le tasting room

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

Monday, 29 November 2010

Christmas Fair at Chateau Brissac

A few photos taken yesterday at the Christmas Fair at Chateau de Brissac in Brissac-Quincé, a short hop from Angers in the Loire valley. This beautiful chateau is still privately owned and occupied. Each year the family holds a number of special events of which the Christmas Fair is one.

If you're feeling flush and fancy a little luxury you can stay overnight in the chateau in one of 4 rooms for around 390 Euros.

Open from April to October for daily tours, I can certainly recommend a visit. Most of the tours are conducted in French but a sheet in English is available for non-French speakers. It's fully furnished unlike many French chateau and is full of wonderful paintings, tapestries and antiques yet remains small enough to feel like a real home.


Sunday, 21 November 2010

Domaine Richou - Mozé sur Louet

Domaine Richou is a family domaine in Chauvigné near Mozé sur Louet. Managed by Didier and Damien Richou, Damien is responsible for the family's 33 hectares of vines while Didier takes charge in the chai. The estate works along organic lines and is in its first year of official conversion to 'bio'. In 2011 Damien is going to introduce a biodyanamic approach for the first time. He is passionate about terroir and values above everything the notion of identity, cépage, purity of wine and soil.

This was a first time visit to the domaine during their annual portes ouvertes, mainly aimed at private consumers wishing to purchase wines for the festive season (this represents around 60% of their total sales).

A list of wines available for tasting and an order of degustation stuck on the wall made life easy

The first wine on the list was this year's Primeur Gamay 2010. I have to admit to being a bit sceptical about all primeur wines as they are (in my opinion) on the whole made too quickly and with an eye on profit rather than quality. With a very typical ripe Gamay nose and an intense purple colour, the fruit on this wine is lively and attractive, very fruity, fresh and extremely easy drinking. Tannin is low and acidity not too high. We purchased a couple of bottles to show to our American clients who are coming on Thursday. I'll never be a big fan, but of its kind, its a great example. Juicy red fruits, simple and easy - a good wine to share with friends and not get too snobby about. I discussed my feelings on Primeur wines with Damien who was keen to stress that he too feels the same about wines produced purely to get the money in the bank soon after harvest. He reassured me that this wine while being a primeur is also made using perfectly ripe fruit. I think I've been converted.

The entire family was on hand, pouring samples, answering questions and giving advice

AOC Anjou Blanc Sec, Chauvigné 2009 is a blend of several parcels of Chenin from volcanic and schistous soils. A long slow fermentation takes place and then the wine rests on its lies for around a year before bottling. Light and clean on the nose it has some minerality and white flowers and then this opens out on the palate to reveal a beautifully clean and precise wine with citrus, grapefruit and finally a touch of honey and quince on the finish. A delightful wine and very good value at 6.35 Euros TTC.

AOC Anjou blanc sec Les Rogeries 2008 has been aged in 2-3 year old barriques for 18 months. A richer, more golden colour and lovely attractive creamy aromas on the nose. A bigger wine for spending time in wood, floral, full bodied and with a swirl of vanilla on the palate. Rich and citric, a hint of honey and grapefruit at the end. Great length. More of a food wine that the Chauvigné. 10.20 Euros TTC.

AOC Anjou Rouge 'Les 4 Chemins' 2009 comes from young vines of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. A wine meant for drinking young it has a deep purple colour with a bright pink purple rim. Quite a firm nose, black fruits dominating and a whiff of violet coming through. Quite spicey and peppery on the palate. It seems a little dry on the finish - maybe needs a little more time for it to be 'easy drinking'. To be fair Richou says drink young or after 5 years ageing. I'd err on the side of keeping for the moment. 6.20 Euros TTC.

AOC Anjou Gamay 'Le Champ de la Pierre' 2008 is another Anjou Gamay coming from schistous soils with quartz. A deep purple colour with less bright pink reflections than the 4 Chemins (another year older so to be expected). Blackberry and violet notes on the nose. Quite firm and earthy on the palate with marked acidity running through. Tannins come in at the front of the mouth but don't dominate completely. Surprising weight for a Gamay - needs food. 7.30 Euros TTC.

AOC Anjou Villages Brissac 2008
comes from Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon 50/50 harvested from schistous and quartz soils. This is more like it - attractive smokey red fruit on the nose with the Cabernet Sauvignon coming through. Lovely fruit on the palate, well balanced. Quite tannic but would be lovely with a rich casserole. Similar in style to the lovely Croix de Mission from Domaine de Rochelles. I am increasingly convinced that reds from Anjou just have to come from vines planted on the right soil. Wines coming from the Anjou Villages Brissac appellation often deliver while other Anjou's just don't seem to make the grade. 8.20 Euros TTC and good at that.

