At the very heart of the Val de Loire, the vineyards of Anjou and Saumur make up the third biggest wine-growing region of France.
Their wide variety of soils and selected grape varieties, specially chosen for the mild climate of Anjou, produce a great diversity of wines.
With 28 Appellations d'Origine Contrôlée, the vineyards of Anjou and Saumur offer a full range of wines, in both colour and flavour.
Anjou also produces fine liqueurs - the most famous being Cointreau, spiced with dried orange peel and distilled in Angers.
Try other flavours such as mint or the cherry-flavoured aperitif Guignolet d’Anjou made by Combier Distillery in Saumur for 150 years. Many vineyards and distilleries are open to visitors for tastings - look for signs saying ‘degustation’.
The districts along the River Maine at Angers are famous for their market gardens and nurseries growing cyclamen, azaleas and hydrangeas.
Every week, markets in every quarter of Angers offer wonderful fresh produce. The big city centre market on Saturday mornings takes place in several different squares, including the medieval quarter of La Doutre.
Anjou is the greatest flower producing centre in France so be sure there’s room amongst your food purchases for to a bouquet of Angers’s stunning cut flowers to dress your table. Take home Angers’s aniseed biscuits and strange but delicious Quernons d’Ardoise - nougat covered in blue chocolate imitating the local roof slates.
In the Anjou Bleu area, you can buy products directly from producers, thus combining quality, local know-how and face-to-face meetings with them. You can find produce such as cider, apple juice, chocolate, honey, bread, foie gras, cheese, meat... And, of course, a particular kind of cake found only in the region, the "Anjou Bleu gateau", made of chocolate and Cointreau.
Mushrooms are an important produce in Maine et Loire and button mushrooms, known as champignons de Paris, have been grown for over 100 years in the cool dark limestone caves around Saumur in constant temperatures and high humidity.
Where better to try galipettes (stuffed mushrooms) and all things made of mushrooms than in the café of the Musee du Champignon (mushroom) at St-Hilaire-St-Florent on the outskirts of Saumur.
The Angevins (residents of the former province of Anjou) are not short of ideas on how to present their regional specialities and local fare to best advantage: rillauds (small chunks of belly pork cooked in their own fat), chicken fricassee Angevine, sander in a beurre blanc sauce accompanied by a Savennières white wine or greengage pie and desserts flavoured with Cointreau. Choose your menu!