Showing posts with label Saumur. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Saumur. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Two shining examples of Chenin Blanc, one from Saumur, the other from Swartland

Two shining examples of Chenin Blanc, 

one from Saumur, the other from Swartland

Metallic notes in Saumur


Domaine de Sable Verts Saumur (AC) Blanc 2020, 13%, 

RRP €25.99 The Vintry Redmonds of Ranelagh The 1601 Blackrock Cellar Baggot Street Wines Drink Store

Colour of this Chenin Blanc (from near the Loire city of Saumur) is a mid gold. It is fresh and floral, intensely so, with flavours of grapefruit, apricot and pear and a superb acidity, with a mineral touch. Quite a classic Chenin Blanc, fresh and fruity, it has a long dry finish with citrus notes. Highly Recommended.

Liberty, the importers, tell us that Caroline Meurée & Hervé Malinge are a young winemaking couple who met while studying in Bordeaux. “Despite neither of them being from the Loire Valley, in 2019 they bought Domaine des Sables Verts in the heart of Saumur Champigny and embarked on their first vintage.” 

Just one hectare from their 15 is planted with Chenin Blanc (the rest with Cabernet Franc). Their Chenin grapes for this wine come from three separate parcels. The final blend is assembled and bottled in January. Characterised by layers of fresh citrus notes and ripe apricot, the wine is beautifully textured with a backbone of lively acidity. 

The potential of their forty-year-old vines persuaded Caroline and Hervé to produce a single-vineyard wine. Vinified and aged in new four hectolitre French oak barrels, the wine is kept on fine lees for 12 months to add both richness and texture.

Food and wine pairings from Caroline suggest: “…from land to sea! From a veal blanquette to a grilled sea bass, via an asparagus risotto…”

Hervé has the serving tips: serve at 10-12°C, don’t hesitate to decant it!

Caroline and  Hervé are vignerons at Varrains which is about 30 minutes west of Chinon ( an excellent base for visiting the vineyards and chateau of the Loire Valley). On your way to Varrains, visit the amazing  Fontevraud-l’Abbaye on the way. 

Quite a lot of Chenin Blanc is grown in Northern France (from Vouvray to Saumur) but South Africa (in Stellenbosch and Paarl) grows more than any other country with the French second and the USA third.


Spice Route Chenin Blanc Swartland (South Africa) 2020, 14.0%, 

RRP €26.99 Fresh – Stepaside Fresh – IFSC/Smithfield/Grand Canal Hen And Hog

This South African Chenin Blanc has a light gold colour. Aromas are mostly fruit, peach and tropical. On the palate, it is quite complex, quite concentrated, the fruit flavours well balanced by a very lively acidity.  Highly Recommended.

Quite an outstanding balance actually and deliberately induced. The Chenin Blanc for this wine was picked at different maturity levels. The first picking was done slightly earlier to retain freshness and acidity, the second lot was picked in mid-February, with some slightly raisined grapes in the bunches bringing more richness to the blend. The lots were vinified separately. 

Don’t want to get to technical here but worth continuing I think as we can learn how the techniques employed shaped the final product. Upon arrival at the winery, the grapes were gently destemmed and pressed. After 48 hours settling, the portion that was picked earlier was fermented in stainless-steel tanks to preserve freshness and elegance before then being matured in matured in clay pots known as Qvevries (also amphora) for eight weeks. The late-picked portion was fermented and matured in old French oak barrels for 10 months, before the two components were blended and bottled.

The Swartland is 65kms north of Cape Town. The climate is hot and dry. Viticulture here it is not straightforward, according to Fairview and Spice Route owner Charles Back. “You have to be very careful to select good moisture retaining soil in the first place, soil that can trap the moisture and slowly release it later when needed.”

Winemaker Charl du Plessis told us about another “surprise” development here, their importation of 20 qvevris from Georgia. A qvevri is huge earthenware amphora (800 to 1200 lts) sunk into the ground and used for wine fermentation and storage. The hand-made terracotta pots have been fired and coated inside with beeswax. He did a vintage in Georgia in 2018.


Chenin Blanc is South Africa's most widely planted grape - and the resulting wine is in demand around the world. Last year, South Africa exported 53 million litres of white wine, mainly to Germany, the United Kingdom, and America.  

With Chenin Blanc, Fresh wines are mostly made in stainless steel tanks which accentuates fruit flavours and acidity. And then you have the more complex Fruity Styles along with Rich Styles (more dominant presence of oak).

