Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Appreciating Cabernet Franc

Opened a bottle of Les Varennes du Grand Clos 2004 from Charles Joguet (Chinon) with dinner the other evening and how well worth the 5 year wait it was! Dark rich black cherry robe, you can almost smell the cherries. An oppulent mouthfull of red fruit with soft tannins and surprise bursts of caramel going on in the background. This in my humble opinion is how a real single varietal French wine should taste. C'est magnifique!

It was at this moment and in tasting this delicious wine that I realised the difficulties the 'general consumer' has in fully appreciating Cabernet Franc. Now 2004 is young for a good Chinon. In fact it is recommended to drink 2012 but it's now 2009 and folks you just don't want to wait. In general the up to the counter wine tasting public are given 2007 / 08 wines to taste and to be honest without food this is a tricky task. The assertive tannins can sometimes mask the rich plummy fruit that this rich stand-alone varietal has to offer. As wine professionals our job is to educate the consumer to be patient.

It is not necessary to worship at the shrine of the £4.99$ supermarket plonk that has been mass produced, filled with fruit flavourings and tankered from the otherside of the world. Take a little time out to think about what you are drinking, how it has been produced and who has produced it. Here's an idea. Buy a good case whilst you are in the Loire Valley on your Wine Tour- taste one when you get home with a menu to match - lay the other bottles down and repeat the same exercise each year for the next five years. Invite friends and compare notes you will see the results for yourselves. Good luck and hopefully you will start to understand a little about good French wine.

Sunset over the vines at La Grande Maison

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Vines at the End of the Rainbow with a Little Food and Wine Matching too.

Just had to share this dramatic photo with you. Kindly sent in by Susan and Aileen recent return guests from Dublin. The picture was taken from the orchard at the rear of La Grande Maison. A beautiful rainbow arc over the poplar tree and into the vines.

Susan also wrote a little about her Wine Tour, " We really enjoyed learning a bit about the wine. So far we have enjoyed the Quid Novi - Anjou Blanc ( with grilled hake and a salsa verde with basil, coriander and capers) and the Royal Rouge - Red Sparkling (as an appetiser and with chocolate). It is really nice to be able to make choices that match the food)."

We love it when folk take wine back with them to sample with their own dishes and it is a lovely to way to extend that holiday feeling.

April is an exciting time in the gardens of La Grande Maison too. We really pruned the wisteria (by The Gate House) back hard last year and happily it has really recovered and is showing a beautiful display this year.

.....as is the clematis that climbs over The Old Bergerie.

....and the lilac by The Vine Lodge

The apple tree in the orchard is in full bloom too. This is a lovely to spot to picnic overlooking the vines with a glass of rosé.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

A Portes Ouvert for Easter at Domaine de Bablut in Brissac

11th, 12th and 13th April Easter Weekend sees the Portes Ouvert at Domaine de Bablut in Brissac We are especially excited to be able to try Christophe's latest release Petit Princé 2007 a Chenin Blanc that will not be released until the end of the year but will be available to buy this weekend only! This proved to be dry Chenin Blanc with floral aromas of tilleul, aubepiné and quince, delicate and elegant. I expect it will go well with fish, fruit de mer and wine meats in sauce.

Releasing the aromas from the barrel!

We also discovered Christophe Daviau's - Topette A Lundi, a light easy drinking red Cabernet Franc in a screwcap that you can save 'til Mardi - as if?

The lauch of a new cuvee for Daviau - Petit Princé 2007

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

A Selection of Loire Restaurants from Saumur to Amboise

Speaking to Madame Laroche owner of the Auberge Bienvenue in Doue La Fontaine the other evening she gave me her update of the new TVA (VAT) ruling for restaurants in France. She tells me that the 5.5% TVA is sure but will not come into effect until 2010 and then it will only apply to the food element of the meal and not the wine. So we will have to wait a while longer.

Never mind though as the food there was superb as usual. The menu Selections du Terrior is already very good value at 24 euros for 3 deliciously presented and prepared courses along with the surprise "amusee bouche" that appears. We chose a local wine from our friend David Lecomte at Chateau Du Passavant, an organically produced Cabernet Franc - Les Neprons 2004 which went superbly with the Entrecote Francaise Au Tanin D'Anjou et Fruit Rouges.

Another longstanding favourite of ours if you are heading to Saumur is Le Pot de Lapin. "Bistro à vins avec cuisine traditionnelle du marché" Olivier Thibault offers a superb selection of local Loire wines many of which you can sample by the glass for only 3 euros. The menu is all chalked up on a large slate board and you can choose from a simple selection of tapas to a more hearty full three or four course meal prepared from fresh local ingredients. There is also a great selection of wines from the south of France including an Domaine Olivier Pithon from Rousillon La Coulee 2006 (Jo Pithon's brother - another superb Anjou producer) a delicious blend of Grenache noir, Carignan and Syrah. Yum!

A little further along the Loire River and a great stop for a day trip is Amboise home to Clos Lucé the last home of Leonardo Da Vinci. We stopped in at the newly opened La Reserve and had the Italian influenced menu de jour for under 12 euros, a french slant on mozzarella and tomatoes, lasagne and panacotta washed down with a small pichet of local Touraine sauvignon blanc. Extremely good value and a tasty lunch break.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Les Machines de L'Ile Nantes

If you fancy a ride on a giant mechanical elephant during your stay at La Grande Maison then head to Les Machines de L'Ile in Nantes. Le Grand Elephant standing 12 metres high and weighing 50 tons takes you on a 40 minute ride along the quayside of the Loire River. It trumpets, sprays water from it's trunk and is an amazing technological feat of engineering.

In fact the whole gallery is worth a visit. Sue couldn't resist volunteering to ride the giant retro propulsion calamar but then she is a big kid at heart!