The medieval market town of Saumur, bisected by the river Loire 40 kilometres up river from Angers, always makes for a welcome pit-stop on our peregrinations across France. Here, on the northern fringes of the vine belt, a Continental climate and rolling topography provide an ideal enclave for viticulture and there is a sharp focus on two grapes: Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
The exemplary Cave de Saumur co-opérative south-east of the town at Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg is an über-reliable source of keenly-priced single-varietal bottlings and sparkling wines. They produce our own 'Charles de Gaulle' labelled white and red Saumur that both enjoy an extremely loyal following. The former is a pure Chenin Blanc with an ozone-fresh bouquet and zesty, citrus-edged palate; the latter, a berry-scented supple Cabernet Franc with a wealth of red fruit flavours and supple tannins. The Cave's bottle-fermented Saumur Mousseux' Brut is a blend of 90% Chenin Blanc and 10% Chardonnay that has a lively mousse, brioche and orchard fruit aromas and a fresh clean finish; a versatile crowd-pleaser for all manner of celebrations. They also make an attractive coral pink Crémant de Loire rosé from 90% Cabernet Franc and 10% Grolleau which has a bouquet of crushed summer berries and uplifting palate of redcurrants and cranberries: it makes a perfect al fresco aperitif.