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Tasting the Loire in Two Days

If you are someone who is always looking for new places to visit for weekend getaways, appreciate fine wine, traditional French food and a charming historic setting to enjoy it in, then we may have found your next mini-break destination.  
 
Last week, to highlight the possibilities that have been opened up by the new British Airways flight to Angers, London City Airport hosted its first blogger trip by whisking away six food and wine lovers to France’s beautiful Loire Valley. We enlisted the help of tourist board Pays de Loire  to create a jam-packed schedule of decadent activities that showed off the region’s highlights, and certainly left no one hungry or thirsty.
 
To help you discover what the region has to offer, here are a few of the mouth-watering, tongue- tingling activities that we fitted into our short stay. 

Day one
 
After checking in at London City Airport, we set the mood for the trip with a visit to the airport’s City Bar and Grill.  The bar’s knowledgeable manager Antony Stanley talked us through the unique wine list and hand-picked two refreshing wines, the ‘Couteaux Du Layon, 2008’ and ‘Chateau Pierre-Bise Savennieres Clos de Coulaine 2010’, to accompany a delicious plate of cured meats and pâté.  
 
After a short flight that took little more than an hour, we checked into the Hotel Mercure Centre, which overlooks the lush Jardin des Plantes in the heart of Angers, and got ready for an afternoon of sightseeing, wine and food. 
 
We strolled through the cobbled streets of the city and stopped at the Chateau D’Angers to see one of the area’s historical gems, the 'Apocalypse De Angers'. Four metres high and one hundred metres in length, this is the world’s largest medieval tapestry and was woven for Louis I, Duke of Anjou (1373-87).  It took seven years to make and illustrates the 'Book of Revelation' or the 'Apocalypse'.
  
Next stop was La Maison des Vins de Loire at Hotel de la Godeline, where host Laetitia Proux gave us a fascinating introduction to the Loire Valley wines.  We tasted six different wines: Crement de Loire ‘Cuvee Flame’; Chateau Pierre-Bise Anjou Blanc 2009; Chateau Yvonne ‘La Folie’ Saumur Champigny 2010; Chateau des Rochettes’ Pieces du Moulin’ Ajou Villages 2010; Domaine de Bois Moze Rose d’Anjou 2011; Domaine des Petits Quarts Bonnezeaux 2010. 
 
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Wine tasting in La Maison des Vins de Loire
 
For dinner we ate at Mets et Vins Plaisirs, which had, of course, an extensive wine list of over 300 wines, many from local producers. Hidden away from the road, this restaurant proved to be another gem in the city of Angers.  I drank Crement de Loire, a wonderful dry, fresh wine with my meal of Carre de d’angeau au romarin & petits pois carottes (rack of lamb with rosemary, peas and carrots). Desert was quite a treat too, a Bavarian mango and strawberry soup with crushed pistachios, which was written on the menu as ‘ Bavarois mangues, soupe de fraises et pistaches concassees’. 
 
Day two
 
A short 30 minute journey from the hotel in Angers brought us to the glorious hillside vineyards of the Closel Chateau des Vaults. We were given a guided tour by the estate’s owner Evelyne de Jessey, the Vicomtesse de Pontbriand, who is of the fourth generation of female vintners to oversee the production of the vineyard’s award winning Savennieres white wine. Evelyne really brought to life the unique elements and intricate processes that create the variety of fine wines from the Chenim Blanc grape. 
 
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Vines of Chateau des Vaults
 
Back in the chateau, which nestles among 15 acres of garden, we sampled 13 different wines from the family label ‘Domaine de Closel – Chateau des Vaults’.  For a wine-tasting newcomer like me, the visit to Chateau Des Vaults had provided a brilliant insight into the geography, history and passion that goes into winemaking.
 
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Inside Chateau des Vaults
 
We visited La Coisette, a traditional ‘guinguettes’ in Behuard for lunch to enjoy some of the region’s traditional dishes.  For dinner I had a light fish starter of ‘rillettes de poisons’, followed by fricassee d’andouillette aux, petits oignons’ (sausage with onions and chips) and a desert of crème aux griottes (cream with cherries). 
 
Afternoon tasting began at Domaine de Bablut where we were met by Christophe Daviau. The Daviau family of wine makers owned windmills and vineyards on the hills of the Aubance in the Loire region as early as 1546. Our wine education continued with a visit to the cellars, where among the great barrels and cylinders we learnt more about the drink’s journey from vine to bottle. We tasted Anjou Villages Brissac red wine, Rose d’Anjou and the sweet wine of Coteaux de l’Aubance. 
 
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Wine tasting session at Domain de Bablut
 
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Chateau de Brissac wine cellar
 
We walked off our lunch and tasting escapades with a tour of the Chateau de Brissac. Home to the Duke of Brissac since 1502, the castle has 204 rooms, 7 levels and is known as the tallest in France.
 
Our last dinner of the trip was at a beautiful little restaurant called ‘La Table de la Bergerie’. The establishment is well known for its own wines, which are produced on the vines located opposite the restaurant. For dinner I had the Poisson du jour, which was turbot, followed by the delicious ‘Nage de fraise au cabernet, mascarpone vanillée, sorbet fraise’  (Strawberry cabernet, vanilla mascarpone and strawberry sorbet).
 
Day three
 
We spent the morning exploring the vineyard and wine caves of the Domaine de la Tuffiere in the Beaugeois area of the Loire Valley, between Angers and Saumur. Local monks choose the south facing slopes to establish the vineyard in the 14th century. It was the perfect spot to enjoy a traditional French picnic of salad, baguette, pork and cheese and one of the vineyard’s delicious Rose Cabernet D’Anjous before making our way to the airport for a journey home. We arrived at London City Airport at 14.30 and it only took us 10 minutes from wheels down to the DLR – it just doesn’t get any better than this!  
Harish Salhotra, E-commerce team
06/07/2012
Loire Valley, Angers wine tasting trip

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