Friday, April 5, 2013

The Middle Ages in Brittany

The weekly market in Ancenis is Thursday morning, and it was a huge market, encompassing the old indoor Les Halles in the center of town and outdoor stalls all through the center.  There was an incredible variety of food, including several fish vendors, butchers, farms selling poultry and meat they raised, and cheese vendors with a fantastic array of cheeses.  We were nearing the end of our stay here, so we didn't want to buy a lot of food, but we did get several goat cheeses to replenish our supply.

In the afternoon we decided to take an excursion into Britanny, first stopping in the large town of Chateaubrieant, which has an enormous fortified medieval chateau that is amazingly well preserved.  Chateaubrieant was a key outpost at the border of the duchy of Brittany and France, and in the 1400's Brittany was at constant war with France.  In 1488, Chateaubrieant was under seige by French forces, and finally fell that year, followed shortly by the last remaining fortifications of Brittany, resulting in the incorporation of Brittany into France.

After leaving Cheateaubrieant we stopped at Pouancé, which has a chateau that is less well-preserved than Chateaubrieant.  Pouancé was an outpost on the French side of the Brittany-France border in the Middle Ages, and it was from Pouancé that the French forces departed for the siege of Chateaubrieant in 1488.

From Pouancé we left the Middle Ages and drove to a wine producer near Ancenis, Domaine de la Pléiade.  The gite owners are friends of the proprietors of the winery, and had given us a bottle of their Muscadet when we arrived.  We tried most of their wines, and especially liked the red Coteaux d'Ancenis (made from Gamay grapes) and red Anjou (made from Cabernet Franc).  Now that Coteaux d'Ancenis has been elevated from VDQS to an AOC, the domaine makes 3 AOC wines.  Their Muscadet is AOC Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire, an AOC I have never seen in the U.S., where the more prestigious Muscadet Sevre et Maine is the one usually sold.  Despite its less prestigious AOC, Domaine de la Pléiade's 2011 Muscadet won a bronze medal at the prestigious Concours General competition in Paris last year.


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  2. Those cheeses look fabulous. Beautiful chateau too. I think I'm as sad as you two must be to think that you're nearing the end of your voyage!