Showing posts with label Bourgueil. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bourgueil. Show all posts

Friday, January 24, 2014

Really Old Vines and just about old vines! From the Loire.

Really Old Vines and just about old vines! From the Loire.

Have been doing a bit of work (drinking!) on the subject of old vines and, in general, it seems that, other things being equal, it is worthwhile paying something of a premium for the wines from the gnarled old vines. With that in mind, why not try a few and compare them with a regular wine from the same vineyard, which is often possible. I’ve been doing that over the years and have regularly come down on the side of the wine from the older plantings.

But what is old? Twenty five years, fifty years. The experienced wine commentator Mary Dowey reckons it has to be “forty years at least” and cautioned that not all varieties benefit from age. “It doesn’t do anything for Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot but Grenache is well suited.” The main benefit is an “intensity of flavour, really concentrated”. 
Pony on left is not interested in wine!
Vignes Centenaire de Minière, Bourgueil 2009, 13.5%, €19.00 at the château.
Colour is a dark ruby and the aromas are of dark fruit. It is refreshing and concentrated, with a strong element of dark fruit flavours; it is smooth, rich with hints of spice and has an excellent dry finish.

The local pony club, at least the adults on the party, were finishing an outdoor tasting when we pulled into sunny Chateau de Minière in the heart of the Bourgueil appellation last summer. After a pleasant hour, maybe two, we finished off our tasting under the shady trees with this wine made from the local stalwart, Cabernet Franc. Loved it then and love it now.

The fruit comes from vines that average more than 100 years old and it has spent two years in oak. The grapes are hand harvested and hand sorted, all under the direction of wine-maker Eric Goujat. Belgian couple, Kathleen and Sigurd, took over the chateau a few years back and have the vineyard in conversion to organic, a process that is almost complete.

Wines that are labelled VieillesVignes (generally more than 30 years old) can command a premium. This is the château’s most expensive wine but worth it, I think. Not all  vines are suitable for long age but Cabernet Franc seems to do well on it in this area!

In the cool cellars of Montplaisir (Chinon)
Domaine de L’Abbaye Vieilles Vignes Chinon 2008, 12.5%, €7.50 at Cave Montplaisir in Chinon.

Aromas of pepper and spices and dark berries are a feature here. On the palate it is refreshing and fruity, with engaging fruit flavours and a lingering dry finish. A very Cabernet Franc and good value too, at least in France!

According to the current World Atlas of Wine, the wines of Chinon are “absurdly undervalued”. That opinion is reinforced by the quality and price of this bottle.

The vines are single varietal Cabernet Franc over 35 years old. It is aged in the cellars in oak barrels for about 12 months depending on the vintage. 

Find out more here 


Anjou Blanc Vieille Vignes 2009, €15.00 at Chateau Soucherie
A tasting at Chateau Soucherie saw us start with two classy wines, the Anjou Blanc Vielles Vignes 2009 and the more expensive Savennières Clos des Perrières 2010. Could have spent more time with these two but, on the initial tasting, put my money on the Vieilles Vignes (and even more of it on the Chaume that we came to later on).

The Vieilles Vignes was another winner  for the old vine brigade. “A unique wine from vines of more than 80 years, rich and round, delicious as an accompaniment to veal stew.”

Probably should have bought more of it as, on our way out to the car in the baking parking area, we were told that the 80 year old plants had been dug up and this was the last of the old stuff! So, if you do come across it, do buy some and include one or two for me! I have none left now and indeed I seem to have mislaid my notes on it. But it was a beautiful well balanced wine, another confirmation for me that wines from old wines are worth exploring!

You may check out the Château’s tasting notes (by Olivier Poussier, once voted the Best Sommelier in the World!) here.  





Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Red Zone of the Loire


The Red Zone of the Loire
Underground in Chinon.
Read more about my 3 weeks in the Loire Valley here
Let me take you to the red zone of the Loire Valley. Let us start in Chinon, just west of Tours. Chinon (population c.16,000) is a lovely old town, full of history (Jean d’Arc, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Rabelais, etc…) and surrounded by vineyards, and is the heart of the appellation of the same name.

The appellation is situated mainly in the triangle formed as the Vienne and Loire rivers meet and also includes some communes to the south of the Vienne. And I’ve read in the latest Wine Atlas of the World (a terrific book) that some seven communes to the west of the Vienne are soon to be included.

Immediately north of the confluence of the two rivers you come to Bourgueil and appellations named after that town and its close neighbour St Nicolas. Wine is so important here that there is a huge wine bottle outside the church in St Nicolas and a huge bunch of grapes is a centrepoint on at least one roundabout..

