My first ever experiences with the wines of the Quarts de Chaume appellation were with Château Belle-Rive, and so it was only natural when looking for a domaine to visit, on an early trip to the Loire Valley a long time ago (hint – we are talking decades rather than years), that I should head here. In the era before satellite navigation arrived, which these days means that even I can’t get lost, finding Château Belle-Rive nevertheless turned out to be a breeze. This is despite the fact that the domaine is obscured from view by a surrounding copse of trees, secreted at the end of a long driveway, which itself is a spur off a narrow lane that meanders through the vineyards of the Chaume and Quarts de Chaume appellations.
The reason for my being able to locate the domaine with ease was simple. Heading west on the main road out towards Rochefort-sur-Loire and Chalonnes-sur-Loire, having just passed Château Pierre-Bise (already a name familiar to me, even back then), the turning was marked by a large sign that was, to be frank, impossible to miss. Turning off as instructed, the narrow road headed south, climbing gently and steadily, a sea of verdant green vines on either side. Then, once past Château de Plaisance, another venerable Quarts de Chaume estate, the road began to fall again, and I soon tumbled into the tiny village of Chaume (I am glad I didn’t blink, though, or I might have missed it). Here, a left-turn would have taken me to Château de Suronde and Château L’Écharderie, other famous names long associated with the Quarts de Chaume appellation, but I kept right for Château Belle-Rive.
Thankfully, there was another road sign which at this point again kept me on the right course. Then the road descended more steeply, as the land dipped down towards the course of the Layon. Before I got that far though, my tour among the greatest names of the Quarts de Chaume appellation came to an end, as the entrance to Château Belle-Rive appeared. An hour or so after my arrival, after a tour of the vineyards and winemaking facilities, I was inside tasting some recent vintages, quickly falling head-over-heels for Quarts de Chaume once again. It was yet another brief encounter with these wines, in what has turned out to be a very long and resilient love affair.