Back to the Eurotrip posts, which I’m still just over halfway through!
Besides chateaus, the Loire Valley is known for its wines, particularly white wines and méthode traditionnelle (champagne style) sparkling wines. I wasn’t sure what to expect from these wineries, being used to the tastings at wine cellar doors in Australia. All the wineries and sellers had the word cave in them, which means cellar in French – but in the Loire region at least, this literally does mean a cave! The tuffeau stone in the area was mined to build chateaus, with the resulting caves being used as residences and later for growing mushrooms and storing wine due to the consistent temperature.
Here we learned about Appellations d’Origine – ‘a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown’ (thanks Wikipedia). An appellation can only grown particular kinds of grape, as well as various other restrictions. There are 87 appellations in the Loire Valley region, and we explored just a few of them. It’s interesting to see such strict rules governing French wineries – quite different to Australia, where you’ll find many different kinds of wine of various grapes grown in the same area.
We were also shown proper wine appreciation technique, which goes like so:
- Hold the wine up to the light; admire its colour and tilt the glass around slightly to see the legs.
- Bring the glass up to your nose and appreciate the smell.
- Swirl the glass and smell again; note the difference.
- Take a small sip, slurping in some air at the same time.
- Appreciate the taste of the wine, then spit it into the spitoon.
I have to admit that French wine is generally not my favourite, but we definitely tasted some delicious drops, particularly the sparklings.
- There are also several kinds of goats cheese which come under Appellations d’Origine in this region, one of which is Selles-sur-Cher, a goats cheese with a natural mould and charcoal rind. A year or two ago I would not have touched this mouldy cheese, but have since developed an appreciation for stinky, mouldy French cheeses. It was served to us at the first wine cave we visited to accompany the tasting, and we couldn’t leave without buying a small wheel of the stuff. It is the best cheese I have tasted in my life. I still daydream about it sometimes.
- At a boulangerie near our hotel in Tours I found a brioche the size of my head! It was otherwise unremarkable, but who can turn down a supersized brioche?