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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Angers – centre of the wine world.


Salons de Vins de Loire

During the first week of February the attention of the wine world focuses to a small town on the banks of the river Maine in central France, in the heart of the Loire Valley wine region.

Angers is the venue for the Salons des Vins de Loire, promoting the third largest wine producing area of France with a production of around 400 million bottles from 70,000 Ha (173,000 acres) of vines.

The Salons des Vins de Loire is the only major exhibition in Europe which features the wines of a single region, with 600 stands receiving around 9,000 wine-trade visitors from around the world. At the same time, eight fringe shows attract these potential clients before, during and after the exhibition, making this the “must see” heart of the wine world, for this week at the very least.


Vins Anonymes show, Angers

Needless to say I have tickets and I’m very excited to be attending for the first time, but I am also considering which of the other shows I should visit. At the ancient Collégiale Saint-Martin d’Angers the organisation representing a number of young winemakers called Les Vins Anonymes are exhibiting ‘natural’ wines from some thirty French producers, a good selection from the Loire amongst them.

I have been invited to a tasting of organic wines at the Greniers Saint Jean in Angers, whose organisers are also involved in the Diva Bouteille show at the Chateau Brézé, a fantastic venue in the huge underground caves beneath the ancient castle down river from Angers in the Saumur appellation.

This show features a selection of 45 organic wine producers from the Loire, but also some from the regions of Champagne, Alsace, Jura, Savoie, Bourgogne, Beaujolais, Bordeaux and the South-west, Rhône, Languedoc, Roussillon and Provence – Corsica. In addition a number of growers from other European and American countries are coming over for the event.

Dive 2013-p.1

Dive wine tasting

This all sounds like a great day out and I have invited our friend Stanley Browne, the ex-Chairman of the Vintners’ Association and a Loire wine expert, to join us on the Sunday. I gather he is arranging train connections from the UK as we speak!

On Monday I shall be working, on my own and concentrating on the Salons des Vins. That should be more than enough excitement for one day.


Illegal grape vines and award winning wine


When students of the Garden Design Academy are not in residence we like to make our rooms available to paying guests who are offered bed, breakfast and an evening meal. One such guest stayed last night, an English lady with impeccable French, who has been living in the Chinon area for many years. It was during a pleasant meal, comparing notes on life in France and swapping amusing anecdotes, that we were introduced to the concept of illegal grape varieties.

She had tasted a wine made from the grape Clinton (we finally arrived at the name after considering a number of American presidents), a variety reputed to drive drinkers mad but which clearly had not done so in her case. All of this was completely new to me and sounded quite unlikely, so today I have been investigating with increasing amazement at what I was reading. Politics, big business interests and horticulture can make for a heady mix.

Firstly, the botany. All European wine grape varieties are derived from a single species: Vitis vinifera. The United States has sveral grape species including Vitis aestivalis, Vitis rupestris, Vitis riparia, Vitis rotundifolia and Vitis labrusca. An Asiatic vine Vitis amurensis, is also of interest. Both naturally occurring hybrids and deliberate crosses have been made between the species and varieties and Clinton is one of these, a spontaneous cross between the North American species Vitis riparia and Vitis labrusca dating back to 1835 when it was discovered in New York State by High White.

In 1840 European vineyards were ravaged by Powdery Mildew disease and the search was on for hybrid varieties combining the qualities of the European grape with the disease resistance of the American species. While early in America’s history the trade was in European varieties to grow in the new lands, gradually the trend was reversed. In 1873 it was discovered that Phylloxera had been imported along with the American plants. This root pest went on to wipe out the European vineyards. At the darkest hour for European vine growing it was discovered that some American varieties were resistant to Phylloxera, in addition to protecting against Powdery Mildew and Mildew. By grafting the “noble” European varieties onto rootstocks of American hybrids, total disaster was averted at the last moment and the wine production industry saved. In addition to Clinton, varieties included Noah, Othello, Oberlin, Baco, Herbemont, Jacquez and others.

By the 1930′s the population of France was 35 million; wine production was around 91 million Hectolitres! There were huge problems associated with overproduction alongside alcohol related health issues and the French government were unsure how to deal with either. The result was a carrots and sticks approach, grants and propaganda on the one hand and series of poorly thought out laws which, amongst other things, banned the growing of the American hybrid vines. As late as 1950 posters were produced suggesting the wine made from these varieties was inferior and there was dark talk of Methanol and other dangerous chemicals found in the wine. The myth of poisonous foreign varieties undoubtedly helped protect the interests of large producers, while discouraging home production and folk memories persist in tales of “mad wine”.

