Loire Valley and Touraine are also known as the Garden of France. Since long, its silty basin supplies excellent fresh produce, with the Villandry or Gaillard Castle gardens being remarkable witnesses of this culinary wealth. There can be found local varietals of apples, pears, strawberries and Sologne’s green asparagus, as well as Berry’s green lentil.
Safran from the Gâtinais is another excellent example of Centre-Val-de-Loire gastronomic heritage: produced since the reign of Louis XIV, it was for a longtime a reference and was widely coveted all over the world.
The local gastronomic tradition is also represented by its 5 AOC goat cheeses: Pouligny Saint-Pierre to be appreciated with a glass of AOC Reuilly; Selles-sur-Cher marvelously accompanied by a glass of AOC Montlouis; Sainte-Maure de Touraine to be tasted with a glass of red AOC Chinon; Valençais in agreement with a galss of a wine of the same name (AOC Valençais red or white); and the Crottin de Chavignol (but also the Bouchon de Sancerre) to sublimate a white AOC Sancerre. The cow cheeses are not left behind, like the Olivet au Foin or Cendré with a wine Coteaux du Giennois, the Petit Trôo cheese perfectly paired with an AOC Bourgueil, and the Curé Nantais tasted with a glass of AOC Muscadet or an AOC Gros Plan du Pays Nantais. Loire Valley’s cows also produce milk for butter, notably the AOP Charentes-Poitou butter.
We can’t forget about breeding, with remarkable examples being the Géline chicken, the grey Rabbit and the Touraine goose. This goose (oie) breed used to be eaten in the richest European tables, like when Elizabeth 1st banqueted in it after defeating the Spanish Armada, resulting in the Ois de Saint Michel tradition. In Touraine, the Oie de Saint Martin celebrates the date when Saint Martin became a bishop, and the Oie des Vendanges celebrates the end of grape harvest.
Touraine also produces rillettes, a kind of cooked then shredded and fat preserved meat (generally pork, but also poultry, rabbit, game, fish…). Rabelais writes about it as “brown pork jam”, and Balzac praises Tours rillettes in his “The Lily of the Valley”. In “In Search of Lost Time”, Proust recalls the reputation of not only the rillettes, but also of rillons de Touraine (pork chops), called rillauds in the Anjou.
Loire Valley doesn’t lack in sweetness, neither: the honey from the Gâtinais and the confectionery like Nougat of Tours and the dried pears of Rivarenne are well known since the middle ages. The Pralines of Mazet were already being appreciated on the tables of Louis XIII, and the Quince jams of Orléans were Francis 1st favorite sweetmeat.
Most castles in Loire were medieval fortresses, like the royal fortress of Chinon, and evolved from a defensive role to royal residences during the Renaissance (Amboise, Blois…), when new residence castles were built by some of the most powerful people in the kingdom (Chenonceau, Azay-le-Rideau…), including the king Francis 1st in Chambord.
The powerful fortress of Amboise from Louis XI and XII was transformed into a residence by Charles VIII and Francis 1st. The court and a great number of illustrious figures and artists spent there some time invited by the sovereigns, the greatest example being Leonardo da Vinci who was buried in its Park and later transferred to the Park’s Chapel. Francis 1st often appreciated the local wines Coteaux d’Amboise.
This castle was built in 1518 by Gilles Berthelot, Tours mayor and the Francis 1st’s Treasurer, who confiscated in 1523 the unfinished work to offer it in 1535 to one of his brother-in-arms, Antoine de Raffin, the King’s Bodyguards Captain during the Pavia incursion, at the expense of Berthelot’s widow, Philippa Lesbahy.
In 1905 it became property of the French State, and was classified as a Historical Monument.
Château de Blois
It was one of the favorite residences of the Kings of France during the Renaissance, and it is a true synthesis of the Architecture and History of Loire Valley’s castles. Four aisles of different styles and a monumental staircase united around a single courtyard offer a panorama of the French architecture from the Middle Ages to the Classical epoch.
