Sunday, August 12, 2012

L'Ami Chenin: a good place to stay in the Loire

Here’s another good place to stay if you’re a natural wine fan - L’Ami Chenin in Saumur which we - or more accurately - my diligent researcher of a husband - chose because it was just down the road from Thierry Germain of Domaine des Roches Neuves who we were visiting the following day*.

It’s an 18th century house built into the rocks up above Saumur (see note on parking below). The proprietor Xavier Amat used to be a winemaker - but now combines his role running a chambres d’hôtes with that of a natural wine merchant. As a result he has a spectacular cellar.

We shared a pet nat rosé with him and his wife, France, then an old bottle of Benoit Courault’s glorious quince-scented Gilbourg Anjou Blanc whose vintage I negligently forgot to note and Noella Morantin’s 2010 Côt à Côt (Malbec) with our fellow (British) guests who, if they were taken aback to drink such off-the-wall wines, were too polite to say so.

Dinner, which you need to reserve and which may not be available if you’re the only guests, is cooked by France and is served outside in the garden if it's fine. The night we were there (July 19th 2012) it consisted of a suitably summery baba ganoush (aubergine purée), fennel, orange and red onion salad, chicken cooked with preserved lemon and couscous, a splendid selection of local cheeses and a simple strawberry dessert - a steal at 25€ (£19.58 at the time of writing)

Our very pleasant large room was 75€ (£58.75) with breakfast included.

A word of warning - the house is reached via a somewhat hairy hairpin bend and has slightly tricky parking. So it might be wise to take it easy on the vino if you go out to eat in Saumur. Oh, and there’s no wifi and not much of a phone signal but they do have an ethernet cable for computers that have a slot for one. (Not mine unfortunately but not everyone is as obsessive as me about needing to be online).

*We arranged that visit ourselves but Xavier can set up visits to winemakers if you need him to

L’Ami Chenin is at 37 rue de Beaulieu, 49400 Saumur and is closed from November 1st to January 31st. Tel: 02 41 38 13 17

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