The communes to the west of the Chinon appellation come under the general Touraine label and I’m sure that the seven mentioned in the Wine Atlas would jump at the chance to join up. Hopefully, Chateau du Petit Thouars will be included as they make some great wines from their Cabernet Franc, the red grape for both neighbouring Chinon and Bourgueil.

Domaine du Raifault, Clos du Villy, Chinon 2009, 12.5%, €7.60 at Caves de Montplaisir
Okay, let’s start at the heart of it, in Chinon itself. Along the bank of the Vienne on the road to the west, you’ll find the unusual wine cellar called Caves de Montplaisir.  The cellar, “unique in the Loire Valley, is a former underground quarry of over 2,500 square metres”. The tufa (a type of limestone) extracted was used to build many castles and manor houses in the region.

It is a pretty cool place in more senses than one! Indeed, there was one area where you need a brolly as the water drips through from the top of the town, many metres above. They were busy at reception when we arrived so we had our own little tour among the damp and mould inducing  “chambers”, passing much wine in storage including some 1977 Chinon and small lots dating back to 1947, 1921 and 1893.

But when it came to tasting and buying (they represent three growers), we came much more up to date and included this 2009 in our lot. It has excellent fruit flavours (with an almost silky mouthfeel) and well matched by a refreshing acidity, then a good long finish and overall is pretty typical of the Chinon reds. I've really gotten to like this grape and what they do with it where the Vienne and Loire meet.
Chateau du Petit Thouars, Selection 2009, Touraine, 12.5%, €5.00 at Chateau

This vineyard, situated in the area of St Germain sur Vienne, is outside the Chinon and Bourgueil appellations. It is owned by Sebastien du Petit Thouars - his winemaker is the experienced Michael Pinard - and is regularly regarded as a top producer (see High Johnson handbook 2014 for example).

This 2009 is quite aromatic, notes of red fruit evident. It has a lively refreshing palate with soft tannins and shows the ripe Cabernet Franc (in another good year here) at its best. And, at its best, it is a memorable glass indeed.

Domaine Thibault, Bourgueil 2005, 12%, €6.80 at Syndicat des Vins de Bourgueil.
After one of the quickest ever tasting sessions (about three minutes flat for six wines), we bought this Thibault at the local syndicate. From a good year, it is really smooth and velvety on the palate. Colour is light red and the nose is fruity with some spice. 
The domaine is certified biologique since the early 90s but organics have been in practice here since 1974. There are two types of soil in the area, one tuffeau (rocky), the other graviers (gravelly). This one comes from the rocky area but sometimes even locals find it hard to spot the difference in a blind tasting.

Domaine de la Closerie, Vielles Vignes, Bourgueil 2005, 13%, €8.00 at Syndicat des Vins de Bourgueil.
This was another purchase from the syndicat and another where the grapes were grown on the tuffeau. Another excellent buy, even if I say so myself! It is a "traditional wine of the estate, this is a very nice open nose and palate with aromas of red fruits". All that and more, underlining again the quality available in Bourgueil and neighbouring St Nicolas.

Not sure you’ll be able to find these exact wines in Ireland but Loire wines are widely available, more whites than reds admittedly. Still, my recent check revealed that Curious Wines, Karwig Wines, and Ballymaloe (at Brown Thomas), sell Chinon red.

* Read more about my 3 weeks in the Loire Valley here





Friday, August 30, 2013

Marvellous Tasting at Chateau de Minière

Day 14 (part 1)

Marvellous Tasting at Chateau de Minière
This, our first outdoor tasting of the trip, was marvellous. In gorgeous sunny weather, and overlapping with the local pony club, we enjoyed meeting the crew at Chateau de Minière at Ingrandes de Touraine. Here, we tasted their excellent Bourgueil wines.

Owner Kathleen was unable to be present but Anna, Stephen and Anissa helped us through the tasting, a lovely leisurely one that included sparkling, rosé and red, all from the Cabernet Franc grape. 

There is a long line of feminine tradition here, now being maintained by Kathleen. The estate was handed down through a line of women for two centuries ever since Marie-Genevieve d'Espinay married Martial du Soulier in 1767 and brought him the property in her dowry. In 1995, Bertrand and Evelyne de Mascarel acquired Minière from the last descendants of Marie-Genevieve, Margarède and Diane du Soulier.

