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.
Surprise, surprise! Over forty wines from the book “French Vineyards” have been selected by the 2010 edition of France’s wine Bible – the Guide Hachette. Serge Dubard’s wonderful red Pécharmant, Les Farcies du Pech’ 2007, is very worthy of its three stars – well done Serge and the team. Nine reds, whites and sparklers won two stars; in total the French Vineyards entries get 39 stars! You can stay at all these award-winning wineries and taste and buy their delicious wines at the cellar door – click on the winery’s name for all the details…
Reds – three stars
Château les Farcies du Pech’ Pécharmant 2007 ***
Reds – two stars
Domaine Borgnat, Bourgogne, Coulanges-la-vineuse 2007 **
Château Bujan, Côtes-de-bourg 2007 **
Domaine de l’Europe, Mercurey ‘Les Chazeaux’ 2007 **
Château Ricardelle, Languedoc La Clape ‘Blason’ 2007 **
Château Richelieu, Fronsac 2006 **
Reds – one star
Château Bellevue-Gazin, Premières-côtes-de-blaye 2007 *
Château le Bourdieu, Médoc 2006 *
Domaine de Clapier, Vaucluse 2006 *
Domaine Gayda, Pays d’Oc, ‘Syrah’ 2007 *
Domaine Lucien Jacob, Gevrey-chambertin 2007 *
Domaine des Marrans, Fleurie ‘Terroir du Pavillon’ 2007 *
Mas du Soleilla, Languedoc La Clape ‘Les Bartelles’ 2007 *
Château Monlot, Saint-émilion grand cru 2006 *
Château Pierre de Lune, Saint-émilion grand cru 2006 *
Château de Pintray, Côtes-de-castillon 2006 *
Domaine des Caves du Prieuré, Sancerre 2007 *
Domaine du Roncée, Chinon ‘Clos des Marronniers’ 2007 *
Château Saint-Estève de Néri, Côtes-du-luberon ‘Grande Réserve’ 2007 *
Reds – citation
Abbaye de Saint-Hilaire, Coteaux-varois-en-provence, ‘Cuvée du Prieur’ 2006
Les Amants de la Vigneronne, Faugères, ‘de Chair et de Sang’ 2007
Domaine de Beauséjour, Chinon 2007
Domaine de Bournet, Coteaux de l’Ardèche, ‘Cuvée Notre Dame des Songes’ 2007
Château Sartre, Côtes-de-bourg 2007
Le Clos de Caveau, Vacqueyras, ‘Fruit Sauvage’ 2006
Domaine Désertaux-Ferrand, Beaune 1er Cru Les Sceaux 2006
Domaine Désertaux-Ferrand, Côtes-de-nuits-villages ‘Les Perrières’ 2006
Château Pesquié, Côtes-du-ventoux ‘Terrasses’ 2007
Whites – two stars
Domaine Agapé, Alsace Riesling, ‘Isa’ 2007 **
Thierry Violot-Guillemard, Auxey-duresses 1er cru Les Reugnes 2007 **
Whites – one star
Château de Claribès, Sainte-foy-bordeaux 2008 *
Horcher, Alsace Riesling, ‘Cuvée Sélection’ 2007 *
Château de la Tuilerie, Costières-de-nîmes 2007 *
Whites – citation
Château Carbonneau, Sainte-foy-bordeaux, ‘Cuvée Margot Sauvignon blanc’ 2008
Domaine Guillot-Broux, Mâcon-villages Cruzille ‘Les Perrières’ 2006
Halbeisen, Alsace grand cru Altenberg-de-bergheim Gewurztraminer 2007
Château de Melin, Saint-romain ‘Sous Chateau’ 2007
Château de Pitray, Montlouis-sur-loire sec 2007
Rosés – one star
Domaine de Garbelle, Coteaux-varois-en-provence 2008 *
Rosés – citation
Domaine de Saint-Ferréol, Coteaux-varois-en-provence 2008
Sparking – two stars
Domaine du Clos de l’Épinay, Vouvray, Brut 2006 **
Pierson-Whitaker, Champagne ‘Réserve’ **
Read about them all in the book “French Vineyards” by Alastair Sawday’s.
