Monday, 29 March 2010
Saturday, 13 March 2010
We spend the morning yesterday at Domaine aux Moines in Savennières with some guests from Houston, Texas and enjoyed a very interesting vertical tasting with Mme Laroche. As you know, the Loire valley is a huge winemaking region and many winemakers in Anjou produce a whole plethora of wines making the tasting proposition a confusing one. Tasting just one wine from a range of different vintages is sometimes a much better way of understanding what makes one appellation different from another.
Pruning at the domaine is just over. Due to the very cold spell we have had here since Christmas, the vines are well behind schedule which is good news as this will have the effect of delaying budburst and in turn offer more protection against late frosts that can make or break yield in this cool climate region. They are pruned leaving two small canes on either side with just 2 or 3 buds (or nodes) on each side and no spurs to provide a back up in the event of frost or to provide for the following year. The young vines (15 years old), have been left with one short cane and one long cane. This, explains Mme Laroche is to 'tire out' the vines. The long cane will be left in place until June when it will be cut off. The prunings and all taken out of the vineyard and burnt to avoid spreading the risk of esca which is a problem in the Loire valley. In addition, vines that are suffering from esca are pruned last and with different secateurs to avoid cross contamination.
This disease has no cure so is a real and persistent problem for vinegrowers in the Loire valley. In the past, there was a noxious chemical formula that dealt with it but this has since been banned and no natural product has been developed since.
To the wines - we tried a range of vintages of the Domaine aux Moines, Savennières-Roches-aux-Moines. This sub-appellation of Savennières covers an area of 33 hectares although Mme Laroche tells us that only 15-17 hectares are actually under vine.
Pale golden colour with honeysuckle and white flowers on the nose. A real grapefruit element on the palate with acidity not too dominant. Warm and long on the palate. A great match for white meats. Not strikingly mineral for a Savennières but think this element will development over time.
Pale golden colour, a little richer looking than the 2004. This was a fatter vintage and has a maturity on the nose that it not normally this developed in a wine of this age. Less floral and more waxy lanolin notes. Lighter and softer on the palate and softer on the finish. This has a bigger mouthfeel than the 04 and would make a good match to fish with a creamy sauce.
Tiny yields during this vintage due to frost (17hl/ha). This wine is slightly paler in colour and has striking primary pear fruit on the nose. On the palate a great rush of wonderful acidity backs it up. Going to have a problem keeping this one in the cellar because it's delicious now but one can see it has huge ageing potential. Would be perfect with a young goat's cheese or platter of fruits de mers.
The colour has moved to a rich golden colour. Wonderful honey, nuts and acacia aromas on the nose. Rich and hazlenutty on the palate with a wild honey note carrying through right to the end. The finish is rich and a little mineral. Exotic and interesting - would be good with something spicey not hot.
Rich deep golden colour. Incredible earthy spicey notes on the nose with lots of wild honey, white flowers and a hint of saffron. On the palate the saffron note is completely dominant and delicious. A perfumed medicinal note with almonds, dried fruits and spices. Absolutely delicious and long on the finish, more so than the 2000. This would be wonderful with a saffron risotto, wild mushroom risotto or even a tagine. The wine is big enough to take on a meat dish and Mme Laroche says it also goes well with asparagus (tricky one to match) and truffles. This was a very tricky vintage and there were 7 passes through the vineyard.
A very informative and enlightening tasting that really illustrated vintage variation. How one grape variety can produce wines from one terroir that are so different and yet so equally pleasing is one of life's mysteries and pleasures.
For the record, we bough half a dozen of the 2008 and half of dozen of the 1992 - from one extreme to another.
Photos to follow.
Monday, 8 March 2010
We drank Les Girardières 2008 last night which has 25g per litre of residual sugar on the palate. The fresh honey pear quality on the nose and sherbet freshness on the palate means that this residual sugar just fades into the background giving a wonderfully refreshing fruity wine that is delicious young but it should get better and better over the next 10 years.
A strange choice you might think for a beef curry, but as it was poached in sweet coconut milk, lemon grass and galangal a red seemed out of the question - and it worked well.
We just need to leave what we have left well alone.
Bernard is bottling his 2009 vintage Cuvée Silex under screwcap which is great news. We didn't have the time to catch up with the new vintage at the Salon des Vins in Angers but will report back on this as we'll be making a trip to stock up shortly.
Friday, 5 March 2010
He's in the process of developing a business based around oenotourisme offering chambres d'hotes, talks, tastings and dinners for those interested in wine. Here you can come and discover the secrets of growing vines and making wine in beautiful surroundings while having the added bonus of Mathieu who can tell you stories from the 5 generations of winemakers in his family.
We took the opportunity to taste some of Mathieu's wines at the Salon des Vins recently. He's a keen polo player and the labelling of his wines reflects this although we didn't taste the Polo Brut or Polo Rosé sparkling wines on this occasion.
Chateau de l'Eperonnière
A lovely light golden colour. Classic Savennières nose with delicate whisky notes. Soft and gentle on the palate with a hint of citrus, grapefruit, pear and honey. Medium body and weight but good. Still young but not fiercely mineral so enjoyable now.
Anjou Villages 2008
Blackberry forest fruits. Quite light and fruity on the mid palate. 6 months in fut has given it a slightly spicey note but tannins are relatively light and easy.
Rosé de Loire 2009
Pretty pink colour with an almost fluorescent tone. Real strawberry fruit and pear drops on the nose. Very dry on the palate but not austere. The fresh fruit continues through until the end making it refreshing and easy to drink. This will be an excellent summer wine.
Coteaux du Layon 2006
Mathieu is very keen to stress the importance of sugar/acid balance. The wine has a nice golden hue with some slightly greenish tinges. Pears, quince and honey on the nose. Very fruity on the palate - not cloying and a nice balance of acidity to combat the 110g/l residual sugar. Great as an apero.
We hope to be working more closely with Mathieu this year and are looking forward to introducing him to our clients as part of our Loire wine tours.
Monday, 1 March 2010
One issue that has come up time and time again is where to make the cut when pruning. We were trained in the UK by a New Zealander who taught us to always cut close to the bud. The reason for this is to avoid the risk of die-back which in turn gives an entry point for disease. In addition, we always cut at a 45 degree angle pointing away from the bud which means that rainwater and sap will not drip on to the new bud but be drawn away from it.
Many vineyards around here seem to cut much further away from the bud - they are equally adamant that this is the correct way forward despite the potential problems with die-back.
I'd love to hear from anyone who has practical experience pruning vines. What is your approach and what are the reasons for this?