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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Journées gastronomiques de Sologne – wine awards.

Thanks to a report by La Nouvelle RépubliqueI now have the complete listing of the awards winners of this years European Wine Competition held in conjuction with the Journées gastronomiques de Sologne at Romorantin.:

AOC Touraine Blanc – Sauvignon 2011 

Médaille d’Or à Patrick GIBAULT, Vignoble GIBAULT à MEUSNES

Médaille d’Argent ex-aequo à Marie-Laure et Eric ARCHAMBAULT, Domaine de la Roche à Pouillé

Médaille d’Argent ex-aequo à Patrick LEGER, Domaine de la Girardière à Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher

Médaille de Bronze à Sophie et Thierry CHARDON, Domaine de l’Aumonier à Couffy

AOC Touraine Blanc – Chenin 2011

Médaille d’Or à Jean-Christophe MANDARD à Mareuil-sur-Cher

AOC Touraine Rouge – Gamay 2011

Médaille d’Or ex-aequo à Olivier GARNIER, Domaine GARNIER Frères à Meusnes

Médaille d’Or ex-aequo au Cellier du Beaujardin à Bléré

Médaille d’Argent à la Famille LECLAIR, Domaine de la Rochette à Pouillé

Médaille de Bronze à Dominique GIRAULT, Domaine des Caillots à Noyers-sur-Cher

AOC Touraine Rouge – Gamay 2010

Mention Spéciale à l’ EARL THOMAS à Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher

AOC Touraine Rouge – Cabernet 2011

Médaille d’Or à Patrick LEGER, Domaine de la Girardière à Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher

Médaille d’Argent à Stéphane DUBREUIL, Vignoble DUBREUIL à Couddes

Médaille de Bronze à Franck JANVIER, Domaine Franck JANVIER à Thésée

AOC Touraine Rouge – Cabernet 2010

Médaille d’Or à Laurent LEBIHAN à Angé

Médaille d’Argent à Jean-Marc BIET à Seigy

AOC Touraine Rouge – Pinot Noir 2011

Médaille d’Argent à Gaëlle CHARBONNIER-MARINIER, Domaine de la Blinière à Saint-Romain-sur-Cher avec la cuvée “Cuvée Florian”

AOC Touraine Rouge – Côt 2011

Médaille d’Or à l’EARL GOUNY à Noyers-sur-Cher

Médaille d’Argent ex-aequo à Jean-Christophe MANDARDà Mareuil-sur-Cher

Médaille d’Argent ex-aequo à Philippe OUDIN, Cave de la Grande Brosse à Chemery avec la cuvée “CoCo&Co”

Médaille de Bronze à Christine LOUET, Domaine du Vivier à Monthou-sur-Bièvre

AOC Touraine Rouge – Côt 2010

Médaille d’Or ex-aequo au Domaine de la Renaudie, Particia et Bruno DENIS à Mareuil -sur-Cher avec la cuvée “Albert Denis”

Médaille d’Or ex-aequo au Domaine de Montigny, Annabelle et Jean-Marie MICHAUD à Sassay

Médaille d’Argent à l’EARL GOUNY à Noyers-sur-Cher

AOC Touraine Rouge – Assemblage 2011

Médaille d’Or à la Famille LECLAIR, Domaine de la Rochette à Pouillé avec la cuvée “Prestige du Vigneron”

Médaille d’Argent ex-aequo à Jean-Christophe MANDARDà Mareuil-sur-Cher avec la cuvée “Tradition”

Médaille d’Argent ex-aequo à Anne-Cécile ROY et Yohann BOUTIN, Domaine des Roy à Pontlevoy avec la cuvée “Les Linottes”

AOC Touraine Rouge – Assemblage 2010

Médaille d’Or à Anne-Cécile ROY et Yohann BOUTIN, Domaine des Roy à Pontlevoy avec la cuvée “Alliance”

Médaille d’Argent à Philippe AUGISà Meusnes avec la cuvée “Les Caillouteux”

