le tasting room

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

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Renaissance des AOCs - Angers

View of Angers and the river Maine at sunset

Organic and biodynamic producers showing their wines in the beautiful Greniers

The Greniers St Jean in Angers

A few pictures taken at the Renaissance des AOC held at the Greniers St Jean on Saturday. More detailed tasting notes will be posted in the News section of the website. We tried a range of wines - some from producers we know and some new to us. Quality varied enormously with some absolutely beautiful wines and some very poor ones too. Organic and biodynamic producers are passionate not only about their wines but also about the environment, the ecosytem surrounding the vines and the flora and fauna in the vineyard.

Friday, 29 January 2010

New restaurant in Angers

Steve Savidan, former French footballer, is to open a new restaurant next Spring. Close to la place du Ralliement in rue Cordelle, it's to be something between a brasserie and restaurant, with good food and good prices for 100 people seated. This is not his first venture in the restaurant business having opened a restaurant named after his wife Karine K9 in Valenciennes.

This could be good news for Angers - watch this space...

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Le Petit Julien - Angers

We had been walking past Le Petit Julien for a while. A tiny restaurant just off the pedestrian area in Angers, it looks inviting from the outside - a row of little tables for two with one or two larger tables at the back. So, a couple of weeks ago, we seized the opportunity and had dinner.

We were warmly welcomed by the owner, a smiling and slightly dizzy lady who gave us the remaining table for two by the door with assurances we wouldn't be disturbed. A few nibbles arrived as we had an aperitif (cubes of Comté, slices of salami) and we relaxed for a while perusing the menu which is written up on a blackboard and brought to your table.

The rillettes du Mans was good, served at the right temperature (not cold straight from the fridge) and with good bread. I had an excellent terrine - extremely coarse and clearly home made.

To follow we had crepinettes (a sort of pork pattie, wrapped with caul and pan fried) and kidneys served with a mustard sauce. These were accompanied by purée (the owner was very keen to point out that this was maison fait which amused us - is there any other decent purée). I could have done with a few haricots as well but there is a choice between rice, mash, haricots or pasta.

Amusingly, the owner came over to us and asked if we would like to order a dessert while we were still waiting for our entrée to come out. As she realised her mistake another group came in hoping for a table and as she recounted what she had done there was much laughter.

For dessert we had home made rice pudding which was excellent - served just warm and with a whiff of vanilla, and apple tart.

I'm ashamed to say that I can't remember the producer of the Chinon that we drank. This is probably a good thing because it was nothing to write home about. Sound but a bit austere and lacking in fruit. That aside, we had a really great evening.

Summing up I would say that the portions could have been a little larger and it would have been good to have a vegetable with the main. Dishes are simple and the kind of thing that you would make at home. Having said that, the owner (who used to work in finance), says this is what she is aiming for - simple food as your mother would have made it.

We had a very nice evening - simple food, moderate wine, great hostess, good music and lots of fun. It's not a top of the range restaurant (not cheap either) but it has a nice warm atmosphere.

Le Petit Julien
17 ru Valdemaine
49100 Angers
02 41 87 12 53

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Le Sec de Juchepie 2006 AC Anjou

Eddy & Mileine Oosterlinck- Bracke are based in Faye d'Anjou and produce the most wonderful sweet wines. Last night we enjoyed Eddy's dry wine, le Sec de Juchepie. This Chenin Blanc based white is made from grapes collected during the 1er tri (first pass) through the vineyard on 25th and 26th September 2006.

A bio-dynamic producer, natural yeasts are left to their own devices and the wines finish their fermentations in barrique when they are ready. Nothing is added and nothing is taken away. Le Clos was aged for 12 months in barrique and estate bottled.

It took Eddy 10 years before he was happy with the condition of his soil - you can see the layers of friable schist and slate that lie underneath a very thin layer of clay topsoil in le Clos, the vineyard from which the grapes are sourced.

This dry wine has all the complex minerality evident in his sweet wines but without any of the residual sugar. Hints of ginger, lemon and spice with notes of pear and quince give backbone to the wine. A full rich palate then gives way to a long finish with refreshing acidity and a slight orange rind bitterness. We drank it with slow roasted pork shoulder chops served with red cabbage and apple and it was a great match.