While mad wine is not a feature in any of the Garden Design Academy courses on viticulture, quality wine production is. This afternoon a Christmas fete was held in Saint-Romain-sur-Cher and we took the opportunity to visit the village wine co-op. We tasted a few and bought a few boxes, discussing their wines and the growing season with very knowledgeable staff. A white made from Sauvignon Blanc had been awarded a gold medal this year and was very good. We also tasted their Gamay primeur and asked them about our recent observations of this wine at the Montrichard wine festival.

We had identified a taste we were unhappy with in at least half of the dozen or so wines we sampled at the festival and we were told that it was a production problem, caused by the late rains initiating disease and a lack of due care in harvesting. Here they harvested only a small part of their Gamay crop for the Primeur, picking by hand and selecting only the best fruit. There was no “off” taste in this wine; something else we have learned this week.

At the end of our visit we walked the dog amongst the vines where pruning was well underway, single Guyot style. The soil was very sandy but with flints derived from the limestone beneath.

Wine production is a complex process involving both plant culture and manufacturing. The Garden Design Academy has students in the UK and from as far away as New Zealand studying the subject. I admire their courage, technical abilitiesand hard work and celebrate the results of their labours when it is a good as the wines we tasted today.

Clearing up the empties

Despite spending the New Year in Spain there is an impressive number of empty bottles in the kitchen awaiting the impending trip to the village bottle-bank following a week of Christmas festivities. Given the name of this blog, our location and our commercial activities, a number of people  assume that we only drink Loire wines. Of course, it would not have been difficult to put together a Christmas wine list consisting of local wines only, but our interests spread much further than this as the detritus in the kitchen proves. Having said that, we did not feel the need to venture much beyond the shores of France for our wine purchases.

Clos Rougeard

Clos Rougeard

At the risk of giving my readers the wrong impression about our drinking habits, I have listed a few of those Loire wines which graced our dining table over this holiday period:

Loire Wines

  • Touraine- Chenonceaux sauvignan blanc – a rare wine as this is the first year for this new AOC an quantities are very limited. An exremely good strat, we thought.
  • Chateau de Quincay sauvignon 2009 – almost house wine for us, a little age has done it no harm at all.
  • Justin Monmousseau Touraine (sauvignan blanc) 2007. Has kept and improved remarkably well.
  • Method traditional sparkling whites from Francueil – great party wines, to which we often add Cassis.
  • Clos Rougeard chace 2006 – perhaps the finest Cabernet Franc Saumur Champigny I have tasted, even my wife, who wont touch Cab Franc, enjoyed it.

A number of other wine bottles are about to be recycled (and my wife would like to point out that not all the glassware in the bottle bank bin contained alcohol!) including one or more from the following regions:

  • Gigondas
  • Blaye Cote de Bordeaux / Premiere Cote de Blaye
  • Cote de Bourg
  • Haut-Cotes de Beaune
  • Cotes de Rhone
  • Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise
  • Frontignan
  • Graves
  • Listrac-Medoc
  • Cote de Provence
  • Saint Mont
  • Champagne

As you can see, we had a quiet Christmas.

More Loire wine awards – “Absolutely Cracking” French Wines

An impressive list of UK-based wine press and sommeliers gathered in London to choose their favourite French wines. The Loire was well reresented and appreciated:

Under £8 / White / Loire

AOC Cheverny
Domaine du Salvard (Emmanuel Delaille)
Cheverny 2011
ABV: 12.50%
Grape varieties: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
RRP and retailer(s): £7.50 – The Wine Society
“I cannot think of another region capable of working such magic with
Sauvignon/Chardonnay blends; Domaine du Salvard are consistently
excellent. The 2011 packs a punch and shows plenty of interest at this
price point.” Sarah AHMED

AOC Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine sur Lie
Château de la Templerie 2010
ABV: 12.00%
Grape varieties: Melon de Bourgogne
RRP and retailer(s): £5.75 – The Wine Society
“Muscadet remains one of France’s great wine bargains. This version is
pure and bright, with a bit of weight from the lees contact. Just perfect
with pre-prandial oysters at Christmas.” Natasha HUGHES

AOC Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine sur Lie
Château L’Oiselinière de la Ramée 2010
ABV: 12.00%
Grape varieties: Melon de Bourgogne
RRP and retailer(s): £7.75 – The Wine Society

“Muscadet still offers great value; this wine punches way above its weight.”

