France // The Loire //

Saumur and around

Saumur is a good-sized town notable for two things in particular: its excellent sparkling wine (some would say as good as Champagne) and the wealth of aristocratic military associations, based on its status as home to the French Cavalry Academy and its successor, the Armoured Corps Academy.

A large number of manufacturers of the famous Saumur sparkling wine cluster in the suburb of St-Hilaire-St-Florent, and are especially prominent along the main stretch of the riverside road, along rue Ackerman and rue Leopold-Palustre: particularly good cellars include Ackerman-Laurance, Bouvet-Ladubay, Langlois-Château, Gratien & Meyer, Louis de Grenelle and Veuve Amiot; choosing between them is a matter of personal taste, and possibly a question of opening hours, though most are open all day every day throughout the warmer months (generally 10am–6pm, though most close for a couple of hours at lunchtime out of season). Buy a couple of bottles to take away, and you’ll probably be impressed by both the taste and the price difference between this inexpensive wine and champagne.

Saumur’s cavalry heritage is displayed in all its glory at the École Nationale d’Équitation (, just south of St-Hilaire-St Florent at BP 207, Terrefort. The Riding School provides guided tours during which you can watch training sessions (mornings are best but there are none on the weekend in August) and view the stables. Displays of dressage and anachronistic battle manoeuvres by the crackshot Cadre Noir, the former cavalry trainers, are regular events.

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