Grapevine Archive for Loire Valley
Wine Society members cordially invited to attend a night of jazz and bubbles at Sparkling Saumur producer Gratien & Meyer’s headquarters in Saumur on Saturday 2nd July, 2016.
In the March edition of Societynews, Olivier Dupré, CEO of Gratien & Meyer in Saumur and Champagne Alfred Gratien in Epernay, mentioned in our interview with him that the company puts on a programme of summer events every year which are proving very popular.
Olivier generously offered to waive the entrance fee of 8€ for Wine Society members (take along a copy of Societynews or your List as proof of membership), in recognition of the long-standing relationship that exists between our two companies.
What more of a pleasant way to start your summer than with a glass of sparkling Saumur sipped slowly on Gratien & Meyer’s balcony overlooking the Saumur river, listening to some jazzy melodies from the exciting live acts set to perform?
The evening starts at 4pm and goes on until 9pm and this year’s programme looks as though it will be just as popular as previous years, with artists like the Rachel Ratsizafy Quartet, Three for Swing and the Patricia Ouvrard Quartet playing during the course of the evening.
• Rachel Ratsizafy is French of Madagascan heritage and her music is heavily influenced by the traditional Madagascan songs or ‘Kalo fahiny’ of her youth. She is supported by a talented backing band and guest vocalist Marc Thomas.
• Three for Swing are well-known among jazz lovers and were formed to revive the swing music made famous by the Nat King Cole trio. In order to do justice to such a jazz legend requires musicians with immense talent and personality, not to mention a singer with a voice like liquid gold!
• Patricia Ouvrard is a singer with an extraordinary talent for improvisation; she’s also that rare thing amongst female vocalists, a scat-singer. Supported by her trio of equally talented musicians, she will treat the audience to some jazz standards given a sensitive rendition by the purity of her voice.
If you like the sound of an evening of jazz and sparkling Saumur wines enjoyed on the terrace of our longest-standing suppliers, Gratien & Meyer, and you will be in the region next month, take a look at the event website for more details.
Saturday 2nd July 2016 from 4.00pm to 9pm
Caves Gratien & Meyer à Saumur.
Tarif 8€ per person, or free for Wine Society members
Gratien & Meyer
Route de Montsoreau
Tel. 02 41 83 13 32
Let’s hope they are persuaded to bring out a few stories for posterity, and for the enjoyment and benefit of those more recent recruits as well as all those who will remember those ‘old’ days of Wine Society bottlings, and when Chile was barely a twinkle in the British wine buyer’s eye!
One who remembers those early days well is Bernard Chéreau, supplier of Muscadet to The Society for nearly thirty years. On my recent visit to the Nantais, Bernard was recalling Sebastian’s first visit, to taste 1984 or 1985 he thought, a follow-up visit from Sebastian and Marcel Orford-Williams (who, coincidentally, shares Bernard’s birth year), and one from CEO of the time Edmund Penning-Rowsell.
Muscadet has ended up with a small but very good vintage 2012; indeed, one grower I spoke to recently claimed that it may be the best of the past 20 years, maybe as good as 1949 (presumably legendary?!).
A visit to the region comes highly recommended, even if you are only passing through en route to the south west or to Spain. If you can’t get there this year or next, look out for more news from this underrated region on Society Grapevine, in Society mailings, and elsewhere.
Jo Locke MW
Friends in France were indirectly responsible for my decision, back in the 80s, to join the wine trade. Showing a little interest opened the door to some wonderful learning experiences and enjoyable bottles.
Modest wines tended to be bought direct, or mail order, from the producer, or sometimes from travelling salesmen, and some were even home-bottled. They would then be cellared for a number of years until deemed ready for a family Sunday lunch or celebration.
Having a cellar seemed an essential part of life in rural France, including one half-dug into a cow pasture, with separate areas for a few bottles laid down as starter cellars for when each daughter set up home and would need their own (though in those days both girls usually added water to it!).