The showcasing of the royal apartments and their restored polychrome décors, furniture and paintings recall the daily life of the Court and power at the Renaissance. The private cabinet of Francis 1st or the royal chambers of Cathérine de Médicis and Henry III, where the Duc of Guise was assassinated in 1588, are impregnated with major historical events of the History of France.
Château de Chambord
The Chambord Castle was the jewel and dream of Francis 1st and his friend Leonardo da Vinci, at the heart of a forest and park of the same name. The King made a grape he imported from Burgundy to be planted around the premises, originally transplanted to his mother’s castle of Romorantin: the Romorantin varietal is today the exclusive grape of the AOC Cour-Cheverny. This is the largest Loire Valley castle, with 426 chambers, 282 chimneys, and its famous double helix staircase. It has been registered under the UNESCO list of Heritage sites since 1981.
Le Château de Chenonceau
Impressive by its architecture and location, it is also called the “Ladies Castle”. Originally built by Thomas Bohier under the supervision of his wife Catherine de Briçonnet. This gentleman gave his brother-in-law, the Abbot of Cormery, some grape plants from Anjou that would be planted at Montchenin and become the varietal Chenin blanc.
Today Chenonceau is a private open museum, and owes its name to a succession of Dames that marked the life of the place: Catherine Briçonnet, Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de Médicis, Louise de Lorraine, Louise Dupin and Marguerite Pelouze. In the middle of a delightful park and filled with magnificent ancient furniture, it is the most visited private museum of France.
Château de Cheverny
Cheverny is known for having served as inspiration for Hergé’s Château de Moulinsart, of Tintin’s fame. Built from 1620 on by the architect Jacques Bougier, it is an early example of Classical French. It has one of the most extraordinary private collections of ancient furniture of France, and it is situated in the middle of a beautiful park. The Marquis and Marquise of Vibraye’s family have been owning Cheverny for 600 years, and it has been open for visits for a while now.
Château de Chinon
The Royal Fortress of Chinon dominates the city and the Vienne river, nested above a rocky spur. Progressively the space was divided in three different aisles later called “the three castles” by the Kings, which appear as three towers in the city’s crest.
From east to west, the spur is divided by dry pits, enclosing three “castles”: the Coudray fort; the Middle castle; and the Saint-Georges fort. Each has an independent wall protecting against the other ones. The Middle one is the location of the main Chambers and the Saint-Melaine priory.
Chinon was the Royal Citadelle of the Plantagenets, Kings of England and Counts of Anjou. Henry III Plantagenet liked the Pineaux d’Aunis so much that he made it planted and to stock and send it to England.
On 1429 March 9th, at Chinon, a 17 years old girl met the Prince of France (future Charles VII). Joan of Arc promised this day that she would escort him to his Coronation at Reims.
The city is also intimately linked with François Rabelais (1494-1553), one of the most important writers of the Renaissance. Born in Seuilly, not far from Chinon, he probably described in his magnum opus Pantagruel the very same Caves Painctes under the heart of Chinon that today host the Union of Wine Producers of Chinon and the Brotherhood of “Rabelaisian Good Drinkers” that pay him homage during its gatherings.
The Castle of Clos Lucé, called in the old times Cloux Manoir, is a residence in the city of Amboise built in 1471 as an old fiefdom linked to the Amboise Castle, that passed onto many hands until it was bought by Charles VIII, becoming a royal Summer residence. It was used for this role until 1516 when Francis 1st offered it to Leonardo da Vinci, who will live there for 3 years before his passing on 1519 May 2nd.
The monument became under National protection in 1862, related to Da Vinci’s history.
Owned by the Saint Bris family since 1855, today it is dedicated to discovering the Italian Master’s universe.
This is a royal domain built by Charles VIII after the first war in Italy in 1496.
Neighbouring CLos Lucé and Château d’Amboise, it is built on an open terrace, exposed to the south and protected from the north winds by an abrupt concavity in the Châteliers spur (above which the Amboise Castle is located), forming a 20 meters high cliff, inhabited by the building, that creates a microclimate comparable to the italian ones, allowing for the first French transposition of the Italian style of gardening.
