le tasting room

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

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Mathieu Vallée of Chateau Yvonne in Parnay - Saumur-Champigny

A few photos taken yesterday during a visit to see Mathieu Vallée of Chateau Yvonne. Mathieu used to be an engineer and initially resisted the urge to become involved in wine like his father and brother. 5 years ago however he had a change of heart and today he owns Chateau Yvonne in Parnay - the heart of the Saumur Champigny appellation.

He has 28 small parcels within 3 different villages making up a total of 11 hectares (8 Cabernet Franc and 3 Chenin Blanc). Total production is around 25,000 bottles on average.

He has one person helping him in the vineyard on a full-time basis and they do the pruning together. He finished this week - late by some standards but he was keen to point out the benefits of pruning late in terms of frost protection.

We enjoyed a tasting in his delightfully rustic tasting room, located in front of his winery which is hewn out of the tuffeau limestone.

Our thanks go to Mathieu for welcoming us at a time when he should probably have been at home (he was celebrating the birth of his second baby only a couple of days ago).

Tasting notes to follow.

Chateau Yvonne
16 rue Cristal
49730 Parnay
Tel 02 41 67 41 29

Monday, 21 March 2011

Chenin Blanc & the delights of the quince

When wine tasting we often try to recognise aromas in wine and one of the most commonly cited aromas in Chenin Blanc is quince. This old fashioned fruit is similar to the pear - knobbly and impossible to cut, it has a similar aroma although a little more exotic.

I had a quince tree when I lived in the South of England and despite being a keen cook, never did anything with the fruit giving them instead to my elderly neighbour who made them into quince jelly. Preserving is a bit old-fashioned - at least that's what I thought before I moved to France.

Here, it seems everybody makes jams, jellies and preserves. Fruit from the garden is eaten fresh in season and preserved for the winter months. I was given a few kilos by a friend this summer and decided it was time to have a go.

Firstly, I peeled the quinces and put the peelings into a large demi-john along with a litre of eau de vie. Then, I cut the quinces up (shere brut force required here - they are rock solid) put the pips and cores in a muslin square and cut the remaining fruit into slices. All this went into a large casserole into which I poured enough water to cover, brought to the boil and simmered for several hours.
Some of the cooked fruit I put into a tart with a frangipane base, the remaining fruit I pureed, added sugar and boiled again to make quince paste. I strained the liquid remaining from the boiled fruit and added sugar making a jelly with this.

A bit of a fiddle you may say, and yes, I suppose it was, but for a few kilos of fruit that cost nothing I made delicous jelly to spread on fresh crusty bread or to serve with roasted meats, quince paste to eat with cheese, a most delicious take on a traditional pear tart with more colour and flavour and a bottle and a half of quince eau de vie that I decanted off the peelings only yesterday.

And, I am now able to recognise the aroma of quince in many of our delicious Chenin Blanc wines from the Loire valley. We are only able to pick up individual aromas if they are within our own experience. I think I've finally nailed it!