Médaille de Bronze à Dominique GIRAULT, Domaine des Caillots à Noyers-sur-Cher

AOC Touraine Rosé – Pineau d’Aunis 2011

Médaille d’Argent à Eric ANGIER, Domaine de la Cour Carrée à Oisly

AOC Touraine Rosé – 2011

Médaille d’Or à Philippe PINON, Domaine Philippe PINON à St-Julien-de-Chédon

Médaille d’Argent ex-aequo à Christophe DAVAULT, Domaine de la Chaise à Saint-Georges-sur-Cher

Médaille d’Argent ex-Aequo au Cellier du Beaujardin à Bléré

AOC Touraine Oisly Blanc 2011

Médaille d’Argent à la Cave Coopérative des Vignerons des Côteaux Romanais à Saint-Romain-sur-Cher

AOC Touraine Chenonceaux Blanc 2011

Médaille d’Or à Jean-Marc VILLEMAINEà Thésée

Médaille d’Argent au Domaine de la Renaudie, Particia et Bruno DENIS, à Mareuil -sur-Cher

Médaille de Bronze à Jean-Michel DESROCHESà Saint-Georges-sur-Cher

AOC Touraine Chenonceaux Rouge 2011

Médaille d’Or à la Famille GODEAU, La Cave du Père Auguste à Civray-enTouraine

Médaille d’Argent au Domaine de la Renaudie, Particia et Bruno DENIS, à Mareuil -sur-Cher

Médaille de Bronze à Thierry PILLAULT, Domaine de l’Azure à Saint-Georges-sur-Cher

Le concours des vins

AOC Valençay Blanc 2011

Médaille d’Or à Olivier GARNIER, Domaine GARNIER Frères à Meusnes avec la cuvée “Les Sources”

Médaille d’Argent aux Frères MALET à Lye

Médaille de Bronze à la SCA La Cave de Valençay à Fonguenand avec la cuvée “Sébastien VAILLANT, le Poirentin”

AOC Valençay Rouge 2010

Médaille d’Or à la SCA La Cave de Valençay à Fonguenand avec la cuvée “Patagon”

Médaille d’Argent Valençay Rouge 2010 à la SCA La Cave de Valençay à Fonguenand avec la cuvée “Sébastien VAILLANT, les Chailloux”

AOC Cheverny Blanc 2011

Médaille d’Or à Philippe SAUGER, Domaine Sauger à Fresnes

Médaille d’Argent à Christelle et Christophe BADINà Cormeray

Médaille de Bronze à Guy GENTY, Domaine de la Grange à Huisseau-sur-Cosson

AOC Cheverny Rouge 2011

Médaille d’Argent à Alain CHERY, Domaine de la Champinière à Cour-Cheverny

Médaille de Bronze ex-aequo Cheverny Rouge 2011 à Christelle et Christophe BADINà Cormeray

Médaille de Bronze ex-aequo à François CAZIN, Domaine du Petit Chambord à Cheverny

AOC Cheverny Rouge 2010

Médaille d’Or à Gérard GIVIERGE, Domaine de l’Aumonière à Cour-Cheverny

Médaille d’Argent à Fabien TESSIER, Domaine de la Desoucherie à Cour-Cheverny

AOC Cheverny Rosé 2011

Médaille d’Argent à Christelle et Christophe BADINà Cormeray

AOC Cour-Cheverny 2009-2010

Médaille d’Or à François CAZIN, Domaine du Petit Chambord à Cheverny avec la cuvée 2010

Médaille d’Argent ex-aequo à Guy GENTY, Domaine de la Grange à Huisseau-sur-Cosson avec la cuvée 2009

Médaille d’Argent ex-aequo à Gérard GIVIERGE, Domaine de l’Aumonière à Cour-Cheverny avec la cuvée 2010

AOC Coteaux du Vendômois Blanc 2011

Médaille d’Or ex-aequo à la Cave Coopérative du Vendômois à Villiers-sur-Loir avec la cuvée “Saint Hilaire”

Médaille d’Or ex-aequo à la Cave Coopérative du Vendômois à Villiers-sur-Loir avec la cuvée “Mont Greffier”

Médaille d’Argent à Dominique NORGUET, Domaine du Four à Chaux à Thoré-la-Rochette