In 2010 Sigurd and Kathleen Mareels - Van den Berghe acquired Minière and will continue the further development of the vineyard and chateau.  One of those many developments is making the vineyard organic and that is almost complete.
Left to right: CL and yours truly (centre) pictured with Chateau staff Anna and Stephen.
Thanks to Anissa for taking the pic.
Back to the current wines. All were impressive but our favourite and perhaps the favourite of everyone on the estate is the Vignes Centenaires 2009 made, as you might expect, from vines of an average 100 years of age, some as old as 110! Also ordered were some Chateau de Minière 2009 and 2010.

We just could leave the sparkling rosé behind and so a few bottles of that are also on the way to Ireland along with some “specialites artisanales” of the house including Morello Cherries au vin de Minière.

Chateau de Minière is a lovely place to visit, right in the heart of the Bourgueil vineyards and close to the magnificent Loire river, and you may read more about it here.

We had planned to go boating on the Vienne and the Loire in the afternoon but that fell through when not enough passengers turned up at Chinon. The boatman declined to start up even though the four of us present offered to make up the difference to the required six, according to their leaflet, saying the minimum was eight! Had to make do with a spell in the pool as the temperature reached 28 degrees. Not a bad consolation!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

The magic gardens of Villandry. Chinon Market and the Wines of Bourgueil

Day 13
The magic gardens of Villandry. 
Chinon Market and the Wines of Bourgueil
Joachim Carvallo and Ann Coleman were the couple that, in the early 20th century, bought Chateau Villandry and created the 16th century style gardens that you can enjoy today. The chateau was built in 1536. We were there today and, with the aid of two very good booklets, enjoyed both the house and the gardens.
While the gardens are undoubtedly the star of the place there are many treasures inside the building. The one that really stood out was the Mudejar ceiling, which combines elements of both Christian and Moorish art and was brought by Carvallo from a 15th century palace in Toledo.
From the chateau you step out on to high terraces overlooking the gardens and can walk all around, going down to different levels as you wish. The Ornamental Garden, also known as the Love Garden, is best seen from above but you do get closer to the Water Garden (most of the water is recycled) and there is also a Sun Garden and a Maze.
Perhaps the real star is the ornamental kitchen garden where flowers and vegetables mix, well over 115,000 of them! There is a standard rose bush in each plot. The work is ongoing. It takes four gardeners three months each year to prune the 1,015 lime trees! Also needing pruning are the box trees which, if placed end to end, would measure a distance of 52km. All in all, quite a spectacle

The Christian/Arab ceiling

Hot at the chateau today!
After that, it was time for a drink and we headed to the Maison Jean Carmet des Vins de Bourgueil.  Bourgueil wasn’t really damaged by the hailstones earlier in the year so they are looking forward to a good harvest. After a rapid fire tasting, I decided to concentrate on the good years there of 2005, 2009 and 2010. That filled a carton and off we went, intent on dinner.

House of wines!
My man at the market for wine, beer and juice.
It was already in the fridge. First job of the day had been a visit to the local market. Among other stalls, we called to the Asian specialist we met last week and bought those fantastic spring rolls again. Main course though is beef “with three delicacies”. Sipping a local craft beer now in anticipation!
By the way, the crowd at the market was well down on last week.  Looks as if most of the holiday makers have headed home.
St Joan of Arc rides in to the market






Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Joan of Arc and the Fortress of Chinon. Bourgueil Market.

Day 11


Joan of Arc and the Fortress of Chinon. 
Bourgueil Market.





Here in Chinon, where I am based, there is a remarkable fortress with a remarkable history. It includes the Plantagenets. Eleanor of Aquitaine was imprisoned here by her husband Henry II but the woman that dominates the story of the fortress even though she spent just a few days here is Joan of Arc, the teenager who put an end to the awful 100 Years War.
The town of Chinon (and the River Vienne) as seen from the fortress
In February 1429, in this very fortress in Chinon (began in the 10th century),  she persuaded the disinherited French king Charles VII to stand up for himself or at least to let her stand up for him and for France. He agreed and it made a king of him and a martyr of Joan who was captured by the Burgundians and handed over to the English who engineered, with church cooperation, her burning at the stake for heresy.  

Here be dragons! A summer exhibition in the fortress. Even Nessie is here.

