I had organised a surprise trip to France for my husband's birthday and wanted to set up something extra special for him as a present. We've both always wanted to go on a wine tasting tour and I knew the Loire Valley was home to some beautiful wines, so when I found Loire Valley Uncorked on TripAdvisor it looked absolutely perfect. After reading the reviews, I sent off an email and upon receiving such a lovely email response from Sarah-Jane I knew that this company was the one for us!
I decided on the Saumur tour as it included lunch and had a bit more involved than your ordinary wine tasting. Gerald collected us from Saumur train station and within minutes of meeting him we knew it was going to be a relaxed, informative, enjoyable and memorable day. He did not disappoint!
We were taken to the Domaine via picturesque countryside and first shown the vineyards themselves. It was a stunning day so it was great to get out there amongst it all. With Gerald's help we really felt like we were put in the shoes of a local wine maker, understanding what their job entails and the obstacles they face in the industry. It was so fascinating getting a special behind the scenes look into what really goes on in the early stages, and discovering just how much love it takes to produce each drop of wine.
Gerald then took us into where the vats and barrels were kept and explained the maceration and fermentation processes, which we found highly interesting (despite Gerald's claim it was the 'boring bit'!) and then back outside and down into... the 'caves'. These were absolutely magical!! Limestone caves where the wine was stored that had been there for... I can't remember how long (sorry Gerald!). They even had an old wine press down there that was incredible to see. Down here Gerald explained the sparkling wine making process and showed us where/how they turned the bottles - I found this bit particularly interesting as I had no previous idea of how this was done.
Now it was time for the tasting... bring it on! Gosh the wines were delicious. The way Gerald set up the tasting was perfect as well - let's just say you could tell he'd done it a few times before! We tried reds, roses, whites, dessert and sparkling, and proceeded to order 5 bottles of our favourites (an extra bag was subsequently bought on our returning RyanAir flight!). Then on our way back to the car Gerald presented Andy with a birthday present - a magnum of our favourite red from the tasting! I hadn't even asked the company to do this - such a generous, personal touch to the tour. (And Gerald we must say we enjoyed it immensely – thank you!)
Onto the lovely village of Saumur we went next, for lunch at the wonderful Bistrot Les Tontons. I had read a lot about this restaurant on TripAdvisor and can happily say it did not fail to exceed my expectations. We started with mushrooms stuffed with all manner of things - cheese, pork, sardines (which I usually dislike but they were absolutely divine - I gobbled up every last one!). Then for our main we had a stunning duck dish, followed by refreshing fruits for dessert - with matched wine flowing for the entire meal. Gerald even brought along a special Gamay as my husband had mentioned at one point throughout the day that it was his favourite. Again, such a personal touch. We were also joined by the gorgeous Sarah-Jane for lunch which was an absolute pleasure. What a charming couple they were - we could have talked for hours!
We then had a free couple of hours to wander around Saumur and up to the Chateau - it really is a must see! Check out the pics - absolutely stunning. Just strolling around made us want to come back and stay in the village itself. It has a really lovely vibe with some beautiful views.
I then dropped my husband back with Gerald to sit and chat at Bistrot les Tontons while I wandered more and had a bit of a shop (I am a girl on holiday after all!) where I found an amazing lace shop. I then returned in time for Gerald to take us back to the Saumur train station for our train back to Angers where we were staying.
All in all, this was a glorious experience and worth every penny. Gerald really knows his stuff and is passionate about his work – it is a pleasure to witness. Thank you Loire Valley Uncorked – we will definitely be recommending you to all of our wine-loving friends and family!
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