Château de Targé
Château de Targé clings to Saumur’s première côte, with the river and the flood plain sitting below it, the vine-carpetted limestone expanse above and behind it. In this respect, and in a number of other characteristics, it is like a number of other properties dotted along this limestone cliff. For a start there is an attractive château here, imposing in itself (certainly compared to any house I have ever lived in), although modest compared to the sort of châteaux one can find so easily in Bordeaux, or the many great Renaissance palaces that are hidden in the residual woodlands of the Loire Valley. And there are troglodytic caves here as well, the original cellars that lie next to the château hewn direct from the limestone, the tunnels running deep beneath the vines.
This seemingly conventional facade hides a fascinating story though. The history of this château (pictured below) involves a string of French statesmen, as it has been passed from the hands of one influential politician to the next. The name Targé gives some clue to this, as do the names of the current proprietors, Pisani-Ferry, but otherwise this association with the grandees of French politics is not that easy to perceive, especially to those of us less familiar with French history. And it is impossible not to mention the fact that I believe this is the only château I have visited where an ancien proprietor, a member of the French Resistance during World War II, has been immortalised in film. But that is just one of many notable moments in the tale of Château de Targé.
Today, the great men of politics are still not too far away, but more important to us are of course the vineyards and the wines. Proprietor Édouard Pisani-Ferry, a vigneron with a tale to tell no less remarkable than many of his forebears, has pulled this domaine up by its boot straps, in a manner akin to that achieved by his good friend Philippe Vatan at Château du Hureau, which is of course just down the road. Before coming to these modern-day accomplishments, however, I will look first to the domaine’s extraordinary history.