AOC Coteaux du Vendômois Rouge 2011

Médaille d’Or à Dominique NORGUET, Domaine du Four à Chaux à Thoré-la-Rochette

Médaille d’Argent à Charles JUMERT, Domaine de la Berthelotière à Villiers-sur-Loir avec la cuvée “Tradition”

Médaille de Bronze à Benoit BRAZILIERà Thoré-la-Rochette

Médaille de Bronze à la Cave Coopérative du Vendômois à Villiers-sur-Loir avec la cuvée “Montagne Blanche”

AOC Coteaux du Vendômois Gris 2011

Médaille d’Or à Claude MINIER, Domaine Minier à Lunay

AOC Touraine Mesland Rouge 2011

Médaille d’Argent à Cédric et Marina CHOLLET, Domaine de Rabelais à Onzain avec la cuvée “Vieilles Vignes”

AOC Touraine Mesland Rouge 2010

Médaille de Bronze à Frédéric PIRONNEAU, Domaine de la Besnerie à Monteaux avec la cuvée “Vieilles Vignes”

AOC Touraine Mesland Rosé 2011

Médaille de Bronze aux Frères REDIGUERE, Domaine des Terres Noires à Onzain

AOC Touraine Effervescent Blanc Brut

Médaille d’Or à Jean-François BONNEAU, Domaine des Troglodytes à Chateauvieux

Médaille d’Argent ex-aequo à Gilles GAILLARD à MEHERS

Médaille d’Argent ex-aequo à Claudie LEVÊQUE, Domaine de la Renne à Saint-Romain-sur-Cher

Médaille de Bronze ex-aequo au Domaine BOUCHER-POSTIC à Contres

Médaille de Bronze ex-aequo à Laurent LEBIHANà Angé

AOC Touraine Effervescent Blanc Demi-sec

Médaille d’Or à Christine LOUET, Domaine du Vivier à Monthou-sur-Bièvre

AOC Touraine Effervescent Rosé

Médaille d’Or à Frédéric PIRONNEAU, Domaine de la Besnerie à Monteaux avec la cuvée brut

Médaille d’Argent ex-aequo à Angé avec la cuvée brut

Médaille d’Argent ex-Aequo à Jean-Marc VILLEMAINEà Thésée avec la cuvée “l’Elégante Rose” en sec

Médaille de Bronze ex-aequo au Domaine CHARBONNIER à Chateauvieux avec la cuvée brut

Médaille de Bronze ex-aequo à Patrick LEGER, Domaine de la Girardière à Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher avec la cuvée « l’Heure Osée »

AOC Crémant de Loire Blanc

Médaille d’Argent à Vincent SENEAU, Domaine du Grand Moulin à Châteauvieux

Médaille de Bronze Crémant de Loire à Eric ANGIER, Domaine de la Cour Carrée à Oisly

AOC Menetou-Salon Blanc 2011

Médaille d’Argent à la, Cave Jean-Claude LECLERC à Menetou-Salon avec la cuvée “Cuvée Ophélie”

AOC Sancerre Blanc 2011

Médaille d’Or à l’EARL VACHER Jean-Pierre et Fils à Menetou-Ratel

Médaille d’Argent à Henry NATTER, Domaine Henry NATTER à Montigny

Médaille de Bronze à Vincent GRALLà Sancerre

AOC Sancerre Rouge 2011

Médaille d’Or à Sébastien MILLET, Domaine La Gemière, à Crézancy-en-Sancerre

AOC Sancerre Rosé 2011

Médaille d’Argent à l’EARL VACHER Jean-Pierre et Fils à Menetou-Ratel

AOC Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil 2011

Médaille d’Or à Jean-Charles BRUNEAU, Vignoble de la Chevallerie à St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil

Médaille d’Argent à Gaëtan BRUNEAU, Domaine de la Chevallerie à Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil

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Journées Gastronomiques de Sologne

Wine from the Coteaux du Cher

This weekend was an important one for those interested in food and wine in France and especially the centre of france where we are based. The 35th Journées Gastronomiques de Sologne was held in Romorantin, capital of the Sologne region, with some of Frances top chefs in attendance to demonstrate their art and judge the work of others.