We're looking forward to tasting wines from the 2009 vintage at the annual trade wine tasting in Angers next month. Conditions were excellent this year and Juchepie made 8 passes through the vineyard in total, each time picking only the ripest and most suitable grapes for the wines being made.

If you're looking for top quality sweet wines with a difference, Domaine de Juchepie is one to watch. And they sell the best Belgian chocolates we've tasted in a long while.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Domaine de Bablut - Vignobles Daviau

A few words from Christophe Daviau concerning the 2009 vintage.

'En ce qui concerne l'actualité viticole, l'année 2009 nous laisse un grand millésime. L'été a été très sec mais la vigne, qui est une plante formidable, a su gérer ces conditions particulières. Je suis intimement persuadé que la plante doit etre heuresue là ou elle croit, c'est pourquoi nous apportons une importance primordiale à la concordance terroir/cépage.
Le seule déception est sans doute les quantités récoltées faibles (surtout pour les cépages rouges), mais la richesse et l'harmonie des vins nous contentent pleinement. '

Roughly translated this reads as: 'the year 2009 should be a great vintage. The summer was extremely dry but the vine, which is an amazing plant, knew how to manage these particular conditions. I am absolutely convinced that the plant has to be happy where it is, where it believes, that's why we feel the relationship between terroir and grape variety to be absolutely crucial.
The only downside is without doubt, the tiny quantities harvested (particularly for the red grape varieties), but we are completely satisfied with the richness and harmony of the wines .'

So, good news from Domaine de Bablut and also for many other growers - 2009 is looking like a great vintage.

Monday, 18 January 2010

La bûche de sot l'y laisse

We had dinner with a group of friends from around the world on Friday night at Le Clavier, a restaurant in Avrillé, close to Angers. A diverse lot from England, the USA, New Zealand and France - we all met through the English Language Library in Angers, a great library that organises a whole plethora of activities throughout the year for Anglophones, their friends and families.

Looking through the menu, there was a dish that meant nothing to me. La buche de sot l'y laisse, chou vert et marrons au curcuma. Sot is French for 'stupid' or silly,' laisse from the verb laisser, to leave. The dreaded 'y' in the phrase meaning 'there, here' and the 'l' referring to 'it' whatever 'it' is. Luckily, our French friends were able to explain. The sot l'y laisse is an expression that refers to the 'oysters' on a chicken (or other bird for that matter). Those two little nuggets of sweet sweet flesh that are tucked away underneath the bird hanging on for dear life to the carcass. Many people aren't even aware of their existence. We always argue over them in our house and I often pick them off the carcass after dinner is done, quietly in the kitchen when noone is looking.

I just had to order this - for the name alone. What came was a large cabbage leaf in which were tucked, 4 large juicy 'oysters' or sot l'y laisse, with a rough purée of chestnuts flavoured with turmeric.

So, 'sot l'y laisse' roughly translated means, the fool leaves it, only a fool would leave it, it would be foolish to leave it. I totally agree - what about you though - do you eat the sot l'y laisse?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Engelgarten 2000 Marcel Deiss

Jean-Michel Deiss is dedicated to nurturing specific terroirs which produce unique distinctive wines that are true to their origins.

Unlike many producers in Alsace, he markets a number of wines using the vineyard alone as identity not the grape variety as we often see from this winemaking region. He calls these Vins de Terroirs and they are 'field blends' of varietals that are dominated by their soil and position.

Engelgarten is one of these wines - we enjoyed a bottle the other night with an Aisian inspired dish of duck cooked in orange juice with star anise, lemon grass, chilli, fish sauce and spring onions.

The Engelgarten vineyard is just a stone's throw away from the Bergheim medieval fortress. Its gravelly soil and particularly dry September provide super ripe Riesling grapes whose style dominates the final wine although Pinot Gris, Beurot, Muscat and Pinot Noir are also in the blend being planted alongside in the vineyard.

A delicious dry wine with a tight minerality and with notes of white flower, bitter orange rind and pear. It has a slight hint of petrol on the nose and great length.

