Tag Archives: Loire Valley

Unravelling the plot(s) in Bourgogne

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Strolling through Beaune.                  While I still can.

We’ve arrived in Bourgogne (Burgundy to the un-French amongst us) to stay for a few days in the beautiful and relaxing city of Beaune.

And yes, we’re taking advantage of a little kick-back time before we head off on the last bit of our France trip – five days cycling through the region’s vineyards and villages.

Inevitably, kick-back involves some ‘Aussies in the Mist’ moments, up on the highest point EB can find.

He likes views, apparently.

Bien sur, we also take some time out to unravel the mysteries of the fascinating Côte d’Or wine region.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Misty heights of Bout de Monde

This takes losing the plot to new levels. We discover that the only grapes grown in the Côte d’Or are pinot noir and chardonnay. That’s not so hard.

It also explains why there are no grape types mentioned on the labels. Instead, the plot of origin, its classification, then the winemaker are featured.

Now it gets more complicated. Much more.

The region is divided into plots, either owned or leased by various winegrowers. There are no houses to be seen amongst the vineyards…

Instead, the vignerons live and make their wine in the villages, and have cellar doors there.

The result is sweeping vineyards stretching up the hillsides and into the valleys, punctuated by picturesque stone villages.

Copyright: Louise RalphVineyard plots are classified into regional, village, premier cru and grand cru – all based on the plot’s microclimate and orientation to the sun, and the mosaic of limestone and soil.

You can get a reasonable wine for €10, while grand cru could set you back €2000 a bottle.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, some vignerons with marketing-smarts came up with the idea of renaming villages to include their best wine label. This explains the many double-barrel (no pun intended) village names, like Nuit-St-Georges or Chambolle-Musigny. So romantic. So French.

Back to the plot. The surprising thing is that one plot will produce a particular taste in the wine while, just two metres away across the track, another plot will produce an entirely different flavour.

This is part of the adventure of Burgundy wines and something the locals embrace with particular pride.

Wine here isn’t a beverage, it’s an artform – and learning by doing isn’t a bad way to pass the time.

Let’s hear it for the girls…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

The Chateau de Chenonceau

Never say never. My sister suggested we go and see the Chateau de Chenonceau – and who am I to argue with someone who should really be writing guidebooks?

We went, and she was absolutely right (thanks, sista).

The promos say it is “a chateau loved, managed, and protected by women” and it clearly is.

Katherine Briçonnet built it in 1513, Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici added their creative flair, and later the beautiful Louise Dupin (who strongly believed in the equality of men and women) saved it during the French Revolution.

In World War I, the chateau became a military hospital for the French Resistance and the kitchen was transformed to cater for this new development.

It’s no surprise it’s referred to as the ‘Ladies Castle’. It’s stunning structure, intimate interiors and the gardens, labyrinth and moats surrounding it all bear the touch of a woman.

It is lovingly preserved, with fresh flowers in every furnished room – and stepping into the kitchen takes you back a few centuries. It even has probably the world’s first pizza oven – well, a baker’s oven, but it’s not much different from the ones we see today.

And there are only a couple of deer and boar heads hanging around the place. Which is so much more restful than those drafty hunting lodges…

Yes, yes, men can be so dull at times. But they do make good drivers, apparently.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…spanning the Cler River

From chateaux to wine caves…

As we drove into the Loire Valley yesterday, we were stunned to see the lavish chateaux everywhere. We expected vineyards and quaint villages. Instead, these ‘getaway lodges’ for the rich and powerful litter the countryside.

You could spend days here visiting chateaux, and some people do. We popped into Chambord Chateau for a look around…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Chambord Château: just a humble hunting lodge really.

Chambord’s tricky staircase… and EB playing Where’s Wally (aka Where’s Poppy Frank)

Set on a mere 13,000 acres of forested parklands, complete with rutting stags and more, the chateau has enormous fireplaces in every room – but it still looks like a drafty, uninviting old place to stay in.

Which is probably why King Francois I didn’t spend much time there after it was built.

Chambord’s double helix staircase was brilliant. Two open parallel flights of stairs are wrapped around a hollow core.

So EB and I could enter the staircase on the same floor, but from opposite sides, and we could see each other walking up and down…but we’d never cross paths. Spooky.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

That one’s going straight to the pool room, Henry.

And then there’s the pool room… I mean, trophy hall.

These (pictured) are just a few of the ‘decor peices’ hanging around the chateau.

This is probably the best-known chateau in the region, but there are better – or so we’re told.

One chateau was enough for us, and all those stairs had worked up a thirst…

But finding cellar doors that are open on a Thursday afternoon – that’s the real adventure.

We finally came across the Cave des Productuers de Vouvray, and took the tour to find out about the methode traditional and (of course) try the fabulous final product.

Hmmm, chateaux or caves? We are definitely bats…

PS: We’re staying in a chateau ourselves for a few days – Chateau les Muids. But this one is way smaller and only has one deer head on the wall. Phew…