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Tag Archives: Cabernet Franc grape

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.

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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.