Virginia USA wine tourists (L to R) Ted, Linda. Mike, Carolyn, Stevia and Bill in front of the ancient oak wine press at Château La Varière, in the town of Brissac, Anjou. With thanks to Jacques Beaujeau and his charming wife for an unforgettable visit and tasting of their wonderful Quarts de Chaumes, Bonnezeaux and Anjou Villages Brissac wines.
My adopted home of Normandy is a beautiful region – lush pastures feed France’s finest cattle and fastest race horses; hundreds of miles of coastline provide us with some of the best fish and seafood in the world; the green ‘bocage’ countryside is a bucolic dream. But…but…we have (almost) no vines. Apart from one excellent award-winning winery- Les Arpents du Soleil – Normandy is devoid of vineyards.
Wine-loving visitors to Normandy can now experience a one-day tour of our nearest vineyards – a couple of hours south in the Loire Valley. Loire Vineyard Tours is an exciting introduction to the Loire’s famous winemakers, its vineyards and majestic châteaux.
I’ll be lauching this new venture in the autumn of 2010 – for more information click here…
La Manche Wine Circle blind tasting, last night: A rough comparison of the main Loire red sub-regions from recent vintages (2005 to 2009), wines from Anjou Brissac, Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil, Bourgueil, Saumur Champigny and Chinon – plus an ‘intrus’ from Cheverny. Once again Chateau de la Varière was the panel’s coup de coeur closely followed by Christophe Baudry’s Chinon – Domaine de la Morandiere. Bronze goes to the ’05 Bourgueil – Domaine du Carroi.
2006 Château la Varière Anjou-Villages Brissac
Black red sombre robe with crystal clear highlights – no signs of ageing. Ripe, rich, sweet black fruit – far more complex and concentrated than the others in the flight with hints of cherry tobacco, vanilla, pepper and confiture. Velvety smooth on the well-balanced palate with a pleasant bitterness on a medium-long finish. Great food wine with the potential to age well – a real Bordeaux-beater! IH (84 pts.)
Chateau de la Variere’s 15th-century cellar
2008 Domaine de la Morandière Chinon
Very dark red, ruby rim and good legs. Tingly ‘bonbons’ aromas at first then sweet, ripe fruit. Almost a Burgundy-style nose. Nice balanced palate, good acidity; refreshing and clean. One to keep 2-3 years. PH (80 pts.)
2005 Domaine du Carroi Cuvée Tradition Bourgueil
Darkest of all the wines in the flight – viscous. Concentrated, ripe blackcurrant fruit with cedar and fresh coltsfoot. An easy-drinker with soft tannins. Another good BBQ wine with enough weight to go well with char-grilled meats and spicy marinades. Drinking well now. DG (78 pts.)
2009 Sylvain Bruneau Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil La Croix Blanche
Very young, dark black cherry with big legs. Black fruit and white pepper over a robust alcohol giving pleasant amylic and menthol aromas and a hint of cedar. Very juicy acidity – one to keep 1-2 years to reveal its potential. IH (75 pts.)
2007 François Cazin (Le Petit Chambord) Cheverny
Ruby robe with a bright rim. Lovely, perfumed red fruit on the nose with a hint of the spice cupboard. Green, herbal, feminine. Pleasing crushed redcurrants and greengage on a medium palate. A very pleasant summer BBQ wine to drink now – the scoring was probably brought down 5-10 points by putting this pinot/gamay blend in a flight of cabernets. DA (71 pts.)
2008 les hauts buits Saumur-Champigny
Mid-red robe, thin. Nice blackcurrant fruit on the nose like weak Ribena but a tad one-dimensional. Very soft palate – a passable breakfast wine! GT (70 pts.)
No surprise to find the 100% cabernet sauvignon Brissac at the top of list for a panel with ‘Bordeaux’ tastes. A first time for a Cheverny for most of the panel and this pinot/gamay wine was easily identified as the odd one out – its relatively low score reflects this but it’s not a bad little wine at all and it went very well with the Thai-style marinated prawns in chilli. The bigger wines from Chinon and Anjou were perfect accompaniments to a hearty Catalan lamb casserole.
There’s something for everyone to taste in the chalet-style tasting room next-door to Château de Fontenay at Bléré on the river Cher: reds and rosés from cabernet, cot (the south’s malbec) and grolleau, sweet white chenins, bone dry sauvignons, sparkling chardonnays… The dry rosé – Les Garennes 2008 – won a gold medal at Macon last year and it’s available at the end of this month.
After a wine tasting there’s lots to do along the valley of the Cher. In Bléré there’s an award-winning cheese maker (one of the best in France), and there are many small farms nearby where you can buy meat, eggs and vegetables ‘at the gate’. For more energetic pursuits, you can take part in harvest days, go hiking or a take a pleasant bike ride along the towpath to the beautiful renaissance château of Chenonceaux; as you reach your destination, the view from the river is spell-binding.
A perfect example of the dry Touraine style – an intense pink robe with orange tints revealing aromas of red fruits, plum blossom and broom. Propped-up by a full, fruity mouthful of pleasure, this medal winner is the consummate accompaniment to summertime barbecues.
To book a room – or a gite – at Fontenay, click here for details…
The chenin blanc late harvest of 2007 was saved by a beautiful Indian summer and its wines – like this lighter-style Coteaux-du-Layon from Château de la Viaudière – are a delight: clean, with a delicious balance of sweetness and acidity. It’s raining today but the forecast is more promising from the end of the week – fingers crossed.
Vignoble Gélineau Coteaux du Layon 2007
This ’07 is pale gold in the glass. Its honeyed aromas and a hint of dried apricot precede the smooth but fresh palate. Sweet lychee syrup leaves you with a tasty plum skin finish.
Pierre-Antoine Giovannoni bringing up a case from Viaudière’s cellars. For accommodation details click here.