Twenty five years later, the verdict was overturned by an inquisitorial court and the rehabilitation has been going on ever since. The Maid of Orleans, who lived to be just 19, is the French patriot and has been used worldwide as an example of patriotism. 
No shortage of cabbage plants at the market
The morning was much more peaceful. Then, we headed up the road to nearby Bourgueil (about 13 km) for the weekly market there. It was packed. It is spread over the main street, some adjoining ones and also takes in a smallish hall.  All over the place and hard (not impossible!)  to get a handle on it as food stalls are mixed in with those selling clothes, shoes, knives, and so on.
A local goat cheese.
"Drink with dry wine!"
We had no bother filling bags. Got lots of local fruit including delicious melons. Also a local goat cheese, after a taste and with some friendly advice to eat it with a dry wine. Lunch too was covered, mine a crispy tasty mille feuille with ham and cheese. Met the man with the beer and wine that we’d seen last week in Chinon and went off with some beer and a large bottle of gorgeous apple juice.
The boys at the bar, a very popular market stall.
Had been hoping to pick up a good ready-made meal at the market but they seemed in short supply so we fell back on our local traiteur in Chinon and now have a Pork Curry in the fridge for dinner, along with some other bits and pieces that will cover starter and dessert  from Bourgueil. A bottle of local beer is nearing its end and a bottle of local wine is about to be opened.

The sun too has made an appearance this afternoon after a hazy morning that promised mist but delivered zilch. Looks like dining al fresco this evening.









Friday, August 23, 2013

Spoiled at Le St Nicolas Gourmand

Day 7 (Part 2)
Spoiled at Le St Nicolas Gourmand

The local Caveau des Vignerons run the St Nicolas Gourmand, a beautiful little restaurant alongside the wine-tasting (and buying) shop on the main street of St Nicolas de Bourgueil. We bought some wine there yesterday and got a great welcome when we arrived for dinner this evening. They have three menus and we choose the middle one, four courses for €28.00.

Naturally, we got a little help with the wine and were delighted with the Lorieux 2010, a terrific local Cabernet Franc for €19.50. We were also told we could take the remains away in a bag if need be and, as we had a 25 minute drive back to Chinon, the “remains” did indeed end up in a bag. Along with the bottle, we also got a copy of the menu as a souvenir. 

We were delighted with the meal and the service and here are pictures of most of the dishes.

Starter of smoked salmon.

Grey snails of Anjou "perfumed" in a soft garlic,
a house speciality. Starter.
Slice of leg of lamb au Porto Truffe (a gorgeous sauce)
Medallions of warmed local St Maure goat cheese
Strawberries on shortbread biscuit

Hot  Pave de chocolat moelleux
sauce caramel a la fleur de sel. Translates best as gorgeous!




Thursday, August 22, 2013

Food, wine and beer at the town market. Then a wee tour as temps rise!

Day 6

Food, wine and beer at the town market. Then a wee tour as temps rise!

Stars and stripes. Market hats
There was a superb market, large and with much variety, in Chinon this morning. Food, followed by clothing and footwear, accounted for the major part of the stalls.
Kids eye the sweets
Amazingly, we ended up coming home with a bag of Asian food. The intended main course is Chicken with Black Mushrooms while a couple of enormous Spring Rolls are also included along with two little bags of an orange coloured liquid whose purpose we had to work on.
Mussels!
It seems that the sauce, possibly a ginger based one, is to be paired with the Spring Rolls (below). In any case, the rolls, full of shoots, nuts and chicken bits, wrapped in rice paper and topped with prawns, were absolutely delicious with the slightly spicy sauce. What a starter for two euro each!

Garlic
And the main course, the Chicken with Black mushrooms, was incredible. So tasty, especially with the savoury rice from the same stall. Getting worried here as CL is beginning to clear her plate before I do. 

Mother and Child in St Martin's
These two courses underline what I’ve been preaching the past few years about the value of markets and traiteurs in France. One of our best meals so far cost us just over seventeen euro, twenty two if you add the lovely bottle of Vouvray, also bought in the market. Don’t know what the strawberries cost but they are for desert.

The morning wasn't the warmest but the temperatures rose as the day went on and I spotted it reach 31 degrees in the car. Our terrace, sheltered on three sides, goes even higher, so a mid-day visit to the pool was necessary.

Nuclear power
In the afternoon, we headed for the lovely village of Candes St Martin and its ancient church where the saint died. A tough walk in the conditions took us to a magnificent viewpoint over the confluence of the Vienne and Loire Rivers and the view also included the local Nuclear Powered Electricity Plant from which lines of enormous pylons march through the vineyards.

River trip on the Vienne. The bit of sand behind separates it from the Loire,
though the two rivers soon join to your left
Over the river then and on to the wine area of Bourgueil and to St Nicolas de Bourgueil in particular. Here we called to the recommended Caveau des Vigernons and bought our first bottles of the local red (made from Cabernet Franc, just like neighbouring Chinon) and also booked a table in their restaurant for tomorrow evening.
St Nicolas de Bourgueil.
A roundabout.