1.The Loire valley is the biggest producer of sparkling wine outside of Champagne. Here you’ll find it labelled as Crémant de Loire and we use local grape varieties Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It also produces lovely Petillant Naturel wines. They are made in a slightly different way using one staggered fermentation and riper grapes so the wines are slightly less fizzy and ‘natural’. Saumur is the centre for sparkling production in the Loire and all the major houses offer tours and tastings.
2. Anjou grows a lot of quinoa. What? Yes, Quinoa d’Anjou is a big thing here so we have no need to import it from South America as we have all we need here. Delicious served as a summer salad with an abundance of fresh herbs and spices it’s healthy and local.
3. Angers is home to the world famous Cointreau liqueur. All 16 million litres are produced in its state of the art modern distillery on the outskirts of Angers. Visits in English include a visit to see the stills and a session making cocktails in the slick cocktail bar afterwards.
4. Many of the smaller chateaux are still lived in by the actual owners. Chateau de Brissac is the tallest chateau in France and has been in the same family since 1502. 514 years later, descendants the marquis and marquise still live in the chateau with their children. Fully furnished and packed with antiques and paintings a visit here is a real glimpse in to the life of a chateau owner.
5. The Quernon d’Ardoise is a delicious sweet that was created by one of Anger’s chocolatiers 50 years ago. Imagine a delightful nougatine with caramelised almonds and hazlenuts covered with a layer of silky blue chocolate. Its inspiration came from the famous slate roof tiles that are a hallmark of Loire architecture.
6. Valençay is one of the Loire’s best known goat’s cheeses. Like a pyramid with the top chopped off, the story is that Napoleon stopped off in the Loire after his defeat in Egypt and when presented with the cheese (which resembled a pyramid), in fury he sliced the top off with his sword.
7. Rillettes is a local delicacy and not to be missed if you are in the Loire. Belly pork cooked long and slow with herbs and spices is then pulled apart to reveal delicious sweet strands of meat that are then packed into pots and covered with the pork fat to preserve them. It’s soo good with a crusty baguette and a glass of Chenin Blanc from Vouvray.
8. Roses are big in the Loire and the Rose de la Paix, a beautiful white rose bred specially to commemorate 70 years of the D Day landings, was created in Doué la Fontaine, the rose capital of Europe.
9. The Dolmen de la Bajoulière is a megalithic burial chamber dating back 6000 years. Located 2 miles South or the River Loire between Angers and Saumur, this region is littered with dolmen and menhir so if ancient history is your passion then head to the Loire.
10. Salt was probably the most valuable resource transported along the river in times gone by. Beautiful riverside villages such as Le Thoureil near Gennes remain calm and unspoilt. You can go back in time as you walk along the river admiring the beautiful traditional wooden boats that are moored along the riverside.