Each year the cuisine of a guest country is highlighted alongside the culinary delights of the region and this time it was the turn of Turkey. The main focus was on top chefs and  local apprentices as always, with competitions for bread, deserts, sugar-work and with live demonstrations of the experts and their trainees. It also hosts national level competitions for wine and for cheese.

Wine-makers where out in force and we were able to taste a selection from the Loire region and beyond. The Confrerie des Vignerons des Coteaux du Cher, the guild or fraternity of winemakers from the towns and villages close to where we live, put on a display while several individual producers also had stands. We sampled wines from Vouvray, Sancerre, Coteaux-du-vendomois and all over the Touraine. I will report on the wine awards when the winners are declared.

More news from Bourgueil

A trip was organised to Saumur on a dull and damp day this week, picking up American clients and touring Bourgueil & St Nicholas de Bourgueil, fast becoming favourite wine areas in the huge stretch of the Loire Valley that we consider our territory.

There is no finer way to understand a wine than to drink it in the region of its production and get out into the vineyards and we do this often, both professionally and when visiting other parts of France in our free time.

Damp but happy in the vineyards of Bourgueil

We are beginning to get a handle on Bourgueil & St Nicolas de Bourgueil, separate AOCs which at first glance make no sense at all. The wines are produced in the same way, in neighbouring villages and using the same Cabernet Franc grape variety. Both AOICs came into existence in July 1937.From the point of view of a consumer the region needs reorganising into three new Appellations’: the land down on the ancient sandy islands of the Loire River, the deep soil of the alluvial plain and vineyards up on the limestone ridge. These three geological areas produce quite different wines, while those in the same soil type in the neighbouring villages are very hard to tell apart.

This reorganisation is not going to happen any time soon, if only because of the deep political and social rivalries between the two communities. I am told the folks in Bourgueil consider themselves on a higher social level to those working in the fields of St. Nicolas and co-operation for their mutual benefit seems highly unlikely.

The Maison des Vins in Bourgueil has tried to make it easier for consumers. They display examples of wines from many of the winegrowers of Bourgueil and offer tastings of a selection. They have labels above each wine indicating which soil type the wine comes from. Suddenly you feel the air is clearing and you have half a chance of negotiating your way around the wines on offer. Staff is knowledgeable and friendly and an hour spent in the Maison des Vins is never wasted: I have been several times, learnt much and rarely resist a small purchase.

In the Cave du Pays de Bourgueil

We moved on to the Cave du Pays de Bourgueil for another excellent tasting, with a unique opportunity to taste St. Nicolas de Bourgueil and Bourgueil wines side by side. The Cave houses a museum of winemaking in the limestone quarry tunnels which date back to the year 990 when the Abbey at Bourgueil was built from its stone.

It was here that I discovered the Bourgueil “Vin de Sable” or “Vin de Cote” wines for the first time. This wine is not widely known outside the region, is light and easy to drink, ideal BBQ and summer party wine which is purchased eagerly by the locals. You won’t find it in your supermarket, wherever you live!

16thC winepress at the museum of Cave du Pays de Bourgueil

When you move up to the gravel alluvium or to the more tannic wines on the tufa limestone ridge of both Bourgueil and St Nicolas de Bourgueil, the differences are mostly derived from production techniques. The limestone Bourgueils spend a year in oak barrels and are macerated on their skins for longer, for instance, while the winemakers in St Nicolas they rely on their old vines, many up to 70 years or more, to give the wine its character.

St Nicolas de Bourgueil is produced only in the village of the same name and has vineyard covering just under 1000 Ha, while Bourgueil wine can be produced in the villages of Benais, Bourgueil, La Chapelle-sur-Loire, Chouzé-sur-Loire, Ingrandes-de-Touraine, Restigné, St Nicolas de Bourgueil and Saint-Patrice, with around 1,400Ha in production.

Our midday meal this trip was a real treat with a stop at a great restaurant right in the heart of the village of St. Nicolas. Saint Nicolas Gourmand uses fresh, local produce and home-made dishes, presented in the ‘nouveau cuisine’ style, with beautifully arranged dishes in modest portions but of the very highest quality: just the way I like it. It was suggested by others that we leave the choice of wine to the waitress and this was not bad advice. The St. Nic (from alluvial soil) went well with main courses of duck, local river fish and even my wild boar – no mean achievement.

