meta name="p:domain_verify" content="8b08da541f8a920e6 Marie Z Johnston: Chasing the Loire Valley

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Chasing the Loire Valley

When your son is a Sommelier and he’s spending  time with you in France, there are certain places which can not be ignored. The Loire Valley is one of them. Why? Because Saumur is there. So what? You might be thinking (as did I), but it turns out that Saumur is the birthplace of the rapidly growing Natural Wine movement in France.  

Hoofing it up the hilly streets of Saumur  to Domaine Bobinet

The Val de Loire  is a mere hour and a half from Paris by train. It's a small area,  stretching only 170 miles (310 sq miles) along the middle section of the Loire river - which happens to be the longest river in France.  Known as the Garden of France, the area is rich in vineyards and farmland with artichokes and asparagus being the main food crops.  Winters are mild, summers are hot and there is enough rain.

Typical skiffs used on the Vienne River
Walking along the banks of the Vienne after lunch
We stayed for a week in the historic town of  Chinon, just a few kilometers up river from Saumur. The whole reason we ventured to to the Loire Valley is my ongoing house hunt and while that portion of the trip was fruitful (three properties were visited) what mainly happened is that we all fell in love with the area. 

My son in law, G, and Mr Pidds in front of our home above an antique shop in Chinon
Now, back to natural wines. There is no doubt that in the wine world this movement is quite controversial - yet, there is something very compelling about young winemakers stirring things up in the defense of the environment, fair wages, and the future of their land and the land surrounding them for generations to come.  The front runner of this movement in the Loire Valley is Domaine Bobinet  where you will find Sebastian Bobinet and his wife Eméline Calvez hard at work not only making wine but educating anyone and everyone who will listen to the benefits of their methods.  In fact, the ultimate tribute to their campaign is the recent collective decision of the Saumur-Champigny AOC to reduce chemical treatments of their vineyards and wines.  This is the "only AOC in France where the entire wine community has engaged in the holistic preservation of the regiion's terroir."  Impressive.  As are Sebastian, Eméline and their wine.

Sebastian explaining the local impact of the natural wine movement
Sebastian showed us his grandfathers press, where his wine making began
Sometimes for fun, Sebastian ages wine in this old amphora.
After our time with Sebastian and Eméline, we wandered back into the town of Saumur to eat lunch at a local place they frequent.  As it happens, there was a flea market (brocantes)  in full swing by the rivers' edge.  So we quickly ate a simple 'steak-frites'  with a local red and headed out to see what treasures we could find.

This is where we ate lunch - a surprisingly busy, busy place
This brocantes went on and on, with two levels by the rivers edge
Love the vendors that set the table and eat a hot lunch with wine bien sur.
The next day we met a charming realtor who took us to see the properties.  The first one I'd fallen in love with months ago on-line; then sent the link to my friends and family, who also promptly fell in love with the photos too.

The main house from the inside the walled garden.  What's not to love?
The center 'yard' from the top floor of the house. The arch leads to one of the caves.
And a small vineyard too
Old wine making stuff in one of the 4 caves
As much as we loved this place, the work needed is tremendous. So we sadly left it behind and went to see another amazing place (that needs no work at all)

All electrical lines have been buried so as not to interfere with a stunning landscape
This is the entrance to the Summer Living Room
Side entrance to the Guest House
This place was wonderful in a totally different way.  There are no vineyards, but there are healthy mature fruit trees and a well maintained raised bed vegetable garden.  And bee hives. There is also a pool and a Hamam.  Something to think about.
The third place was a converted, very beautiful 18th century flour mill on a small river with the original wood burning bread oven.  Simply gorgeous.  The battery for my camera died, so sadly I have no photos of that property to share.

As there is no MLS in France (making buying or selling property a real challenge) it is important to look around a bit.  I've been advised to visit at least 25 properties before making an offer.  Um, okay.  The conclusion?  This area is worthy of further investigation. 

I'll be returning to Saumur and Chinon in February to see what the area is like in the dead of winter, so stay tuned!

A Bientot - MarieZ

If you would like to know more about our rental in Chinon, here's the AirB&B link



Elizabeth Eiffel said...

We have stayed in a chateau close to Chinon and fell in love with this region and its markets. Sadly our budget didn't stretch to buying a property here. The first house you posted is in a wonderful state compared to the one we bought near Dijon! If I could get a long term VISA for France I would be on the next plane. Sadly the lack on an EU passport, our current employment and the fact that we live on the other side of the world limit our visits. Bonne chance with your property hunting. (Please keep us updated.)
Warm regards

Marie Z Johnston said...

Thank you Elizabeth. Making that leap isn't easy - I'm not there yet, but hope to be by this time next year.