Food, Wine and History in Angers

Fiona Maclean enjoys a taster of this unspoilt area of France

1 angers town

Angers Town

1 angers castle

Angers Castle

1 angers castle entrance

Angers Castle Entrance

1 chateau des vaults

Chateau des Vaults

1 chateau de brissac

Chateau de Brissac

1 banqueting hall, chateau de brissac

Banqueting Hall, Chateau de Brissac

1 red mullet - la-table-de-la-bergerie

Red Mullet - La Table de la Bergerie

1 mets et vins plaisirs sea bass

Mets et Vins Plaisirs Sea Bass

Arriving at the Chateau in Angers you might be forgiven for thinking you’d suddenly and mysteriously been transported across France to a different region and time. Robust and sturdy it was originally a fortress built in the 9th Century, and is now home to the vast and dramatic apocalypse tapestry, the oldest surviving French medieval tapestry. And, sitting on the hilltop as it does, there are wonderful views from the ramparts across the historic City of Angers and along the Maine.

Angers itself is a charming City in the heart of Maine-et-Loire about 200 miles west of Paris. Just a few kilometres from the intersection of the Loire and Maine, it is right in the heart of the region. Famous for wines and chateaux, this part of France is also popular with food and culture lovers. And, the introduction of direct flights from London’s City Airport to Angers makes it very accessible from the UK, it take a little over an hour to get there from London.

Most restaurants in the area promote local wines so, you very quickly get an understanding of what the French call ‘Terroirs’, the geography, microclimate and geology of the area. On our first evening we went to a restaurant in the city, Mets et Vins Plaisirs (food and wine pleasures), where instead of a wine list, you select from a wall of around 300 wines, many locally produced – if necessary with the help of well informed and helpful staff. Needless to say, we started with a Cremant de Loire, which is the locally produced equivalent of Champagne, produced in exactly the same way. Chef Richard Cerini has two set menu price options at Mets et Vins each with a focus on local produce served with style but without too much fuss.

Take a morning or afternoon to visit Chateau des Vaults. Just outside Angers in the heart of the Savennieres appellation, this Chateau is home to Viscountess Evelyne de Jessey-Pontbriand, the current elected president of the AOC Savennieres and producer of Domaine du Closel wines. She runs tours of the estate herself, enthusiastically guiding visitors through her vineyards and explaining more about the appellation. Evelyne’s mother started a revitalision of the appellation encouraging new winemakers to the area and developing new methods and Evelyne has continued and built on her mother’s success. You won’t be disappointed with the Chateau itself with its perfectly laid out formal lawns and vegetable gardens and rooms full of French antiques and Aubusson tapestries.

For a grander experience, Chateau de Brissac is a splendid example of what most of us think of as a Loire Chateau. Still home to the current owner, Marquis Charles Andre de Brissac and his family, the Chateau is open to the public for tours, or if you are feeling very self-indulgent, for short breaks in the Castle in one of four guest rooms.

Although at first glance everything looks perfect, the façade is half finished and has been that way since the death of Charles II de Cosse in 1621, who started some modernisation of the building, in principle to create a perfect symmetry but died before his project was completed.

The interior is grand although plenty of family photos remind us that this is someone’s home. The room which is my personal favourite is the banqueting hall with minstrel’s gallery. This room is resplendent with antlers, hunting trophies of one of the previous inhabitants, Anne de Moremart, who also was the first woman in France to get her driving licence…and then the first to be fined for speeding. You’ll find everything you expect in a Chateau, from a theatre and a portrait gallery to Louis XIII’s Bedchamber – the room where Louis XIII and his mother (Marie de Medicis) were reconciled in 1620, after her temporary reign as Regent. And, of course, there’s a large cave, with wine tasting of the wines produced by the Chateau itself.

When you are finished with wine tasting and chateau tours, what better to do than make your way to the fabulously unexpected La Table de la Bergerie. Why unexpected? Well, it’s in a small, unpretentious bungalow in the middle of a vineyard. With around 25 covers, the menu is kept simple, but everything is exceptionally well cooked and presented. And as someone pointed out, it’s gourmet food at budget prices (a five course tasting menu with matched wines will cost you around 65 Euros)

The chef, David Guitton, trained with Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon, working in the USA, London and Monaco, before he met and married the winemaker Yves Guégniard ‘s daughter. His suggestion of a small restaurant in the vineyard was realised in La Table de la Bergerie. And that enables him to work alongside his wife and family, pairing his excellent cuisine with their wines in a way that showcases both local food and wines.

There’s much more to explore, to see and to do. If like me, you visit for a few days, you will want to return – to revisit the places you loved the first time and to find more about this unspoilt area of France

Links
www.londoncityairport.com
www.angersloiretourisme.com/en/

Article and images copyright Fiona Maclean – www.london-unattached.com

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