The 5-minute essential guide to Guérande salt

Resulting from just the right combination of sea, sun, wind and traditional savoir-faire, Guérande salt has been harvested by hand from the marshes of Pays de la Loire for thousands of years. Let's head to the Atlantic coast to find out more about this special product.

The story of white gold

The Guérande peninsula and salt is an ancient history: it was already being harvested in the Iron Age, alongside the birth of the region's first cities and the first Celtic States! The first salt flats using the lagoon's storage capacities date back to the 3rd century, shortly after the Roman conquest. The contours of today's salt marshes date from the 10th century. The salt trade, a true white gold, ensured the prosperity of Guérande for several centuries, making the town the first trade mecca in Brittany (before it became part of Pays de la Loire).

The salt marshes

In the Guérande salt marshes, salt production is a 100% natural process. Thanks to a series of tanks promoting the evaporation of water, the salt contained in the seawater concentrates until it crystallises and becomes harvestable. With gentle sunshine, moist heat and wind, the seawater evaporates little by little and the salt concentration increases to become the unique (and valuable) Guérande salt.

The demanding job of the salt worker

Salt workers are the heirs of an ancestral savoir-faire and the guardians of a unique natural heritage (in French, they're called paludiers, from the Latin word "palus" for marsh). The salt harvest takes place in the summer, but salt workers take care of the marshes throughout the year. In spring, they empty the salt pans where rainwater has accumulated and remove the mud and algae. In autumn, salt must be protected from high tides and from future frosts, while winter is for maintenance of the bottom of the basins.

Coarse salt, fine salt, fleur de sel

Coarse salt is recognisable by its grey crystals. Fine salt is obtained after this coarse salt has been carefully dried, crushed and sieved. As for the Guérande fleur de sel, highly sought after for its violet fragrance, it is naturally white. It is delicately picked from the surface of the salt marsh water when weather conditions permit. Popular with top chefs, it adds a special touch to many dishes and even desserts (particularly with caramel). Fleur de sel is not usually used for cooking itself, but more for garnishing.

Renowned quality

Although Guérande salt, which is 100% natural, cannot obtain an organic label due to regulations, it is the only sea salt in France to benefit from the "Red Label" quality guarentee for its flavour and nutritional value. If you buy Guérande Label Rouge salt, you can be sure that it has been harvested manually, that it is unrefined, without additives and is rich in magnesium. "Guérande salt" and "Guérande fleur de sel" obtained a protected geographical indication (PGI) in 2012, providing consumers with a guarantee of its origin and quality.

Getting to Pays de la Loire