Drove the short distance to Breze to see its famous chateau. Laughably, our GPS took us right to the door, but because its marking was only visible when going in the opposite direction, we missed it. Circled around the estate and eventually tripped over the entrance, parked, walked 200 meters to the entrance, only to find that the tour was not available today. Yes, it is indicated on all the brochures, websites and signs, but nonetheless, not today. Grabbed a pamphlet and set off on a self-guided tour. The chateau appears in the historical record in 1063 but construction must predate this by a fair margin, since the original castle (still accessible) was underground. Lords liked this arrangement for the housing of their vassals as it was cheap (the stone excavated could be used to build castles for others) and since it left the overhead ground undisturbed, the land could be farmed. It wasn't until the 15th century that a medieval fortress was erected, surrounded by massive moats. Later this was replaced by a Renaissance Castle, restored in the 19th century, so only the underground bits are original. Of necessity dry, the moats are as deep as 18 meters and form walls for much of the underground fortifications.
Owned by the Marquis de Dreux-Breze, the family acted as Grand Master of Ceremonies for many French kings. One of their number was sent by Louis XVI to tell the Estates General to disperse, only to be seen off by Mirabeau in no uncertain terms.
After considerable underground work and some castle rooms, we exited by the incredible pigeon coop (who knew they were so important? Used for communications, food and guano, lords were allowed two per hectare.), found the car and set off to visit some of the region's wineries.
Famous for wine since the days of Caesar, the Loire's main crop today is still grapes (with corn and sunflower seeds added in). Wineries abound and we eventually took a tour of a small family-owned one called Domaine de Sanzay. They produce a delightful variety of Saumure wines, including some very nice Cabernets. Car clinking, we drove to another, larger, more commercial winery, where the employees successfully evaded us for 15 minutes. In the end, we plunked our would-be purchases down at the cash register and left.
Chateau de Breze
Barrel room in the cellar
Main entrance, seen from the bottom of the moat
Cardinal Richelieu Room
Inside of Pigeon Cote; room for 3700 of the important birds.
Domaine de Sanzay winerie
What it's all about
Reg and the owner in one of the underground barrel vaults; 13C year-round.