Not even the wet weather could dampen our spirits after such a trip. I trust I shall be returning to this end of “our patch” soon.

The Loire Valley Harvest

A recent visit to Vouvray confirmed what we had observed throughout the Loire Valley region – the season was a month late.At Monmouseau they started picking on 9th September last year, while this year it was not until 9th October. The winemakers were waiting for grapes to arrive and with time on their hands gave us a fascinating tour of their facilities, deep in the cliffs of the Rochecorbon district. They also confirmed that sweet Vouvray wine would not be produced this year – it had not been warm enough.

At Montluoise sur Loire we tried the Cave Touristique for a tasting visit but were disappointed, not by the wines, but by the attention a seriously overworked staff could give us. It is a sales operation for several local producers and the sales man, while speaking English, was not the most expert I have encountered. Several points he made were quite wrong and I began to wonder if I should take anything he said seriously.

Cabernet Franc grapes are laoded into the press.

We were also able to watch Cabernet Franc grapes arriving at the co-op in Francueil. Hand picked grapes were loaded onto convayors after a test was made to confirm the sugar levels. After tasting the grapes we were allowed to tour the production facilities: the largest hydrolic press in the Loire and fermentation vessels dating back to the 1920’s (they have state-of-the-art stainless steel vessels as well, but the original old lined-concrete versions are wonderful). They are enthusiasts at Francueil and I had a long discussion with the co-op chairman about the history of the area as reflected in the names of the wines offered.

All winemakers are also confirming that while quantities are shockingly small this year, wine quality will be high. Unfortunately areas like this are unlikely to be able to charge any more for this scarce product, so incomes will be very low.

The Sauvignon Blanc trip

This week we enjoyed two days of visits with an American couple wanting to explore the Sauvignon Blanc wines of the Loire Valley. We were delighted to put together this custom tour featuring one of our favourite grape varieties, in the region where it originated and has its finest expression.

Sauvignon grapes awaiting picking

In France, Sauvignon Blanc is grown in the maritime climate of Bordeaux as well as the continental climate of the Loire Valley. The climates of these areas are particularly favourable in slowing the ripening on the vine, allowing the grape more time to develop a balance between its acidity and sugar levels. This balance is important in the development of the intensity of the wine’s aromas. Winemakers in France pay careful attention to the terroir characteristics of the soil and the different elements that it can impart to the wine. The chalk and Kimmeridgean marl of Reuilly, Sancerre and Pouilly produces wines of richness and complexity, while areas with more compact chalk soils produces wines with more finesse and perfume. The gravel soil found near the Loire River and its tributaries impart spicy, floral and mineral flavours while in Bordeaux, the wines have a fruitier personality. Vines planted in flint along the Cher tend to produce the most vigorous and longest lasting wines.

Our clients selected a fine hotel in Amboise as their base and we collected them each day to begin our discovery of the region. First stop was Francueil, where we were able to witness the grape harvest arriving and tour the wine-making facilities of the growers co-operative. As we were to hear throughout our trip, quantities are cruelly low, while quality is above average this year. The combination of frost, hail and mildew during this growing season has not been seen since 1991, and crops are down to 20-30% of normal.

This co-op has been in operation since 1926 and is now the largest in the Loire. We were introduced to the recently retired winemaker who still comes in to help out for the pleasure of it, after working at the cellar for 42 years.

The labeling machine at La Gourmandiere, Francuei

We were able to taste a range of interesting wines at Francueil, several with awards to their names. One of our favourites was their “Tete de Cuvee” AOP Touraine Sauvignon which has a silver medal in the World Sauvignon Wine Competition this year. We were also interested to taste the brand new appellation Touraine Chenonceaux and enjoyed this very much. Although 27 villages either side of the river Cher are allowed to produce wine under this name, there is currently only a tiny area in production and the growers are determined to produce wines of the highest quality here.

After a lunch at a restaurant in Montrichard we moved on to the famous  Monmousseau wine cellars outside the town where more Sauvignon was tasted, both local and Sancerre from the eastern edge of the region on the river Loire. Their Cheverny contains 70% Sauvignon & 30% Chardonnay and made an interesting comparison. We were allowed to go off on our own and explore the tunnels where they store their sparkling wines but with around 15km of passages we were lucky to find our way back in one piece!

