We drove through the beautiful village of Breze quite early as it was only 5 miles away from our hotel in Fontevraud and would be a good start to the day before visiting Saumur for lunch later. Parking alongside the Chateau prompted different emotions, Dr C delighted because we were surrounded by vines she could explore and snap away at, with myself experiencing the usual wave of scepticism regarding a glorious exterior that was probably devoid of artefacts or any sense of culture and history within those gleaming walls.
Having paid my €9 entrance fee I was one of the first people to enter though the central gate in the walls, having crossed a wooden bridge over a heck of a chasm that was probably once a moat, though it looked very natural. In the main courtyard the guidebook told me to enter Door #1, logically, as this would take me into various tunnels before exiting outside in between the chateau walls and some sort of exterior walls in the tuffeau. This is local limestone in The Loire Valley and often burrowed into by troglodyte cave dwellers. (More on this later when we visit the Domaine Filliatreau in Saumur-Champigny)
I emerged and was immediately astounded at my surroundings, I had entered a doorway in the main courtyard, wandered around a maze of non-descript tunnels, and arrived blinking into the sunlight here ……
This outer wall or cliff face surrounding the main chateau walls was riddled with “caves/holes” like a Swiss cheese, but I instinctively knew they would have a purpose, and so it proved. Kitchens, a bakery, storage rooms and …. caves related to wine making with the original artefacts still in situ. I wandered though many of these caves for about an hour, I’ll let the photos tell the story.
I really enjoyed this visit, the wine presses were impressive and all occupying large alcoves in each cave clearly carved out in a precise manner for each piece of equipment. Sadly the main interior was most disappointing, as usual, with 🚫📷 signs everywhere. But, if only the walls could talk ….
Built between the 11th and 19th centuries in the heart of a vineyard with an area of several dozen hectares, the castle of Brézé has belonged to the powerful and influential family of the Dreux-Brézé for centuries, before being taken over – by marriage – by the family of Colbert, descendant of the Minister of Louis XIV.
The castle of Brézé reflects a rich history dating back to at least the mid-fifteenth century, during which the castle was fortified. It was in fact the subject of numerous construction plans and alterations to its architecture.
In addition to the underground tunnels, the dry moats are an impressive sight and are considered among the deepest in Europe.
A visit to the castle will also be the opportunity to discover the largest known underground medieval bakeries in France, with its imposing fireplace and chimney.
Walking along the moats, you will pass by three wine presses of the sixteenth century. The presses, still working, are part of the largest currently known in the west of France. Beautiful tools used to produce the wine are still found here too.