Lovin' the Loire

Amboise’s anglophones get a taste of Ambacia food and wine


Anglophones and anglophiles turned out in force for the Loire ConneXion‘s holiday party, clearly enticed by the venue: les Caves Ambacia and their Oppidum bistrot. History buffs will know that Amboise was called Ambacia under the Gauls, and that oppidum is the Latin word for settlement.

The diners sat down to a meal of locally sourced foie gras, suprême de volaille with cream of mushrooms and chestnuts and a dessert of pears poached in white wine, cooked up by chef Thibault Rappolt. Welcoming the crowd, Ambacia owner Pascal Mineau quoted Winston Churchill (who else?). “My tastes are simple: I am easily satisfied with the best.”

Said anglophone Caroline Ostler: “It was a lovely evening, full of conviviality and with a good mixture of French and English spoken. The wine tasting was extremely educational and helpful with our ongoing exploration of Loire wines.”
The Briton who settled in Beaulieu-lès-Loches with her husband Tim on in early 2021, added about the meal: “For me the standout things were the vegetables (particularly the leeks) and the mushroom sauce, which had a pleasing depth of flavor.”

Loire ConneXion is the brainchild of Summer Jauneaud, who set up the network in 2010, ten years after emigrating to France from her native California. Today it boasts a Facebook group of more than 850 people — anglophone expats as well as French anglophiles. The event on December 1 drew revelers from as far afield as Paris as well as the Loches area and Tours.

Among the anglophiles was Julie Wilson, who commented: “Nice crowd! Happy I could practice my English.”

Earlier, a dozen members took part in a dégustation led by Caves Ambacia sommelier Thomas Pilet. Mark Playle deemed the session “the best wine-tasting experience I have had in all the years I have lived in the region. Honestly, it knocked the socks off of all the others I have been on. Great explanations from very knowledgeable staff and amazing Loire Valley wines.” The British photographer and his other half Pamela Shields, author of several books on the history of Amboise, have called the town home for the past half dozen years.

Thomas Pilet delves into the secrets of wine tasting with Loire ConneXion members

The wine cellar dug deep into the limestone promontory overlooking the Loire in Amboise dates back to the 15th century and boasts a collection of vintage wines — an œnothèque — whose oldest bottle of Vouvray dates to 1874. 

Mineau has no vineyard of his own, but instead criss-crosses the Loire Valley in search of vines with the best possible chance of producing the best possible vintages. Once he finds a plot — a sélection parcellaire — meeting his criteria including the soil, the orientation, the microclimate, the age of the vines, and of course the winegrower’s profile, he procures the juice at harvest time and gets to work on “raising” the wine.

“I’m an editor of wine, I raise wines,” he told Lovin’ the Loire.

Pascal Mineau and his cement “egg”

Mineau is currently experimenting with a giant “egg”, a contraption made of cement with which he hopes to produce some 865 bottles of Sancerre from vines dating to 1968.

The former chef sommelier and director of a Michelin-starred restaurant also previously served as the maître d’ of France’s health minister.