Touraine and Rose d’Anjou – easy drinkers for the summer

Aug 11, 15 Touraine and Rose d’Anjou – easy drinkers for the summer

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I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the Loire Valley a few times and the wines never fail to surprise me. I often forget what wonderful easy drinking wines they are and how they pair so well with food due to their diverse flavour profiles. Recently, I attended a dinner with Square Meal at Portland Restaurant in Marylebone. The Portland serve seasonal produce and the dinner was full of fresh spring greens and veggies as well as a succulent pork belly but more on that in a minute. First the wines. We were served a selection of 3 rosés and 2 Touraine wines and one red Touraine wine. Touraine is made with sauvignon blanc and the rosés were mostly Grolleau, which is common in the Loire Valley. Touraine wines are a great choice for spring and summer as they are light and refreshing. We started with the Dom. Bellevue 2014 as an aperitif, very refreshing and crisp way to start the evening. The plan was to mix up the evening a bit and so we then moved onto a Rosé d’Anjou. These wines are off dry but when served with a fatty dish such as the pork rillettes that we scarfed down, they are perfect. Rosés are also great with dessert and the almond pithivier with raspberry jam was a great match, the red fruits in the wine pairing nicely with the strawberry jam. I also like the fact that the rosés are so light, unlike proper dessert wines, which although I love, can be a bit much after a heavy meal. We had the La Jaglerie  Rosé d’Anjou with dessert. As the Portland emphasises fresh and local produce, the main of old spot pig belly was excellent with the Red Touraine Les Marcottes Dom de Pierre 2012. Although the Loire is not known for it’s red wines, they do make vibrant red wines with loads of acidity and very fresh red and black fruit flavours. An excellent wine to cut through the fatty goodness...

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Dive Bouteille – wine tasting under the hills of Saumur

Feb 08, 15 Dive Bouteille – wine tasting under the hills of Saumur

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I was on Day 2 of my natural, biodynamic and organic wine tasting trip in the Loire and today we were in the town of Saumur for the 16th annual Dive Bouteille tasting. The Dive tasting is the oldest and most important natural wine tasting around. It was originally started by producers who wanted to showcase their wines outside of the annual Loire Valley Salon de Vins and has expanded to include wines from all over the world. The tasting took place under the hills of Saumur in the caves of Loire valley producer Ackerman wines. Ackerman are not organic, natural or biodynamic but the caves are amazing, with very high ceilings. The troglodyte caves are carved out of the tuffeau rock of the region and are used for art installations and exhibitions. The caves are strategically lit with coloured lights all of which make it a funky venue for a natural wine tasting. The lions share of producers were from France but there were also producers from Italy, Spain, Georgia, Serbia, The US, Argentina, Chile, Australia, South Africa and even sake from Japan. The Loire Valley was well represented but some of the most intriguing producers were from the US and Australia. Granted, they were not heavily represented but the few that I found had provocative wines. La Garagista’s wine maker Deirdre Heekin aims to put Vermont wines on the map. Deirdre is definitely of the no-intervention school of winemaking. Her vines are organic and she uses hybrids that are bred to thrive in cold climates. Cybele, La Crescent, Marquette and Frontenac  are the main grapes she uses. I first tried her sparkling wine made from the Cybele grape. It was relatively dry with good acidity. I didn’t know what to expect so this made for a pleasant surprise. I next tried the Frontenac. I was a bit dubious about red wine from such a cool climate but the Frontenac  had weight and body to it was well as a black fruit profile. Deirdre and her...

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Tasting natural, organic and biodynamic wines at the Renaissance des Appellations Greniers St. Jean

Feb 05, 15 Tasting natural, organic and biodynamic wines at the Renaissance des Appellations Greniers St. Jean