AOC Touraine
Sauvignon Blanc 2011
ABV: 12.50%
Grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc
RRP and retailer(s): £7.99 – Waitrose

“Great value everday Sauvignon, crisp, fresh and lemony. I often
recommend it as a wedding wine, great with or without food, a real
crowd-pleaser.” Amy WISLOCKI

Under £8 / Red / Loire

AOC Côte Roannaise
Domaine Robert Sérol
Vieilles vignes 2011
ABV: 12.00%
Grape varieties: Gamay
RRP and retailer(s): £7.95 – The Wine Society
“A great value alternative to Beaujolais, which would be one of my desert
island wines.” Rosemary GEORGE MW

“A Gamay from a little-known Loire appellation close to Beaujolais but often better. Serol is one of the best producers.” Jim BUDD

AOC Fiefs Vendéens
J. Mourat Père et Fils
Collection Fiefs Vendéens Mareuil 2010
ABV: 12.50%
Grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Négrette, Cabernet Franc
RRP and retailer(s): £7.50 – The Wine Society
“A little-known area, an eclectic mix of grapes (Pinot Noir, Négrette,
Cabernet Franc) and an innovative young wine maker equals a wine
which is a pleasure not simply a curiosity. For broad food matches like
any Loire red. ” Liz SAGUES

£8 to £15 / Sparkling / Loire

AOC Montlouis-sur-Loire
Domaine de La Taille aux Loups
Triple Zéro 2009
ABV: 12.50%
Grape varieties: Chenin Blanc
RRP and retailer(s): £14.95 – Slurp
“Excellent Fizz – Pétillant so only 2.5 atmospheres. No addition of sugar at
any point of the process. Delicious now, but can age.” Jim BUDD

£8 to £15 / White / Loire

AOC Montlouis-sur-Loire
Domaine Frantz Saumon
Minéral + Sec 2011
ABV: 12.80%
Grape varieties: Chenin Blanc
RRP and retailer(s): £15.00 – Wine Direct
“Chenin is such tremendous value, and this is an outstanding food wine –
especially with veal!.” Richard HEMMING

AOC Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine sur Lie
Domaine de la Pépière
Les Gras Moutons, Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2009
ABV: 12.50%
Grape varieties: Melon de Bourgogne
RRP and retailer(s): £11.49 – Premier Vintners

“Melon de Bourgogne translates terroir brilliantly; this is a spine-tingling
example of gneiss.” Chris KISSACK

AOC Quincy
Domaine Henri Bourgeois
Quincy Haute Victoire 2010
ABV: 14.00%
Grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc
RRP and retailer(s): £12.30 – Slurp

“This is a delicious white from a little-seen appellation. It is the best Quincy
I have ever tasted.” Charles METCALFE

AOC Sancerre
André Dezat & Fils
Sancerre blanc 2011
ABV: 12.50%
Grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc
RRP and retailer(s): £13.12 – Tanners Wine Merchant

“Classic stuff. Under-rated Loire producing top whites, still the original
sauvignon blanc, with the stoniness and linearity, along with fruit, that
adventurous Kiwis are looking to emulate. André Dezat one of the best.”

AOC Touraine-Amboise
Domaine Xavier Frissant
Les Roses du Clos 2010
ABV: 13.00%
Grape varieties: Fié Gris
RRP and retailer(s): £9.00 – H2Vin

“Is there or isn’t there a Sauvignon backlash? Here’s one for the fence
sitters – Fié Gris, a little known, floral, grapefruity & intense alternative to
AOP Touraine’s best known variety.” Sarah AHMED

£8 to £15 / Red / Loire

AOC Touraine
Jean-Francois Mérieau
Cent Visages 2009
ABV: 12.00%
Grape varieties: Malbec
RRP and retailer(s): £14.95 – Caviste
“One of the most exciting and original reds around: fresh (only 12%),
crunchy, peppery and earthy.” Amy WISLOCKI

