Sunday, 30 August 2009

Fête du Patrimoine et Vin Aubigné sur Layon

It never ceases to amaze me how rich in culture and 'patrimoine' the area of the Loire Valley around the River Layon is. On the surface it remains un-commercial, drive through endless Layon villages and you won't see a soul. Until today that is. Today was one of our favourite events of the summer season The 16th FÊTE DU PATRIMOINE À AUBIGNÉ-SUR-LAYON. A day to celebrate art, food, wine, music and today blue blue skies.

The inaugaration ceremony commences at 11:00m with the pouring and serving of the previous years Coteaux du Layon wine from the Fountain of Aubigné. A beautiful copper font designed by Italian Claudio Parmiggiani serves this purpose. In previous years the wine was served by 'wine thief' from a stone trough but these days Jean-Paul prefers a more elegant approach.

Jean-Paul Cochard from Domaine de Mihoudy serving the Coteaux du Layon

Jean-Paul is a member of the 'confréries' so wears the traditional costume of his wine brotherhood. The confréries of Anjou-Saumur-Touraine are responsible for promoting the various Loire appellations and they are part of the Loire’s regional folklore having a role to play in its wine-related events and festivities, adding a colourful touch particularly with their initiation ceremonies.

Jean-Paul in traditional confréries dress red hat, robe and 'taste vin'.

These bacchant brotherhoods all have their own ceremonial costumes and symbols.
The groups are organized hierarchically, and each member has a title or rank, bestowed upon him after the initiation ritual conducted by the Grand Master. In spite of the solemn nature of the ceremonies and costumes, the festive aspect predominates and it certainly does in Aubigné.

The day is really centred around the celebaration of the Coteaux du Layon but here are some of the other great events that go on throughout the day.

Many of the beautiful houses in the village open up their gardens and there is a band in each playing jazz, blues, swing, funk, or classical music. Choose the musical style you prefer and in each garden you will find stalls selling anything from grilled Loire fish, to oysters, duck, grillades or savoury items along with plenty of Anjou Blanc or Rosé.

We choose Jazz & Oysters in the gardens of a beautiful 17c seigneurie.

Followed by a choral group from Corsica in the Chapel of Aubigne.

Sculpture was very much the theme for the art exhibits this year with this superb bronze of Ghandi. The rest of the village is closed off to cars and artists line the streets in every direction.

Ghandi by Martine Vaugel

Watercolourist at work.

Let's not forget we are in a wine growing region so vines are also for sale.

Along with plants....

...and a shot of my new apron. Sorry could'nt resist it!

Although I did rather fancy the black chef's top of the guy doing the cookery demo!

...and the amazing sculptures by Jacque Tempereau!

On reflection it was another superb event. The sun shone even though Jean-Paul is praying from another 30mm of rain before maturation. The music and wine was fab and we hope you will take the opportunity to come and join us again this time next year until then à bientôt......

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Harvest Wine Tours in the Loire Valley Vineyards

1 DAY PACKAGE (additional days on request)

From mid-September to mid-November 2009 we are offering the opportunity to come and see the grape harvest in the Loire Valley. Throughout the 2 month period we have a series of special 1 Day Harvest Wine Tour Packages to offer which include the opportunity to see the harvest in action and even get to harvest a few bunches yourselves!

Some of the highlights of the harvest season allow us to :

See the hand harvest picking into crates
See the machine harvesters in action
Taste the bernache - white grape juice from the harvest
Taste wine directly from the barrel
Measure the baume (sugar level) in the grapes using the refractometer
Taste the previous years wines
See the harvest being brought into the Caves des Vignerons
Enjoy a delicious harvest picnic in the vineyards

To see what is included in the package click here : Harvest Wine Tour Package

Or click here to see the : Harvest in Action Photos from previous years.

To check availability or book today email Micaela and/or Sue at

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Pyramids Are not Easy to Clean

We have a pyramid in our house....

....unusual I know but a necessary precaution to stop small children and dogs disappearing through a large hole and into the kitchen sink!

The story goes that before the staircase in the hall was constructed (from the wood of an ancient winepress) the previous owner of La Grande Maison used to descend into the kitchen on a rope!

