Sunday, August 29, 2010

Vouvray Cave

Vouvray is a small town just East of Tours and across the Loire River. The area is well known for its white wine. Tours Langues (my language school) organized a trip there a couple weeks ago. We visited the cave of Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau. Apparently, Saint Martin of Tours (who lived from 316-397) planted the first grape vine there.

Most of the wineries store their wine in caves dug out of the limestone (or tuffeau) hills found here in the Loire Valley. The caves were dug to extract the limestone to build all of the houses and chateaus. The caves are also used to grow mushrooms or converted into homes.

The homes built in the rocks are called troglodytes. They were originally inhabited back in the day by peasants who had no money or property. They took up residence in the caves because they were free and for protection from soldiers when they came to collect taxes. It’s easy to hide in the caves as well as ambush anyone that tries to enter. People still live in troglodyte homes today. It’s very posh around here to buy a troglodyte and then build a house outward from the rock. Then you have rooms that can take in a lot of sunlight as well as rooms (usually the kitchen) in the cave, which always remain the same temperature (~13 deg C) and are easy to heat in the winter.

Anyways... the winery we visited in Vouvray stored their wine in a cave. We walked through the cave and tasted the wines in the different rooms of the cave. I thought they were delish, so I bought two bottles. One was a dry 2008 white “Clos de Rougemont” and the other was a brut petillant (sparkling). The bottles cost 7.50 and 6.40 euros, respectively. I considered that to be SUPER cheap for how good they were. All the wines from the domaine are organic too (or bio, as the French say).

We have since drank both bottles. We drank the white wine with lunch and then again with dinner last Sunday. Martine served a savory cake with each meal. The first was with a river fish that tastes like salmon and the second cake was with vegetables . Martine loved the wine and said it was perfect. I thought it was pretty good too. Martine also thought the prices were excellent and plans to take a trip to the cave herself to buy more wine.

That night Ayumi also made a Japanese dessert which has a name I can’t remember or pronounce. We were each given a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, a ball of red bean paste, and three or four little balls of something gooey and very little taste. It sounds odd, but the mixture of everything was wonderful. It was light and mild, yet satisfying.

We drank the brut pettillant a few nights later with a rabbit, potato, and carrot stew. Yum! It was a meal that one would normally make for a Sunday lunch or dinner, but we have a joke that “C’est dimanche tous les jours chez Martine!” (Everyday is Sunday at Martine’s house).


  1. OMG! Those savory cakes look fantastic! Any way you could get the recipes? Or at least the French name for them so I can look them up.

    I think "Troglodytes" refers to the people who lived in the caves rather than the caves themselves - in English anyways.

    Did you know: "In 732 AD, Abdel Rahman al-Ghafiqi and a large army of Muslim horsemen from Africa advanced deep into France, and were stopped at Tours by Charles Martel and his infantry in the Battle of Tours. The outcome was defeat for the Muslims, saving France from Islamic conquest."

    Charles Martel was a brilliant general and his name means "Charles the Hammer"

  2. The french name for the savory cakes is just cake sale (accent aigu on the 'e').

    Strictly speaking, yes, "Troglodytes" refers to the people, but the term is used loosely here. For instance people say, "I live in a troglodyte" or "Look at the troglodytes on your right".