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What is ‘natural’ wine, exactly? Is it wine that is made without intervention – and what exactly does that mean? Is it wine that only has sulfur added at bottling? Or wine that has no added sulfur whatsoever? Or is it wine that is organically/biodynamically grown? After spending the weekend in the Loire at two of the biggest organic, biodynamic, natural wine tastings in France, I still don’t know what makes a wine ‘natural’ but it was interesting to taste through those wines. There were lots of hits but also some misses. Personally, I don’t like so called ‘natural’ wines and that term is a massive turn off for me. Wine is by definition a man made product. Grapes don’t usually pick, crush, ferment and bottle themselves, so I’m a bit suspicious of those ‘natural’ wine people. When I first was introduced to natural wines, many years ago, I was intrigued but since then I’ve had way too many faulty ‘natural’ wines to automatically think ‘natural’ means better or quality wines.  I admit I wasn’t going into these tastings with a very open mind but as I was there and had paid to get in, I should at least give them a try. The first tasting I attended was the Renaissance des Appellations Greniers St. Jean in Angers, France. The tasting is made of a group of mainly French winemakers with a smattering of other European countries included all of who are at the very least are organic and have to tend their vines in a biodynamic way. Some of the producers there called themselves natural wine makers, some didn’t.  Things are a bit murky when it comes to being certified biodynamic and some producers don’t want the certification because if they have to deviate one year from biodynamic principles they lose their certification and have to start the process all over again. I’ve always been drawn to producers who grow and make their wine biodynamically. When I taste these wines, I usually find...

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Langlois-Chateau, Loire Valley wines

It may seem like I only drink champagne but that’s not true. Sometimes I drink sparkling wine, too. All kidding aside, I do enjoy a good sparkling wine and some of my favourites are cremants.  A cremant is a French sparkling wine that does not come from the Champagne region. It’s as simple as that. So for example, you can have a Cremant de Bourgogne, Cremant de Alsace, or as in this particular post, a Cremant de Loire. In each case, the sparkling wine is made from grapes that are grown locally and usually produced in the traditional method but not always. I met up with the the wine maker for Loire Valley producer, Langlois-Chateau, Francois-Regis de Fougeroux recently  for lunch at Cigalon on Chancery Lane. Francois-Regis brought along  his sparkling wines as well as a few red wines for us to have with lunch. The white sparkling was composed of chenin blanc, chardonnay and cabernet franc and the rose sparkling was 100% cabernet franc. Langlois-Chateau is owned by Bollinger and benefits from the experience and expertise that the Champagne house brings to the table. They are the only house that buys grapes and then vinifies them separately as opposed to other producers in the Loire who buy the “must” and make their sparkling wines from there. They also use the “traditional method” with the wines spending at least 2 years in the cellar before being released. All of this results in sparkling wines that have much in common with champagne. The brut sparkling wine had very fine bubbles with good balance and citrus fruit flavours, a great aperitif. I really enjoyed the rosé, an aromatic and fruity nose followed on by loads of strawberries and raspberries on the palate, very fresh and morish. Francois-Regis calls this his “swimming pool” wine, perfect for lounging on a hot (well, here in England the most we can hope for is a warm) summers day. Another plus in choosing cremant de Loire’s is the price tag. Both...

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Bicycling through the Loire, part 2

Jun 27, 12 Bicycling through the Loire, part 2

Posted by in France, Lifestyle, Travel

The next day we had an early start, catching the train to Saumur, a short 45 minute train ride away. The weather was not as nice in the morning but as the day went on it cleared up to be a sunny afternoon. Seriously, when you’re on a bicycle, you don’t want it to be TOO sunny now do you? We headed through the vineyards of Saumur to our first stop of the day, Clos du Cristal. We had a wine tasting smack in the middle of the vineyards. An interesting note about Clos du Cristal is that their cabernet franc vines are planted against a wall with a hole about shoulder height. A large section of the vineyard is a series of rows of these walls.  Once the vines reach that height, the leaves and bunches of grapes all grow on the other side of the wall. The effect is that it looks like the vines are hiding from you on one side and the other side has grapes poking out of holes in the wall! This was done to keep the roots cool while still allowing the berries to get lots of sun. It seems to work as the cab franc was balanced with not too many vegetal notes coming through. Clos du Cristal is organic and they don’t use pesiticides as evidenced by the flocks of geese and chickens running around the vines. We hopped on our bikes and headed to a restaurant carved out of the soft rocks, L’Helianthe. I forgot to mention earlier that the region is dotted by troglodyte caves. The caves were dug out of the rocks thousands of years ago and were later used (and still are) as caves for the wines. Nowadays, it has become fashionable to use the caves as second homes by the locals. Or, a restaurant in this case. Lunch was quite tasty and one of the highlights was a Coteaux du Layon. Not far from the restaurant is Chateau de Targe....

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