The fortress of Chinon, in France's Loire River valley, is definitely on my bucket list. A beautifully restored medieval castle, Chinon figured heavily in the tales of Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years' War. But my biggest reason for wanting to visit Chinon concerns Eleanor of Aquitaine, the 11th century Queen, first of France and then of England, and mother to not only Richard the Lion Heart, but also the infamously corrupt King John. I became fascinated with Eleanor after watching the 1968 film The Lion in Winter, starring Katharine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole, plus a young Anthony Hopkins as Richard, and set at a (fictional) Christmas Court at Chinon castle. Hepburn portrays Eleanor as a formidable woman, more than a match for the restless and powerful Henry II, an accurate depiction of the woman who, an heiress in her own right, divorced one king to marry another and then took the field against her husband in open rebellion. And although the Chinon Christmas Court never happened, Eleanor was at Chinon; Henry briefly imprisoned her there following the rebellion.
But the best reason to visit Chinon and the rest of the Loire Valley? Wine. Incredible, delicious, infinitely varied wine. In fact, if I were limited to drinking only one wine region for the rest of my life, it would emphatically, hands-down, beyond the shadow of a doubt be the Loire. Because the Loire has EVERYTHING.
Bubbly? Got it, from sparkling Vouvray to Cremant de Loire and Cremant de Loire Rosé. Reds, from delicate Pinot Noirs to the savory-tinged Cabernet Franc of Chinon and Bourgueil to funky Gamays and Pineau d'Aunis. Still rosé. Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé, the gold standards for Sauvignon Blanc. Muscadet (no relation to Moscato), the ultimate fish and shellfish partner. And Chenin Blanc, a beguiling chameleon capable of producing wines from bone dry and razor-sharp to honeyed elixirs. And everything in between. If I were imprisoned in a stone castle, at least the wines of the Loire would be excellent company.
But don't take my word for it when you can taste these lovelies for yourself! Come to our Loire Valley Wines Seminar, on Thursday, April 11. From 6:30-8 PM, we'll taste through 8+wines while learning about the different grapes and styles. Our co-host, Rich Ricci of Vineyard Road, brings great wine knowledge but also humor and proportion. In other words, we intend to have fun. If you'd like to have fun, too, email us for a spot.
To Chinon! And beyond...