It was a “lab” for the French Renaissance: first acclimating garden of France with the first Royal Orangery, the first French Renaissance garden created by Dom Pacello da Mercogliano, and the creation of the first axial landscaping perspective as well as the first parterre “à la française”. It entered the list of National Monuments in 1963.
Château and Gardens of Villandry
The castle was built by Jean le Breton, Finance Minister of Francis 1st. He used his large exceptional experience, earned in numerous worksites like Chambord which he supervised and directed for long years under the King’s wishes. By his arrival in 1532 at Villandry, he decided to raze the old medieval fortress except its dungeon, witness of the meeting between a victorious Phillipe-Auguste, King of France, and Henry II Plantagenêt, King of England, who signed the treaty of Colombiers two days before his death. .
Castle and gardens are unique testimonies of its peers of the French Renaissance.
Abbey of Marmoutier
On the right bank of the Loire upstream from Tours, Marmoutier is an old benedctine abbey. Founded by Saint Martin, bishop of Tours since 372, he would have planted the first vines of Chenin blanc, by the same act founding the tradition of the vineyards of Vouvray. The abbey knew its apogee during the middle ages and its premises extended for a big part of France and even England, until being dismembered during the French Revolution. Bought back by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the buildings were restored and new ones built to establish a private school still active today.
The troglodyte habitat is a kind of residence dug in the stone. The troglo in Loire Valley has two main origins.
One was to become part of ordinary people’s homes. The other came after the building of the castles and other constructions based on the tuffeau rock, that gave result to a large number of quarries under the slopes, which were refurbished into different uses: mushroom growing, silkworm growing and wine stocking and aging. In time they became mostly occupied by winemakers.
After the Revolution, a tax on the doors and windows was instated. This instigated common people to take refuge in the rock, eliminating a great number of openings thus paying less taxes. These troglos of modest origins are today often turned into B&Bs and hostels.
The Chenin blanc varietal developed throughout the Loire Valley where it was called “plant of Anjou” in the 10th Century. In Touraine it was named “Pineau de la Loire” like found in Rabelais’ Gargantua book from the 16th Century “Oh the fine white wine from Pineau! upon my conscience, it is a kind of fine sweet wine”.
Ministère de l'intérieur - L.CH
Par le présent message et au nom de notre direction générale, je tenais tout particulièrement à vous remercier pour l’accueil qui a été réservé à notre délégation le 16 mai 2019 lors de notre visite aux Caves DUHARD. Ce déplacement au sein de votre magnifique domaine était un ravissement pour l’ensemble de nos délégués qui ont apprécié l’accueil qui leur a été réservé. Ce moment privilégié passé au sein de votre cave a concouru à véhiculer une excellente image de la France auprès de partenaires étrangers attachés à toutes ces valeurs. En vous renouvelant nos remerciements pour l’ensemble de ces attentions, je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur Mineau, l’expression de ma considération distinguée.
Accueil très sympathique, expérience oenotouristique plus qu'intéressante, possibilité d acheté vins, salaisons et huiles produites dans la région.... à faire !
Impeccable hosting and welcoming ! Interesting visit and tpo of the notch tasting ! We recommand the detour. It was a real present...ideas for celebrations and holidays!
What a happiness !
To do absolutely, at least to know a rather rare job. The visit was nice, but the tasting was totally extraordinaire. Advice, anecdotes, good time with good wine. The Loire Wines are not the most known, and that is a shame ! The Caves Duhard should make you change your mind. Go there if only just for an hour of pure pleasure shared with passionate people !
It changes of the habitual visits. Thanks to them, I learned to taste the wine like a pro. Thank you. Very good products to taste with very pleasant persons.
Nice cave !!!
Really nice cave, really good hospitality, tasting with anecdotes on wines and its heritage!!! Really good visit.
Informed advice and nice choice of flasks
A visit of the caves followed by a wine tasting with informed advice and a little bit of cheese to munch on between each glasses. Explanations of tasting and on the aging of the wines. Nice choice of old bottles, perfect to offer oneself wines of a particular year. Reasonable rates.