Sample the Loire Valley’s world-class wines this autumn – it’s harvest time! Accompany with goats’ cheese, freshwater fish and the area’s sun-ripened fruit, and you’ll be in heaven. Pack up your car and hop over the Channel with Brittany Ferries.
The Loire Valley is the third largest area of appellations in France with a wine route of over 800km, and is one of only 10 European winegrowing regions to have UNESCO World Heritage status. It’s also recognised as France’s leading area for wine tourism – 250 million bottles of wine are produced each year and sold in 140 countries – a rate of 8 bottles per second.
Bourgueil, Chinon, Vouvray Cheverny, Sancerre... these names will likely be familiar to most wine-lovers, and they represent just a fraction of the Loire Valley wine output. Local winemakers open their doors for tastings of everything from deep, fruity reds and intense whites to light rosés and gently sparkling Crémant de Loire. Most locations boast the ‘Vignobles & Découvertes’ (Vineyards and Discoveries) label, guaranteeing a quality oenological journey.
Fancy combining wine with cycling? At Bouvay-Ladubay in Saumur you can tour the underground cellars by bike. And on the first weekend of October (6-7 October 2018), Les Muscadétours organises discovery tours of the vinyeards of Nantes, its wines, food, heritage and landscape. Events include a Muscadet-tasting river cruise, a wine-and-flowers apéritif, a beurre blanc cookery class, an exhibition on food along the Loire, a treasure hunt through the vines, and other outings – what a feast!
Local cuisine at La Table de la Bergerie
La Table de la Bergerie, not far from Angers, is the work of a husband-and-wife team – one a restaurateur, the other a wine expert – who opened this restaurant after sampling world cuisine on their travels. It was awarded its first Michelin star in February 2017. All of their produce is locally sourced. La Bergerie is also a wine estate run by the same family since the 1960s.
Love goats’ cheese? You’ve come to the right part of France! Creamy Loire chèvre comes in five different AOC variations: Crottin de Chavignol (a small, round, bulging delight), Sainte-Maure de Touraine (a log-shaped cheese tied with a strand of hay), Selles-sur-Cher (round with a fine blue crust), and two pyramids: Valençay with its sliced-off top, and Pouligny-Saint-Pierre with its point intact. To this mix we should add Trèfle, a relative newcomer to the goats’ cheese family, and also cows’ milk cheeses such as Cendré d’Olivet and Feuille de Dreux.
Apples and pears
As the name suggests, ‘pommes et poires tapées’ (‘beaten apples and pears’) are flattened with a mallet after being dried in a tuffeau stone oven. They can be conserved in this form for many months and are eaten as they are, or rehydrated in wine or syrup. Come and observe this ancestral technique, recently modernised, at the Troglo des pommes tapées in Turquant, where you can visit the museum and enjoy a tasting session in the troglodyte dwellings. This ancient method can also be discovered at Poires Tapées à l’Ancienne in Rivarennes, capital of the Poire Tapée.
The Loire Valley is famous for its wonderful variety of fish populating its rivers. You’ll find truite (trout), anguille (eel), brème (bream) and brochet (pike) on menus everywhere, delicately cooked and often served with a rich butter sauce known as beurre blanc.
Button mushrooms have been flourishing in Saumur for over 100 years. The town’s underground cellars offer all the ideal conditions for growth, and over 50% of the country’s button mushrooms are cultivated here. Visit the Saut au Loups mushroom farm, located in a troglodyte site dating from the 15th century, where they grow numerous mushroom varieties including button, oyster, blue-foot and shiitake. Galipettes (large button mushrooms) are cooked in a bread oven and enjoyed with local pâté, Andouille sausages, salmon, snails and fresh goats’ cheese. All that with a view over the Loire!
Get there with Brittany Ferries
The best way of exploring the Loire Valley is in the comfort of your own car, packed with everything you need. Sail direct to Brittany or Normandy from Poole, Portsmouth or Plymouth with Brittany Ferries and head on down to the Loire Valley.
Plan your trip to the Loire Valley with Brittany Ferries.