Grapevine Archive for Gamay

Tue 29 Jun 2010

A Real Départemental Mix-Up

Posted by: | Comments (0)

In the Loire valleyUnquestionably a date in your diary must be Monday July 12th in London and the following evening in Manchester when we will be showing wines from the Loire and Beaujolais. A perfect summer treat that will include wines from the amazing 2009 vintage.

Central to the tasting will be wines from Domaine Sérol in the little-known yet outstanding Côte Roannaise. Why central? I hear you ask. It is simply because this Cinderella appellation actually produces excellent reds made from the gamay grape, in other words the same grape as in Beaujolais. Not only that, but the terroir is much the same with the same decomposed grey granite that one finds in Brouilly. Côte Roannaise is a small appellation with only about 20 growers. It is an isolated spot which allows growers to farm with minimal intervention and in some difficult vintages like 2004, Domaine Sérol’s wines are better than practically anything in Beaujolais.

So, where is the Côte Roannaise? Now that is an excellent question and the answer brings to light a perfect administrative conundrum that was created by the French Revolution.

The vines are set on granite slopes a few miles out from the centre of Roanne, a town once noted for textiles and armaments, especially tanks. The town’s existence is due to the Loire River as it is from here that this mighty river was historically navigable. The town’s importance was later confirmed by the coming of the railway, the station café eventually becoming one of the greatest restaurants in France. Today Troisgros is one of the better Michelin rated three star restaurants and which works extremely well. The Troisgros brothers have always been keen to promote local produce, including of course wine. A very special link was forged with the Sérol family and indeed Troisgros and Robert Sérol not only became very close friends but also business partners. They own one small vineyard together which they farm organically. Most of the wine is sold to the restaurant but we’ve secured a few cases which we will show in London and Manchester.

In wine terms, Côte Roannaise belongs to the Loire even though it has precious little in common with the rest of the Loire. Sancerre, the nearest major Loire appellation is nearly three hours drive away and Nantes with its ocean of Muscadet, over an hour away by plane. Beaujeu on the other hand, historic capital of Beaujolais is just under an hour away by car on the other side of the mountain.

Now for the Departemental bit
Roanne is in the Loire Département (number 42, for those of you who like me follow French number plates), 50 miles away from Saint Etienne, the county town and 50 miles away from Lyon, the regional capital. Indeed Roanne on the Loire is part of the region called Rhône-Alpes, which in wine terms includes most of Beaujolais and all of the Rhône up to Vinsobres. The absurdity of France’s administrative divisions is felt even more acutely in the Loire Département itself which reaches out to the Rhône and includes a part of both Saint-Joseph and Condrieu. This delightful quirk has not been lost on the Sérol family who are keen to play on their proximity to the Rhône and to Condrieu and have planted a vineyard of viognier. 2009 is the first vintage and we will show it next month at the Loire and Beaujolais tastings in London and Manchester. Do come and taste.

Comments (0)