There is clearly a kitschy side to the wine business in Chinon. Even though the red chinonais wines, made exclusively from the juice of Cabernet Franc grapes (a blending variety in Bordeaux), are among the Loire Valley's finest, some of the advertising is playful and hokey.
The Cadogan guide recommends the museum advertised on the left in these terms: "Life-sized models slowly enact the laborious work involved in wine-making. To reward you for your attention, you're treated to a wine tasting at the end."
I'm sure part of the inspiration behind the kitschy humor of advertising and decoration goes all the way back to the satiric and bawdy writings of François Rabelais 400 years ago. His comic characters were the giants Pantagruel and Gargantua. He wrote often about Chinon wines, describing the white wines of nearby Ligré as "taffeta" wines, so smooth they were on the palate.
This street sign in Chinon points visitors toward the "painted caves" or cellars in town, which Rabelais wrote about. His Renaissance-era French on the white plaque says: "I know where the painted cave is in Chinon. I have drunk many a glass of fresh cool wine there." (The word frais in French can mean either "fresh-tasting" or "cool" — as in chilled — or both.)
The fancy weather vanes here and above are part of the décor at the Couly-Dutheil winery on the north side of the château complex. The vines there grow almost up to the castle walls. I haven't done any tasting or buying at Couly-Dutheil, but I can vouch for the fine quality of the wines produced in the villages east of Chinon, including Cravant, Panzoult, and Sazilly.
Couly-Dutheil doesn't look hokey, as you can see. It look pretty elegant. Let me add that part of the Chinon kitsch, I think, is the moldy casks and bottles in the wine caves on the west side of the town that I posted about yesterday. But the fact is, there are wine caves around Saint-Aignan that are not kitschy at all and are just as moldy.