le tasting room

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

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Pot de Lapin - Saumur

We've been to the Pot de Lapin a few times before and always had really good food, bistro style, simple, unpretentious and tasty. Last night however was a disappointment which is a shame as we had been looking forward to it for a while.

Absolutely no complaints about the service, people, ambiance or wine - just the food which didn't live up to expectation last night. What did we eat?

Well, I started with Piemontese a la langue - a take on the traditional Piemontese salad of new potatoes and tongue with a little ham, all bound with a mustardy mayonnaise. Flavour ok, quite rich but the tongue was clearly a left-over and was tough. Nigel had the oeufs en cocotte - simple and rich and made using blue cheese. This is one of the signature dishes of the Pot de Lapin and while it was enjoyable we questioned the use of blue cheese in the dish. I would be interested to know if it is always made with blue cheese as the flavour seemed to overwhelm the delicateness of the eggs.

To follow I had thigh of rabbit stuffed with lemongrass and delicate Thai spices with coconut milk. This was extremely tender and tasty - the accompaniments were less exciting - haricots rouge and very overcooked sliced carrots. The presentation was pretty average and I think the dish could have done with something lighter. The other main was beef tongue served in a Tandoori sauce with haricot blanc (white beans) and the same carrots. Our general consensus was that these dishes were of average quality - disappointing.

We enjoyed a reasonable cheeseboard, declined dessert and had a coffee to finish.

Star of the evening was the bottle of La Grande Reserve, Le Mas des Flauzières, Gigondas 2005. Great fruit on the nose, notes of chocolate, black fruits, coffee and smoke led into a rich soft palate with elegant tannins that worked well with the spice in the dishes and did not clash in terms of weight or tannin. We paid 28 Euros for this - good value we thought.

Downside of the evening - paying 50 Euros for the taxi back to Cumeray, a 20 minute drive from Saumur. This equated to nearly two thirds the cost of the meal itself which for 3 courses each, an aperitif, and the excellent bottle of red came to 80 Euros for the two of us.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Castelmaure - AOC Corbières 2006 Grande Cuvée

Decided to drink something from outside the Loire last night. The Languedoc is one of my favourite wine-making regions of France. I just love the grape varieties (Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre, Cinsault, Carignan for the reds, Marsanne, Rousanne, Grenache Blanc, Viognier for the whites amongst many). The wines just express their roots perfectly and for me have just the right amount of fruit to keep me interested for more than a glass.

This Corbieres has a deep ruby colour. On the nose, the first impression is of sweet stone fruit and plums with a big herbal quality and a touch of ground black pepper. The ripe fruit element continues on the palate but moves and changes to a more savoury style with the spice, herbs and pepper creeping in and then the tannins which although present are well integrated. You can sense the mediterranean heat. It's ready to drink now but will certainly keep for a few years yet. We drank it with a plain char-grilled steak and the match was fabulous. The wine has around 45% Grenache and Syrah with some old vine Carignan making up the blend. 10 - 12 months ageing in French barriques after a period of cuve ageing gives it complexity but by no means does the oak component dominate the palate.

We paid 8 Euros 20 for the bottle and I think it was great value at that.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Quick Apple Tart

A quick apple tart that I make regularly for our Loire Wine Discovery lunches. Almost a storecupboard dessert as I normally have some ready made and pre-rolled puff pastry in the fridge and apples are normally in the fruit bowl.

One circle of pre-rolled puff pastry (or make your own if you dare)
2 Granny Smith apples
Sugar for sprinkling
melted unsalted butter for brushing
Apricot jam/redcurrant jelly


Take the pastry out of the fridge about 10 mins before you want to make the tart. Pre-heat the oven to around 190-200(Gas 5/6).

Unroll the pastry and put it onto a baking sheet using the provided greasproof as your base. Cut a thin strip off the circle and having moistened the edges of the remaining circle, stick this around to form an edge about a centimetre thick (this keeps your apples inside).

Decore the apples and cut into fine slices - I use a mandoline but you can do it by hand. Lay the slices on the pastry disc in concentric circles so they look pretty. Use a pastry brush to paint a layer of melted butter on the top.

Sprinkle with sugar and then bake until starting to brown on top and the pastry is cooked (about 20 mins or so).

When you remove it from the oven you can do one of two things. Either, dust with icing sugar, or if your prefer the glazed look, warm up a couple of tablespoons of apricot jam/ redcurrant jelly and then paint over the apples. Either way it's extremely easy and looks brilliant.

Best eaten straight away but fine cold the next day. Serve with cream, creme fraiche, custard or vanilla ice cream.

Sorry there is no photo - it was demolished before I could get out the camera.

We enjoyed it with a half bottle of Les Quarts de Juchepie 2006 from Eddy Oosterlinck-Bracke. A lovely balance between the sugar and acidity, not too sweet. Lovely dried fruit and marmalade aromas with a touch of butterscotch and caramel - excellent with the browned caramelised sugar and apples on the tart.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Le blog de Les 5 du Vin

Jim Budd and 4 other wine bloggers/journalists have decided to launch a new bilingual blog with each of them posting an article at least once a week. They are: Jacques Berthomeau, Hervé Lalau, Michel Smith, Marc Vanhellemont and Jim.

I'm looking forward to reading their posts both in French and English. So, here's wishing them the best of luck.

More info can be found on Jim's blog http://jimsloire.blogspot.com/search/label/Les 5 du Vin

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Vignoble de la Jarnoterie - St Nicolas de Bourgueil

My first stop on Monday at the Salon des Vins was Vignoble de la Jarnoterie. A family run vineyard of 24 hectares within the St Nicolas de Bourgueil appellation, I tasted 4 wines, one rosé and 3 reds.
Full details have been posted on the News section of the le tasting room website. In essence, we found the wines to be light and easy in style with good fruit expression and soft tannins. I particularly liked the Improvisation 2008 which is made from vines 40 - 60 years old and aged predominantly in large chestnut barrels with about 30% going in to small oak barrels for around 6 months.