As a food and wine match - if I were honest - a wine with a little residual sugar on the palate would have worked better. The orange notes in the wine worked well with the flavours of the dish but the heat from the chilli would have been softened by a slightly less mineral note.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Chenin Blanc - is it the world's most versatile grape variety?

If you’re searching for the most versatile grape variety in the world today, look no further than the chameleon Chenin Blanc.

At home in the Loire valley in France it produces wines of incredible diversity. In the Coteaux du Layon it makes sweet wines of the highest quality in Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume - rich and honeyed with notes of apricot, quince, peach and caramel. In Anjou, fermented and aged in oak it has a depth of flavour and rich vanilla tone which is fabulous with the terrines and rillettes of the region.

In Savennières it’s long lived and has notes of grapefruit and even a hint of whisky on the nose. In Vouvray it’s delicate and refreshing with hints of pear and zesty fresh acidity. The wines of Jasnières even take on a Rieslinglike aroma given time and don’t forget the sparkling wines made from this most underrated of grapes.

There's no substitute for getting out into the vineyards and wineries to discover the delights of this amazing grape variety for yourself. We are well situated at le tasting room between Angers and Saumur and can have you in Savennières in the morning to taste dry minerally whites and then in the Layon in the afternoon to revel in the unctious sweet wines from its villages perched along the Corniche Angevine.

So, come and see for yourself - join us for a one day Loire wine tour in 2010 and let us share our passion for Chenin Blanc with you.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Un petit poème oenologique

A little French poem to welcome in 2010. It plays with the names of wines and grape varieties in an amusing and clever way. See how many you can find.

Il m'est arrivé une histoire dont il faut que je vous donne, si je puis dire, la primeur.

C'était il y a quelque temps, au bal de la Nuits Saint- Georges que j'ai rencontré la petite Juliénas, une fille drôlement Gigondas, un sacré beau Meursault, bien charpentée, et sous sa robe vermillon un grand cru classé, avec des arômes de cassis et de fraises des bois.

On a dansé Anjou contre Anjou sur un Sylvaner à la mode et plus tard lorsque je lui ai proposé de l'emmener dans mon Châteauneuf-du-Pape, elle est devenue toute Croze-Hermitage !!! Le temps d'aller chercher un Chablis au vestiaire, de mettre un petit Corton dans ses cheveux, on est monté dans ma Banyuls et on a roulé jusqu'au matin.

Ah quelle belle journée ! On s'est baladé Entre-deux-mers, il faisait beau, on a Vacqueyras sur la plage, les pieds dans l'eau Clairette, on s'est Pouilly-Fuissé dans les dunes et puis comme le Mercurey montait sérieusement et qu'on commençait à avoir les Côtes-Rôties on a décidé de rentrer.

Mais voilà, en partant nous nous sommes retrouvé coincés dans les embouteillages, enfin les bouchons, quoi ! Je commençais à Minervois sérieusement et là, Julienas et moi, nous avons commencé à nous crêper le Chinon . D'un seul coup elle a claqué la Corbière de la Banyuls et elle est partie ! Je me suis retrouvé comme Macon. Quoi, me suis-je dit, elle s'est déjà Sauvignon avant même que j'ai le temps de la Sauternes ! Mais je vous Jurançon, je l'avais dans la Pouillac, en effet, j'étais tellement Tokay que j'ai couru après elle dans Lalande et les Chardonnay pour la rattraper.

Quand on s'est retrouvé, et que je l'ai vue devant moi en Gros-plant, je lui ai dit " Ne fais pas ta Pomerol, et ne t'en va plus Gamay ! " En pleurant, elle est tombée dans mes bras en Madiran: "Ne m'en veux pas, je voulais juste être sûre que ton Saint-Amour était vraiment Sancerre".

Depuis on ne s'est plus cuités.

Thanks to Thierry & Yolaine Auger at Chateau de Verrières in Saumur who originally sent this to le tasting room.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Winter scene in the Loire

An Anjou vineyard in winter. With the temperature at minus 8 today, I feel for those who are pruning and am mindful that I need to buy some thermals as I too will be pruning in a couple of weeks time.