Showing posts with label St Nicolas de Bourgueil. Show all posts
Showing posts with label St Nicolas de Bourgueil. Show all posts

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





Sunday, September 1, 2013

Saumur Sunday: Blood on the Sand. Mega Flea Market.

Day 16

Saumur Sunday: Blood on the Sand. Mega Flea Market.
A spectacular jousting contest within the walls of the chateau in Saumur and a massive flea market in another area of the lovely Loire town were our “lucky” highlights today. Lucky, because we didn’t set out to find either. Our “mission” was the Sunday market. We found one but it was miniscule and so we headed up the street to where we’d seen people gather, always a good sign in France.
They were gathering for one of the biggest flea markets (known in France as Brocante) I’ve ever seen here. Everything, it seemed, was on sale, except maybe the kitchen sink. There was also much fun and games around the event including a kind of go-kart racing.
We have been successful at some of these before but this time didn’t buy anything, despite checking out row after row. Did see an attractive looking green Tullamore Dew jug but couldn’t find it at second attempt! Some stalls were obviously professional while others were of the car boot variety. And the customers were of a similar mix.

 It was thirsty work in the sunshine (mid 20s) and we headed for the popular bar stand and got a couple of Oranginas (many of you will remember those) for two euro each. Two euro was also the price for a fouée here, ancient French "pocket" bread, typically paired with savoury stuffings such as goat cheese or a pork spread.

View over the Loire from the chateau.
I had rillettes in mine while CL enjoyed Apricot jam. Kept us going until we drove to that chateau which had terrific views over the Loire. Here another drink was required and must say I absolutely enjoyed an Iced Tea with Peach.
The Flea Market (well, part of it!)
Sipped that while waiting for the joust, the main event. A crazy commentator, dressed for the occasion, kept this show going as the two guys battled each other on horse and off. The good guy won of course. Very enjoyable half hour in the sun.
Anyone want a Dinky?
The chateau doesn’t have much by the way of furniture so you need to time your visit to coincide with something like this. It does also have a very good equine museum, at least to my amateur eye. In any event, we enjoyed our trip around the chateau (sometimes you can arrange for a tour in English but the timing didn’t suit us today) and especially the jousting!

All the action men you could want!
And, just now, another pleasant surprise. Just opened a bottle of St Nicolas de Bourgueil and it is a gem. Producer is Sylvain Bruneau and it is a 2011 from old vines. Santé!








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!