le tasting room

Loire wine tours, tastings, day trips from Paris & short breaks organised by experienced English wine trade professionals.

Monday, 27 April 2009

The plight of the ancient mariner - Le Thoureil

Every year, Le Thoureil (our nearest village on the banks of the river Loire), hosts a regatta which is a great day out if the weather is fine. Yesterday, we were in luck - the sun shone, the boats arrived and the band played. In the morning we hosted a tasting for a group of clients from Russia and Paris and afterwards walked down to the river together to have lunch (prepared and cooked by local volunteers) and to join in the festivities.

These local events are still commonplace in France - simple catering, local micro-brewery selling its beers, basic wine at 5€ a bottle, stalls selling soaps, arts and crafts and the local fishermen showing the art of weaving fishing nets.

I was a little taken aback therefore to be approached by a very disgruntled mariner who offered to sell me his lunch ticket for 5€ instead of the normal 10€. In years gone by, the mariners who took the time to sail their boats upstream to support the celebration were given a free lunch. This year, there had been a change of policy - now the mariners were expected to pay 5€ for their lunch and no prior notice was given. 5€ isn't going to break the bank I know but I'm inclined to see his point of view. The regatta would not exist if the boats were not there and they are expensive to run. It takes planning and effort to sail to Le Thoureil - these boats are old and beautiful and the day would not be the same without them. No doubt this was a committee decision - to charge the mariners for their lunch, but a short sighted one in my opinion. Maybe it was a result of last year - it tipped down with rain all day so visitors were sparse and a free lunch still had to be provided for the mariners. The mariner I was talking to told me that he won't be back next year. This is a shame - he may not be the only one.

That aside, we had a great afternoon. After tasting wines during the morning we enjoyed a couple of beers from La Piautre - a small micro-brewery just over the river at La Menitré. This year they had produced good quality plastic 'glasses' for which they charged a 1€ deposit. Branded and with some background information about the brewery this was an attempt to reduce litter and encourge recycling - a great idea.

Another positive note - it was wonderful to see the local amateur fisherman's association demonstrating the art of weaving fishing nets and also to see so many of the older generation joining in the fun of the day.

So thank you to our clients to helped make the day a memorable one and to all the mariners who sailed their boats along the river to provide us with a glimpse of the past. I hope to see them all back at Le Thoureil next year for what is a traditional celebration of life on the river Loire.

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