Now on to the sweet wines that give the Coteaux de l'Aubance its reputation. AOC Coteaux de l'Aubance 'La Sélection' 2009 is harvested late in a series of passes through the vineyard when small clusters of perfectly ripe and overripe berries are picked individually. Grapes are naturally very rich in sugar and so are able to produce naturally sweet wines. This particular wine was harvested in 4 separate passes through the vineyard finishing at the beginning of November. With an amber appearance, the nose is quite light and elegant with a note of pineapple chunks and a honey-like sherbet quality. Lovely fruit on the palate, light and fresh, not at all cloying and with a refreshing bitterness at the end. Notes of apricot and peach creep up on you towards the end. This would be an excellent apero wine and would also be great with the quintessential Christmas foie gras terrine or blue cheese. 7.20 Euros TTC 50cl or 9.30 Euros TTC 75cl.

AOC Coteaux de l'Aubance 'La Grande Sélection' 2009
is a similar colour to the Sélection although is slightly sweeter in style having around 80-85g/l residual sugar as opposed to 78g/l. There's more honey on the nose and it's slightly more floral although again quite tight on the nose at present due to its youth. Again on the palate, incredibly refreshing despite its sweetness. Not a hint of sugary stickiness that leaves the palate jaded. Great fruit and a lovely vein of acidity running through it. More minerality on the finish and a touch of tannin coming in at the end. 10.40 Euros 50cl or 14.20 Euros 75cl.

AOC Crémant de Loire Brut 2006 'Dom Nature' is vinified according to an old method of making sparkling wine called 'la méthode ancestrale'. In this process, the wine is bottled for its second fermentation before the first fermentation has completely finished. This means that there is still sugar in the partially fermented wine and therefore no additional sugar is required to promote a second fermentation ( I guess you could argue that it's really one fermentation that was stopped in the middle, bottled and then carries on). Because no additional yeast or sugar is added, wines made by this method don't need the sediment removing. You can occasionally find a little sediment in the bottom of the bottle. Dom Nature has no liqueur d'expedition added either (the usual addition of wine and sugar after degorging has taken place). Quite a rich colour it has a slightly milky aroma and then a hint of green apple. Very dry indeed on the palate and with a characteristic bitterness on the finish. I rather like the oddness of it but I'm not sure if I like it - would like to try again. Full marks to Richou for the presentation - it looks classy and is a very interesting take on sparkling wine. 12.20 Euros TTC

Le Domaine Richou
Chauvigné - Route de Denée
49610 Mozé sur Louet
00 33 2 41 78 72 13

Friday, 12 November 2010

A Tale of Two Magnums

We've had the opportunity of sharing a couple of Magnums over the past couple of weeks that merit a mention.

We opened the Dom Perignon Vintage 1982 with family to celebrate my father's 80th birthday. I'm not sure how long it had been hidden away in dad's cellar but we couldn't think of a better time to open it. Dom Perignon was the famous Benedictine monk who is often accredited with 'inventing' Champagne although it is for his development of blending that we should be grateful as it was the English who in fact had more to do with it's development as a commercial product.

The Cuvée was launched in 1921 as their top of the range Champagne and has a price tag to go with it so expectation was high. Any wine that is kept for a long time changes and develops in bottle - only top quality wines can expect to withstand long ageing and come out the other side all the better for it.

So, what was it like? Well, it was tricky to open - the cork was very dry and despite our best efforts to open the bottle in the correct manner (twist the bottle not the cork) we didn't manage that. After several minutes of gently teasing the cork up it broke in two so we had to revert to using a tradtional waiter's friend. With a lively bottle of Champagne this is something I would absolutely not recommend as the pressure in the bottle is still likely to be very high. As this wine was nearly 30 years old we decided this was a risk we could take.

To the wine - it was a delight. A delicate caramel colour with very fine bubbles that continued to rise up the glass. Hints of toast, hazlenut, butter biscuits and stewed apple came through on the nose with just a hint of oxidation (which we love). A gentle elegant glass of Champagne, softer on the palate due to it's fine mousse and truly delicious. Worth it? Yes, as this was a special occasion. This wine is tasting fabulous and is by no means past its sell by date yet. A lovely surprise and one that we will remember for a long time.

We opened the second magnum on Tuesday while entertaining a group here in the cellar. 22 people from around France joined us for an introduction to Loire valley wines so we thought it fitting to offer a glass of Crémant to start off the morning.

A more humble wine you might say - certainly not in the league of Dom Perignon 82. We bought several magnums from Gratien & Meyer about 3 years ago and this was a good opportunity to open a couple. A lot younger as well - vintage 1999 - a mere 11 years ago. A blend of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay - would it live up to expectation? Well, it was delicious. Am I being unfair comparing the two wines? No, not at all - the Crémant too was slightly caramel in colour showing its age. It too had complex aromas on the nose, green apple, biscuit, nuts and toast. Maybe a little less intense and shorter on the finish than the Dom Perignon but a real treat. The mousse was still lively, the wine a pleasure to drink.

Fine and rare wines will always cost more than their actual worth and it's a privilege to taste them from time to time. Lower cost alternatives can also be fabulously good value as in this case. I enjoyed them both - the one that will stick in the memory? The Dom Perignon of course. But, if I had to pay my own money - I know where the Euros would go.