It’s a sultry late June afternoon in the Loire Valley with temperatures cruising past 30 degrees. The sun is beginning to show signs of setting and so the normally pale stone of the village of Chaumont-sur-Loire is honey-tinged and warm. Looking up, the horizon is dominated by the Chateau de Chaumont, one of only a few in the region that is located close to the river itself.
Your JacTravel correspondents are about to be looked after for a couple of hours by Aurélien and Daniel, two passionate and proud locals who have come together to offer an unforgettable experience for individuals, families, or small groups.
Aurélien is the skipper of our small wooden sailboat. He explains to us that the Loire is wide but very shallow with strong currents. The boat has a quiet motor that he uses only sporadically to navigate his way past the sand banks, small island nature reserves and occasional reeds.
Daniel is our sommelier. He tells us to remember that wine is for pleasure and so we shouldn’t get too hung up about some of the dos and don’ts that we may have heard.
This helps us relax along with the gentle, fresh breeze and silent calm. The currents of the Loire prevent swimming and so we have the place to ourselves. Aurélien kicks us away from the bank and we float downstream and sink further into the surroundings and atmosphere.
After Aurélien skilfully locates us near a welcome shady bank, Daniel begins the wine lesson (look at it, smell it, give it some air, smell it again and then taste it) and then introduces us to five different local wines and some local specialities (rillettes, rillons, chevre and saucisson).
The aim of the game is to work out what the wines smell of, and which ones go best with the different flavours. There are no right answers – everyone’s palette is different – the point is to help us choose what we might like in the future and learn a little along the way.
The two hours have passed quickly, our two guides are great company, and we make our way back past herons, gulls and warblers.
JacTravel can incorporate this activity into group programmes in the region for up to 24 people. Contact us for more information on this and other activities available in the Loire Valley – [email protected]