spoken. Enjoy.
In Chinon, don’t miss Le Cave Voltaire, a wine bar and shop. Someone told us that the owner knows more about Chinon wine than anyone, and they were right. He’s a great guy and steered us towards some excellent wines. Bought a few that we tried, including some with a few years on them, though didn’t have much luggage space left-- wish I would have come here first! Awesome cheese and charcuterie plates, and nice seating outdoors with castle views.
What is your experience with these wines? I tasted a few of them (white and red) a couple of years ago at Weygandt Wines and was very impressed - first time I had tasted or even heard of this producer. Bought some to age for a while, and so have only drunk one of them since the tasting. I really liked the 2014 red. What vintages have you liked (white and red) and at what age do you drink them. Thanks.
Just wanted to check back in to tell everyone what an excellent trip this has been and to thank all of you for the great advice. We’re wrapping things up here, heading back to Paris tomorrow and the States on Sunday. I’m torn between touting the Cab Franc and Chenin Blanc found here and keeping the secret between us. I’ve been impressed with the overall quality of the wine, can’t say I’ve found anything subpar (well some of the bubbles were just ok).
We based our stay in a B&B in Saumur and took day trips out. We managed to get in about two tastings each day along with some awesome castle tours. Here are the wineries we visited. These are in order of (perceived) wine quality and overall tasting experience (ease of communication, tour of the caves/vineyard, one on one with the winemaker/owner, …)
Domaine Bernard Baudry
Chateau de Fosse-Seche
Domaine aux Moines
Domaine du Closel
Caves Louis de Grenelle
Our visit to Domaine Bernard Baudry was exceptional.
I initiated contact for a tasting thru their website and received a reply with an appointment date/time (9/3 @ 11am) the same day.
We had a really nice drive from Saumur to the other side of Chinon, about 45 minutes, a good part of which was along the Loire River. For our appointment we were joined by a small tour group of four folks from Atlanta and a couple from the New York finger lakes who were just getting into the winemaking business.
Matthieu led us on an extensive tour of the caves and then back into the tasting room. We tasted thru a couple of the latest released cab francs, covering the different vineyards that they source fruit from. He then pulled out a moldy old bottle and poured us a taste of their '98, which is supposed to be a “bad” vintage in the Loire. This red was drinking beautifully, still full of fruit and acid with fully resolved tannins and little to no reduction. The folks from New York started talking to Matthieu about Brett in the wines so he ran off into the cave and pulled another dusty/moldy bottle of his '97 vintage that showed a good bit of Brett during and just after bottlling. There was a good bit of discussion about cleanliness in the winery and how too much of a good thing (over zealous cleaning practices) might not be the best solution. Have to say that the '97 was a good bit better than the '98, more depth, complex, round but still fresh with plenty of black fruit but also some secondary flavors of earth, leather, tar and a hint of mint. Nothing came thru that hinted of a barnyard/horsey nature, just a fantastic expression of cab franc.
Sorry, I missed this before. I find their reds age quite well-- I prefer cellaring them a bit. Young, I find they can sometimes be a bit tart and reticent palate-wise (a decant really helps), though they always have a great nose. Just had a 2013 Eolithe and it was much better than on release-- felt deeper and more balanced. We bought a 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon (!) while visiting last year that felt like it still needed to cellar for some time (it was 11.5%, btw, which was interesting for a Cab). Not sure how long you could go with these wines, but Loire reds seem to have a really long runway in my experience.
Not sure how the whites, like Arcane, age. I’d imagine they can last (and improve) for a number of years.
2015 is a nice vintage for Eolithe. I liked the 2014 also-- bought some at a tasting at Weygandt, but haven’t opened one since.