Christmas / White / Loire

AOC Montlouis-sur-Loire
Domaine de La Taille aux Loups
Rémus 2010
ABV: 13.50%
Grape varieties: Chenin Blanc
RRP and retailer(s): £16.98 – Fields, Morris and Verdin
“Wine geek’s dream of an old vines Chenin that has the feel of a
natural wine and a truly delicious one at that. Full of flavour, full of
decisive acidity and cut, is nutty and complex with apple and
vivid lemon flavours persisting.” Tom CANNAVAN

AOC Sancerre
Domaine Fouassier
Clos Paradis 2010
ABV: 12.50%
Grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc
RRP and retailer(s): £16.30 – Bibendum

“Something classic for Christmas, which will undoubtedly upstage the
turkey. Wonderful fragrance, complexity and length. Rather than with
the bird, drink it with a simple Boxing Day salad of gently sautéed spring
onions and peas with Serrano ham.” Liz SAGUES

AOC Sancerre
Domaine Gérard Boulay
Clos de Beaujeu 2010
ABV: 13.00%
Grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc
RRP and retailer(s): £18.75 – Vine Trail

“If it has to be Sauvignon Blanc, then Boulay’s Sancerres from Chavignol
are among the most terroir-driven I know. Clos de Beaujeu is a very steep,
south-east facing vineyard which gives this wine true grit – more structure
than Boulay’s cuvee from the south facing Monts Damnés.” Sarah AHMED

AOC Savennières
Pithon Paillé
Schistes 2009
ABV: 13.00%
Grape varieties: Chenin Blanc
RRP and retailer(s): £25.40 – Justerini and Brooks

“Just beautiful. Fresh and full, packed with layers of pure flavour, but not
rich and over the top – incredible length. Ideal for pre-Christmas dinner
drinks or with starter on Christmas Eve.” Tara O’LEARY

Christmas / Red / Loire

AOC Chinon
Bernard Baudry
La Croix Boissée 2010
Grape varieties: Cabernet Franc
RRP and retailer(s): £17.95 – Lea and Sandeman
“This is one of the most “Burgundian” Chinons I have ever had. It is layered,
sensuous and aromatic with a core of ripe cherry fruit and that
unmistakeable Cab Franc perfume. Cab Franc is so underappreciated
and this is such a gem. Perfect for feathered game dishes. I personally
would have it with turkey or goose, even with beef – I adore this wine.”

AOC Sancerre
Domaine Vincent Pinard
Charlouise 2008
ABV: 13.00%
Grape varieties: Pinot Noir
RRP and retailer(s): £24.99 – The Perfect Cellar

“Fine example of how good Pinot Noir can be from the Loire following
the red revolution here.” Jim BUDD

Christmas / Sparkling / Champagne

AOC Vouvray
Domaine Champalou
Vouvray Brut NV
ABV: 12.00%
Grape varieties: Chenin Blanc
RRP and retailer(s): £13.00 – Caves de Pyrène
“A ‘pet nat’, light mousse suits youthful style. Subtle but very complete on
palate, fruity not yeasty, very consistent and adaptable.”
Stephen NISBET – 10in8 Fine Dining Group

Christmas / White / Loire

AOC Anjou
Château de La Roulerie
Les Terrasses 2008
ABV: 13.00%
Grape varieties: Chenin Blanc
RRP and retailer(s): £14.96 – Harrods
“This rich and complex wine has perfect acidity mixed with minerality,
fresh yellow fruit and honeysuckle. Great with asparagus soup and
honey-roasted duck.”
Vanessa CINTI – The Cut 45 Park Lane – Dorchester Collection

Christmas / Sweet White / Loire

AOC Coteaux du Layon
Château de La Roulerie
Chenin Blanc 2009
ABV: 12.00%
Grape varieties: Chenin Blanc
RRP and retailer(s): £14.52 – The Wine Treasury
“Lovely sweet wine, light and elegant with aromas of orange and lemon
zest, honeysuckle and fresh pears. Perfect with Christmas pudding.”
Vanessa CINTI – The Cut 45 Park Lane – Dorchester Collection

We at Loire Valley Wine Tour could not be more delighted at the reaction of these stars of the wine world to the wines of the Loire Valley.