From here we went on to the co-op at St Romain sur Cher where their three Sauvignons cannot help but please and have won a clutch of awards. Our journey back to Amboise was through delightful countryside and ancient stone villages.

The next day we drove an hour and a half up the Cher, passed Vierzon to Quincy, an appellation of 240 Ha growing only Sauvignon and a hidden gem producing high quality wines. We spent the morning tasting many of them, both traditional still wines and those produced from vines 40 years old or more. The growers have invested in windmill-like fans which start up automatically and, in theory at least, protect the vines from frost. This year was extreme and much damage was done, but perhaps they were protected in part by this system.

Visting the Touraine cellars

Lunch was taken in Valençay, where we also took a look at the stunning chateau and its walled, soth facing vineyard. Tastings of Valençay wines were made at the co-op and at Chateau de Quincay, who produce both Valençay and Touraine wines, making an interesting direct comparison.

Our final breathless visit was across the river at a favourite vineyard where we saw the grapes coming in and were invited to help with the hand picking. My clients had a train to catch however, but we were able here to add the last piece to the Sauvignon puzzle, tasting late picked, sweet wine from last year’s crop.

Sweet, dry, still, sparkling; Sauvignon Blanc has it all and in a range of styles dictated by the nature of the soil and climate, in addition to the desires of the winemaker. This was a fascinating trip and a deep insight into the heart of a single grape variety.

Chinon, Bourgueil and Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil

The ancient streets of Chinon

Needing to be in Tours for business, we decided to use the opportunity to follow the river Cher down to Villandry, drift through the Azay-le-Rideau vineyards  and tour the wine growing areas of Chinon and Bourgueil, on either side of the Loire.

The region is about two weeks away from harvest time, after a year which might be described as “challenging”. The maritime climatic influence has protected vineyards from the worst of the late frosts which have devastated the more northern Loire wine areas, but they still had frost, too much summer rain and a lack of sun which has meant extra work and many more worries. In the end though, it would appear to be an average harvest both in quality and quantity, if local vignerons are to be believed.

We lunched at Chinon on the river Vienne, 10km south of the Loire and went in search of the tourist office, Maison de Vin and the wine growers’ Co-op, all of which were closed especially for our visit. Heading off north, somewhat disgruntled, in the direction of Bourgueil, we happened on the Maison des Vins et du Tourism at Véron, one of the Chinon villages, where we were made very welcome and enjoyed a good chat about their wines and the 2012 season. The wine we tasted was a bit woody for my liking but we will return one day soon to do a proper tasting.

Suitably fortified and encouraged, we continued across the Loire to Bourgueil, where the Maison des Vins is a great example of how these things should be done. Owned by the wine makers of the appellation, each grower is represented by three wines, all of which can be purchased and several of which can be sampled on a rotating basis to ensure fairness. The staff were knowledgeable and friendly and introduced us to the idea of two styles of Bourgueil (and St. Nicholas de B.) wines, depending on their location – either river valley or limestone hills. The river valley wines are lighter, fruitier and can be drunk much younger. The limestone cliffs and hills produce a much more tannic wine which keeps longer – and suits my pallet better.

The vineyards of Saint Nicholas de Bourgueil showing vines on the plains and the hills and Cabernet Franc two weeks from picking

St. Nicholas also has a Maison des Vins, based in a restaurant in the centre of the village. This was closed, but to be fair, most people seemed to be tending to vines before the impending harvest. We were told about a cellar, La Cave du Pays de Bourgueil, which welcomes tourists and houses a museum of wine pressing equipment, where Bourgueil and St. Nicholas could be tasted side by side. This is on the agenda for our next wine tour to the region later in the month.

All these regions, Chinon and Bourgueil with their associated villages, produce red wine from Cabernet Franc, a grape intoduced to the region in the 17th century. It was placed in the care of the Abbot Breton at Bourgueil, whose named is used for the variety in these parts. Rosé wine is also produced from this grape. The area is important for other crops, notably tree fruit – apples and pears in particular – with dried pears a gastronomic speciality.