This pyramid was inspired by the Louvre pyramid, however, it does not contain 666 panes of glass, holds no satanic significance and has not featured in a Dan Brown novel.

Nowadays the pyramid is a good source of light into the kitchen and also a good spot to watch our sous chef ‘Sue’ at work, but don’t let her know I told you that.

So yesterday was my day to clean the pyramid and in doing so I got to wondering about the symbolism of the pyramid and it’s ancient powers. Here is what I found.

Pyramids are handy for :

Preserving food
Sharpening razor blades or knives
Improving heath
Functioning as a thought-form incubator
Triggering sexual urges
Relieving stress
Improving quality of drinking water
Restoring the lustre to tarnished jewellery or coins

Now here is the really interesting one :

Improving the taste of coffee, wine and fruit juices:

Apparently pyramid energy alters the hydrogen bond in water. A general effect is an increase in the "smoothness" of a drink. It takes the sharp "edge" off drinks like coffee and works well with wine too.

So here is the experiment : a comparative tasting between wine decanted and placed under the pyramid and the same wine decanted and placed elsewhere. Chosen wine? Domaine de Grand Maison from Langlois Chateau of course. Can we decrease the acidity of this marvellous Muscadet using the power of the pyramid?

Come back in a couple of weeks to discover the results! In the meantime we will be relaxed, shining jewels, having loads of ideas and well....I’ll leave the rest to your imagination ;-)

Sunday, 16 August 2009

12 More Things To Do in the Loire Valley Around Saumur

A couple of weeks ago I promised I would find you "12 More Tips for Things to do in the Loire Valley" around Saumur from La Grande Maison. So here they are! Enjoy...

1. Take a ride on Le Grand Elephant at Les Machines des Isles in Nantes

2. See the hand harvest at the Chateau of Saumur around the end of September

3. Visit a riverside 'Guinguette' like this one on the island of Béhuard
for traditional Friture de Loire

4. Go to the beautiful Chateau at Montreuil-Bellay for a walk around the magnificent gardens

5. Interested in art then the Contemporary Art Gallery at Bouvet Ladubay is for you

6. Enough of wine tasting then how about a liquer at the Combier Distillery?

7. Angel or Demon everyone likes to visit the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci at the Chateau in Amboise

8. Chinon is not far either for all things Rabelais & this amazing statue of Joan of Arc

9. The fairytale castle of Rigny Ussé will bring out the sleeping beauty in you

10. Get clean at the most amazing homemade soap shop at Domaine de Mestré

11. A little dressage at the Equitation Centre in Saumur

12. ...and home for a wine tasting in the pigeon tower at La Grande Maison with one of our local winemakers

Phew! So much to do and so little time. Don't underestimate just how much there is to see and do here. It is worth taking a little more time out than you think to explore this area. It's a rich tapestry of history, food, wine & vines, culture & traditions. If any of these ideas appeal to you then make sure you ask for more details during your stay here at La Grande Maison ... a biéntot as there will be more to come over the next few weeks so don't forget to check back.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

12 Things To Do in the Loire Valley Around Saumur

"La Grande Maison Top Twelve Tips" for what to do in the Loire Valley Region around Saumur.

1. A visit to the Chateau of Saumur is a must for great views of the river.

2. Fine dining at many of the local restaurants

3. Visit one of the local festivals or fetes held in the villages during the summer months

4. Opportunities for some pretty serious wine tasting

5. Canoe a section of the Loire River.

6. Visit some of the pretty Loire side villages such as Chenhutte -Treves-Cunault

7. Visit the markets such as the Sunday Marche' in Cunault or the Saturday Market in Saumur

8. Riverside Brocantes & Antique Markets

9. Wine Cellars and Caves to visit

10. Take a Hot Air Ballon ride

11. Explore the Caves, Tunnels and Underground Pigeonniere at La Grande Maison

12. A cycle ride in the vineyards around La Grande Maison

Twelve ideas to get you started and I've only scratched the surface. Come back in a couple of weeks for more ideas of what to do in the Loire Valley Region.