From today’s Independent – Traveller’s Guide To: Wine journeys in Aquitaine…
“Among the courses on offer in the region, French Wine Adventures offers two-hour introductory sessions every Tuesday afternoon at 2pm during the season for €15. They are run by Caroline Feely, who, with her husband Sean, makes wine at the Château Haut Garrigue in Saussignac. The sessions begin with a tour of the château’s organic vineyard before moving inside for a more formal explanation of the appellation system, followed by a tasting. Feely also runs classes specialising in the grand cru classe wines, and a food and wine matching class takes place every Thursday afternoon at 3pm during the season; the cost is €25.”
A: For a wine selling at say £4.99 in the supermarket, £2.45 of the cost is gobbled up buy Customs and Excise and the Vatman. At £3.99 the tax accounts for nearly 58% of the shelf price!
Q: That’s just at the cheaper end – what about more expensive ‘Fine Wines’?
A: Duty is a fixed tax, at present about £1.70 per bottle. The more you up-spend, the lower the proportion of alcohol duty. But, for a bottle priced at £15.99, you’re still paying over £4 in duty and VAT – over a quarter of the bottle price.
Q: So, if I spend £4.99 I’m only getting £2.55-worth of wine?
A: No, not even as much as that! Transportation, storage, and intermediaries’ margins take a slice out of the retail price, typically marking-up the winemaker’s cost price by at least 20%. For a £4.99 bottle this amounts to about 50p, so your £4.99 claret in really only worth £2!
Q: I’m spending five quid and only getting two quid’s worth! Can’t I dodge the taxman and the middlemen by buying mail-order?
A: Well, you can call a friendly winemaker overseas and ask them to send you a couple of cases through the post. Typically the duty is rarely collected on small quantities of wine sent to a private, domestic address but the transportation costs will add £4 or £5 to the per bottle price. And unless you know the wine and the vintage well, you might be disappointed with what you receive – plus breakages and corked bottles are difficult to replace.
Q: OK, you’ve got me… I’m not rich but life’s too short to drink bad wine – what’s the solution?
A: Go to France! They built a tunnel remember! The vineyards of the Loire, Champagne and Northern Burgundy are all well within reach for a weekend trip so you can buy your delicious dessert wines, festive fizz, favourite Chablis and rare red Burgundies at the cellar door. And taste them before you part with your hard-earned cash!
Q: Sounds good, but the French have duty and VAT n’est ce pas (see I’m already in the mood…)?
A: Yes, there is a tax on French wine but it’s only a few centimes per bottle (indicated, for French sales, by the little ‘Marianne’ stamp on the top of the cork capsule). VAT (or TVA) in France is currently at 19.6% but this is payable on only the cellar door price and the much, much smaller wine tax. So, your £4.99 wine from Tesco should cost about £2.40, all taxes paid, if you buy it at source.
Chateau de la Tuilerie is the family wine estate of Chantal Comte, a progressive and charismatic winemaker with a passion for art and culture. This month Chantal’s daughter Diane is hosting a tasting of Tuilerie’s wines on the 25th of March in London’s Cavendish Square. You can sample the delightful Costières de Nîmes reds, whites and rosés at the Maison de la région Languedoc Roussillon:
Thusday 25th of March from 2pm to 7pm, 6 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PD
Château de la Tuilerie ‘Grenache Blanc, Viognier’ 2008 Costières de Nîmes
Northerly Mistral winds and sea breezes from the coastal plain cool the vines and create the fresh, lively character of this grenache/viognier blend. Aromas of white blossom, peach and pear-drops leap out of the glass.
For details of staying at Tuilerie’s sumptuous Bastide de Fabrègues click here.