Bicycling through the Loire
I tend to go on a fair amount of press trips as a wineblogger and they are all fantastic. I mean who wouldn’t enjoy the chance to visit the winemakers in their own milieu, tasting wines that quite possibly have been resting in the cellars for years or wines that never even leave the estate but are saved for special visitors.
However, I recently came back from a trip to the Loire Valley in France that has to be one of my favourite press trips ever. The reason is quite simple, it’s because it was like no other press trip I’ve ever been on, a bicycling trip through the Loire.
Usually press trips are an endless treadmill of get on the bus, get off the bus, taste, eat, repeat, sometimes up to 5 times in a day! It might sound like fun but if you have to do it for 3 or 4 days in a row, it can get very tiring. Now bicycling might also seem tiring but it was actually very exhilirating to be out in the fresh early summer fresh air of the French countryside. Not only that, but being on a bicycle, we could proceed at our own pace and stop and take a picture now and then or even stop and inspect the soil of the vineyards if we so desired. So many times I’ve been on a press trip bus whizzing through amazing countryside unable to snap a single pic.
Before we started, Jim Budd, one of the wine bloggers on the trip wondered if this trip was designed specifically with bloggers in mind as no respectable “wine journalist” would deign to be forced to pedal around the countryside. Well, all I can say is, they don’t know what they are missing! The sense of wonder, joy and just plain satisfaction of feeling you’ve earned that lunch after doing 20 kms in the morning. I also loved the fact that I wasn’t cooped up on a bus for hours on end.
It certainly helped that we had amazingly sunny weather and although the Loire is not entirely flat, what big hills there are, are mostly manageable, although more then a few of us did have walk our bicycles up some of the steeper hills.
We started from Tours and headed along the Loire River to the estate of Marc Bredif in Vouvray. After a morning spent huffing and puffing through the vines, it was a relief to end up at the bottom or a steep hill back at the riverside and at the estate of Bredif. We were greeted by winemaker Jean-Francois Marchalot who gave us a tour of the cellars, a maze of tunnels carved out of the soft tartuffe with a circular room in the centre of the cellars which is dedicated solely to the sweet wines of Vouvray, the chenin blancs. Some of the wines in “The Rotonde” as it is called are over well over 100 years, some dating to the late 1800’s!
After that we trooped to the manse where we were greeted by their cremant de Loire to quench our thirst after that long bicycle ride. We started to tasting with a few dry Vouvrays but Jean Francois wanted to show how vouvray can age and we were treated to wines from the 1990’s to the 1959 which was superb! All of the wines showed such a vibrancy and whilst having high sugar content still displayed amazing acidity and balance. The 1959 was the most pleasurable, being very complex both on the nose and palate an array of layers. An expressive and impressive wine. They all were however, and it was a great way to start the trip.
Soon though we were back on our bikes to head back to town for lunch. After lunch we had a leisurely stroll round the annual Vitiloire tasting in the centre of town and then a relaxing dinner in town before heading to bed for the next day’s ride. I couldn’t wait to see what we had in store.