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Food and Wine in the Loire

Posted 20 Jan 2022

In a region of castles and châteaux with a history soaked in the dalliances of royals, you’d expect the food and wine to be world-class. In the Loire, it’s just that. Food in France is always a delicious experience, with beautifully curated flavours and locally sourced produce harmonising in one of a kind dishes. When travelling in the Loire, you’ll encounter such dishes as salmon and pike perch, line-caught and accompanied by mushrooms foraged in nearby woods.  Wines here are crisp and are often produced from small, home-run vineyards.

When on a cycling holiday, there’s nothing better than having a wonderful meal to look forward to as a reward for a day of cycling. For many a foodie, the cuisine of a country is often the reason for visiting. When cycling in the Loire, expect traditional dishes as well as new exciting flavours. Ingredients here are also extremely fresh, often sourced from nearby rivers and woods. There are many reasons why the food and wine in the Loire is one of a kind, so here is our list.

Restaurant in the Loire

Fresh Ingredients

This region has a strong culture of locally sourcing produce by foraging where possible. When dining on a delicious seared pike or admiring the flavoursome mushrooms accompanying it, admire that both of these would have been caught and found most likely just outside of town. The climate of the Loire makes vegetation lush and mushrooms large, meaning any dish here is likely to be a standout on your cycle holiday.

The rivers of the Loire are bursting with life, from pike and perch to eels and chub. You’ll find any fish chosen from a menu will have been swimming in the nearby river only a few days ago. This kind of freshness is typical of the food and wine in the Loire, showing itself in the gorgeous flavours of the dishes. Known as the 'Garden of France', the Loire has bountiful forests too. Game from the woods includes quail, duck, wild boar, rabbits, and deer all on offer along with the usual red meats you see. Such a variety of ingredients growing in the region makes food and wine in the Loire truly special.

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Loire food market

Traditional

Like most of France, winemaking is a tale as old as time here. Being so close to the Paris market, and historically the wealthy noblemen who lived there, winemaking in the Loire has always been prestigious. Some of the most well known here are those from the Chinon vines. Unusual for the region, these are almost exclusively reds. You can find most of the vineyards along the banks of the Vienne rivers well as resting upon the slopes above the town.  Full-bodied, you’ll mostly find Cabernet Francs capable of being stored for 10 years or more. Expect a strong tannic backbone from these. On our Loire Valley Experience tour, you’ll have the chance to see Chinon and taste some of their delicious wines.

A staple of the region for a hundred years, the buere blanc is synonymous with the Loire. Created by accident by the chef Clémence Lefeuvre in her restaurant, this sauce is known as ‘white butter’, consisting of emulsified butter with a vinegar reduction and white wine as well as shallots. With rapid whisking, a light and creamy sauce is created, paired with all sorts of food from asparagus to yellowfin tuna.

Bakeries in the Loire have been making fouées for generations. These wood-fired breadsticks, made from simple dough, were originally used to check the temperatures of the oven before baking bread. Today, however, they’re one of the region’s most well-known foods, commonly stuffed with rillettes. Their sister is the fouace; a brioche bun topped with nuts and you can find both of these delights in bakeries throughout the region. They showcase how the old traditions of the Loire are still alive and have adapted to the tastes of modern times.

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Traditional Loire food

Inventive

For such a historic and grand region, it would be easy to think of people stuck in their ways, eating only the foods their grandparents and their grandparents and so on would have eaten. The food and wine in the Loire is the complete opposite of this, with a vibrant food scene combining the favourites of the past with the excitement of new flavours and methods.

Chefs in the Loire are not afraid to experiment, with one of the most surprising ingredients in savoury dishes being strawberries. We reserve strawberries for desserts or sweet treats but don’t be surprised to see a strawberry or two served with your fresh fish. The sweet and tangy flavours of the berry are actually a perfect partner to fresh perch. This kind of inventiveness is seen throughout the region, perhaps as a remnant of the eccentric royals, and their eccentric taste, who used to reside here.

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Inventive Loire food

Specialities

The Loire is known for its goat’s cheese and on your cycling holiday you’ll encounter five main types. These are: the blue crusted Selles-sur-Cher, delightful crottin de Chavignol, unique Sainte-Maure de Tourraine, and then Valençay and Pouligny-Saint-Piere; both of which are pyramid cheeses. These sumptuous goats’ cheeses pair perfectly with the Loire wines.

When visiting the city of Tours on our Loire in Luxury tour, be sure to try Rillettes de Tours. This delicious spread is made from pork meat that has been slowly cooked in its own fat for hours on end. The result is a scrumptious appetiser or amuse-bouche. You can find this speciality across the charcuteries of the Loire, and pairs very nicely with a Loire red, such as a Touraine.

On the Loire Valley Discovery tour, when in Chinon you’ll get the chance to taste poached eggs au Chinon. We’re used to enjoying poached eggs perhaps with hollandaise or something as creamy, but here they’re paired with a rich red wine sauce. Crowned with bacon and pearl onions, this delicious breakfast is just what you need to set you on the right track for a day of cycling and châteaux tours.

View our Loire cycling holidays here

Loire specialities

For more information about Loire cycling holidays, speak to our cycling experts on 0207 471 7760.

Other posts you may like:

A Loire Valley family bicycle trip
Best guided cycling tours Europe
Best family cycling holidays in Italy

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