This leads to such a diversity of wines that shoppers can be confused especially when purchasing bottles from supermarket shelves. 

The local Chenin Blanc Association in association with Stellenbosch's South African Grape and Wine Research Institute have come up with a style indicator (similar to wine wheels) to help. More on this Business Insider story here.


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Couple of Recommended Reds to Consider!

Thierry Germain Saumur-Champigny (AC) 2015, 13%, €26.45 Bradley’s Cork, Le Caveau,
Chateau de Saumur
Saumur, on the Loire in Western France, is a great town to visit. Highlights include the medieval fort (Chateau de Saumur), the underground Musée du Champignons, plus wine tours and tastings. Saumur-Champigny is a red wine appellation for the two named places and six neighbouring villages. The wines are made, almost exclusively, from Cabernet Franc.

Germain is biodynamic and produces Cabernet Franc with purity, finesse and drinkability, wines that feature “generous and ripe darker fruit flavours”. His cellars are in “tuffeau” caves below the winery. Tuffeau is the soft local limestone and you see it in many buildings in the area.

Le Revue des Vins des France gave the domaine its coveted Three Star designation and later made him Winegrower of the Year in 2011.

Colour is a mid to dark ruby. There are fruity aromas, ripe berry mainly, floral notes too. Fruit flavours follow through to the palate, amazingly generous for such a young wine; freshness and purity too plus an excellent finish. Very Highly Recommended.

It is made from the fruit of vines with an average age fo 25 years and harvested to preserve aroma and freshness. It is raised for 3 to 4 months in a combination of stainless steel and foudres (large wooden vats). A good partner with a variety of dishes. Thierry himself recommends ballotine of chicken with cracked black pepper.

Aplanta Alentejano (IG) 2015, 14%, €13.95 Bradley’s Cork

I like this mid to dark ruby Portuguese wine with its dark fruit aromas. Palate has that fruit, cherry prominent, spice too, a hint of vanilla, soft tannins. It is quite plush but good acidity makes for excellent balance. A well made everyday wine that won't be out of place at the weekend! Like many wines from Portugal it over delivers at the price. Quite a lot of character in this refreshing glass and Highly Recommended.

As you might expect it is a blend, produced by Obrigado with grapes from a community vineyard. It is 70% Aragonez (Tempranillo) and 30% Alicante (Garnacha). They recommend pairing it with grilled meat (burgers, steaks), charcuterie and “sharp” cheeses!

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!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

From the underground: Death Cap and Sparkling Wines

Day 9
From the underground: Death Cap and Sparkling Wines
A misty morning led to us going underground for this Sunday afternoon. The Death Cap was one of countless mushrooms seen in the underground Musée du Champignons in St Hilaire-St Florent, just outside Saumur, but the first call was to the premises of BouvetLadubay well known around the world for their quality sparkling wines.
Disgorgement machines, the more modern ones!
The visit began with a tour of the underground cellars- it seems virtually every winery hereabouts has conveniently cool cellars adapted from former tuffeau quarries. Temperatures are about 12 degrees, all the time, ideal for wine and mushrooms.
Underground art.
The méthode traditionnelle is used here and we were given examples of the old way of the famous “disgorgement”   and the more modern mechanical time-saving method. 
The tasting line-up
The cellars, in under a local hill, are extensive and impressive and we had glimpses of the lives of the quarry workers and saw how the caverns have been adapted to the wine makers’ use. Bouvet Ladubay, with 460 awards for their wines in the last forty years, is a big name in the world of sparkling wines.
Death Cap (in a glass case!)
We were looking forward to our tasting which was carried out above ground. We had four to taste in all, including an unusual red sparkler, and our favourite was the Decanter bronze medal winner Saphir Brut 2011, fruity and fresh with a nice acidity. A few bottles are on their way back to Ireland, maybe! Might have to return to Saumur for more.
Horse's Mane or Pom Pom growing
A few miles up the road, we came to the fascinating Mushroom Museum. Not just a museum as the underground caves are used to grown many varieties, including some that, thanks to Ballyhoura Mushrooms, we are familiar with. 
Pink Oysters growing. Get them from Ballyhoura Mushrooms at Farmers Markets
Enjoyed strolling through the various mushroom beds and reading the info. There is also a massive museum section there with information and representations, in 3B and photograph, of virtually every mushroom in the world.
More oysters growing, just a different colour
By the way, the sun did come out after lunch and it turned into quite a pleasant afternoon and evening, the only big cloud in the sky on our drive home from Saumur coming from the towers of the local nuclear station.