Région Poitou-Charentes has a wealth of gastronomic delights whether it’s regionally produced oysters or goat’s cheese, fresh sea salt or Bouchot mussels, Surgères butter or Mojhettesbeans, Pineau des Charentes or cognac!
It’s all a bit cheesy – Goat farms and dairies may seem an unusual tourist attraction but when you have as many different cheeses as Poitou-Charentes, they are a real attraction for your gourmet visitors. The Route du Chabichou et des Fromages de Chèvre winds for some 200 km across the northern half of the region, linking producers who actively welcome visitors. Goats’ cheeses come in all shapes, sizes and colours, but the most famous of all is the Chabichou, thought to have been introduced by the Saracens who stayed in the area after their defeat in Poitiers in 732. They produced cheese ‘de cheblis’(Arabic for ‘goat’), which later changed to Chabichou. Watch out for the brown tourist signs. The Maison des fromages de chèvre in Celle sur Belle celebrates the Goat Festival on 13th September this year.
Its not selfish being a shellfish – the oyster parks of the Marennes-Oléron basin produce some 60,000 tons of shellfish every year, almost half the total French production. The oysters have a unique flavour no matter the variety – ‘affinée en claire’ or ‘pleine mer’ for example – in no small part due to the diversity of the cultivators who nourish these shellfish to maturity, absolutely true to their mission to develop the best taste. This dedication to the trade by the farmers of Marennes Oléron has led to them being the only French oysters awarded the ‘Label Rouge’ (Red Label) for the ‘fine claire verte’ variety since 1989. The taste is a result of the exceptional cultivation in a unique ecosystem only to be found on Oléron Island and the Marennes basin, where the fresh water of the Seudre River meets the sea, producing a delicately perfumed oyster. To learn more about oyster cultivation in the area visit the unmissable ‘Oyster City’.
A little tipple – the vineyards within the official “Cognac” area lie in Charente and Charente-Maritime. The ‘liquor of gods’, as Victor Hugo called it, cognac owes its character to the warm, humid climate in this part of Western France. Otard, Camus, Hennessy, Martell, Rémy- Martin and Courvoisier can be found here. The cognac house of Hennessy is re-opening in September 2015 with a new exhibit and an exciting new tour celebrating its 250th anniversary this year. Martell is celebrating 300 years and Courvoisier has introduced a new Premium Gourmet tour.
Add some flavour – the salt marshes along the north-west coast of the Ile de Ré are renowned for their fleur de sel or ‘white gold’. Although less important to the island economy today than in centuries past, the industry has been successfully revived in recent decades, helping to preserve the traditional Rétais way of life. Discover the whole story at the Ecomusée du Marais Salant explore the salt marsh trails on foot or by bike and taste the unique flavour of fleur de sel sprinkled on the island’s delicious AOC new potatoes. For edible souvenirs, take home a tub of coarse salt crystals or a bag of scrumptious salt-flavoured caramels.
A little bit of butter for my bread – the AOP Charentes-Poitou butter has had its certification since 1979 and is a favourite of all good pastry chefs. The butter is made from cream only produced in the region and has a distinct character due to the length of time it is left to mature. It is rich and full flavoured with nutty hints. It is the butter of choice for croissants, cakes, milles feuilles and so on. Yum!
Contributor: Alexandra Pinhorn
Photographs 1 – 5 – Sue Lowry
Photographs 6– courtesy of Région Poitou-Charentes
Région Poitou-Charentes is a client of Magellan PR. Follow them on twitter @poitoucharentes on Facebook/Atlantic Coast & Cognac Country – Holidays in Poitou-Charentes.
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