Before our EU Austerity Drinking Tour leaves the central Loire for it’s Atlantic Coast, we have to squeeze in a castle.
Think of Bordeaux. You probably think of famed Châteaux. But most of those are 19th century, retro-wannabes. Only true, Renaissance, Disney-princess-filled châteaux litter the Loire like creamy, crenelated flies on a strip.
We pick Chenonceau because it’s on every postcard, looks mad, and bad-ass Catherine de’ Medici reigned from there.
A train carries us South East of Tours. We land at the massive gate-step of Chenonceau in an hour.
Vine trellises butt right up against the station.
Vine-curious, we let the tourist hordes attack the castle. We nestle between two rows and start guessing:
Now, yes, that was Gamay: a large, fruity, low-tannin grape (in)famously being guzzled right now, in the form of 2013’s Beaujolais Nouveau:
Gamay also turns up in Loire reds under the AOC: Touraine Rouge.
But, little did we know, that in 2011, Touraine Chenonceaux AOC became its own Appellation. It is so young, even the mighty Wikipedia has yet to add it. The AOC runs along the Cher River for 10 miles in either direction of Chenonceau village. Mild slopes of limestone define the terroir. Only a dry white (sauv. blanc) and a dry red blend (malbec, cab franc, gamay) are allowed.
My thinking is the Château’s fame probably mattered more than preserving wine traditions or terrior differences. (Touraine Azay-le-Rideau has profited from the same trick since 1939). And who could blame Chenonceau. It is breathtaking:
From it’s massive arbor paths:
To its twisting ceiling:
Up its forced-perspectival staircase:
Up to it’s wood-ribbed hall:
Into it’s bedazzling, tapestried bedrooms:
Down to the ballroom:
Further down to the kitchen:
And finally, back out to its sky-lit gardens:
I say, let the Chenonceau have its château-designated AOC. Sure it will mostly confuse the already complex and endless appellations of the Loire Valley. But tourists will lap it up, and its winemakers can afford to improve their wine. We never tried Touraine Chenonceaux. But it’s château and grapes are pretty damned good.
- Wine Tour Made Easy: Maison des Vins de Loire de Tours, France (waywardwine.com)
- Château sounds so much better than castle (footprintsacrosstheworld.wordpress.com)
- La Loire à Vélo: Saddle up and discover the French royal river by bike (charlotteindiam.wordpress.com)
- A Glimpse of Castles in the Loire Valley (ramonamarshall49.wordpress.com)
- Loire River Valley Chateau Chambord and Chateau Chenonceau (imlulu5.wordpress.com)