French friends have continued to serve such wines, often producing some real surprises, including on our latest whistle stop in Lyon, a 2002 AC Bordeaux, which had stood the course remarkably well, and a 2005 Vouvray Brut from a co-op. The latter, from a good, healthy vintage, was delicious, and was the result of a private standing order going back three generations.
All of which added to the enjoyment of a nicely matured bottle among friends. It is always safer to try before you buy from a source you do not already know and trust, but this latest experience was certainly a further reminder to me that you don’t have to spend a fortune to benefit from laying wines down for a few years.
Jo Locke MW
There?s a lot of good wine out there. Missing out on a great one is understandable ? particularly in the case of the Loire Valley?s wines, boasting as they do an extraordinary array of grapes and styles ? but none the less tragic for it.
Society buyer Joanna Locke MW?s latest efforts to bring members the cream of the Loire?s remarkably varied crop can be found in our current offer, and it has been heartening to see the UK wine press giving plaudits to several of the wines therein.
Grapevine readers may already have seen the praise given to Mourat?s wines; to ensure that no other gems slip under your radar, we include below an assortment of other Society Loire offerings to have been given favourable mentions. Please note: our current Loire offer closes on Sunday 20th May.
Jancis Robinson recommended a further four Loire wines (?VGV? and ?GV? meaning ?very good value? and ?good value? respectively):
Robert Sérol, Vieilles Vignes 2011 Côte Roannaise 16.5/20 Drink 2012-2013
Lively and lifted. Rather stylish label. Light but true and savoury. Quintessential French country wine made with great facility. Silky texture, great persistence. Troisgros house wine by the way. VGV 12% £7.95 The Wine Society
Frédéric Mabileau, Les Rouillères Chenin Blanc 2011 Anjou 17/20 Drink 2012-2016
Lovely pure, fresh, appley aromas. Lots of tension and terroir. Finishes dry. This wine has just so much energy and typicity. Great stuff. Whistle clean. GV 13% £10.95 The Wine Society
La Claux Delorme 2011 Valençay 16/20 Drink 2012-2013
Very fragrant and floral. Gentle and off dry. Nice texture. Firm spine. Long. Well constructed. Good value. 13% £8.95 The Wine Society
Huet, Le Haut-Lieu Sec 2010 Vouvray 16+/20 Drink 2014-2018
Deeper flavoured than the Chenin des Rouillères 2011. With more honey and more wet wool. Lots to get your teeth into but awfully young for the moment. 12.5% £14.95 The Wine Society
Anthony Rose (The Independent) included a nod for the following wine in his article about The Wine Society:
?Frédéric Mabileau’s 2011 Chenin des Rouillères Anjou Blanc, £10.95, is a terrific expression of Loire Valley chenin blanc combining vivid appley freshness with a mineral-dry finish.?
Last but not least, The Wine Gang, made up of some of the best palates in the UK wine press, reviewed a ?budget selection? of Society wines. The Gang gave a timely reminder of the virtues of Muscadet, recommending a Society favourite in the process, as well as a relative newcomer to our range:
Domaine des Ratelles Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2010
Muscadet doesn’t get a very good press these days. In fact it doesn’t get much press at all and its grape variety, Melon de Bourgogne, gets even less, but a good Muscadet ? the antithesis of a showy wine ? is a useful thing for washing down simple fish, seafood and salads. This one, with its delicate salted-nut and zesty citrus flavours, is as brisk as a swim in the Serpentine but much less masochistic. £6.75 at The Wine Society
Domaine de la Semellerie Chinon 2010
Youthful Loire Cabernet Franc with the signature sweet whiff of potato peelings, juicy raspberry and blackberry fruit and touches of spice, leather and liquorice. Light tannins and a nip of acidity complete the medium-bodied picture. £8.50 at The Wine Society
A bottle without a back label is rare these days, though it is still the case that the more you spend the less you seem to get!
Less consistent, however, is the quality of the copy. The French are often guilty of adding insult to injury when they translate their typically florid marketing copy into English verbatim.
Not so Madame Evelyne de Pontbriand, owner of Domaine du Closel in Savennières, and current, eloquent Président of the Savennières producers’ association. Her command of English is impeccable, as members who attended our Loire tasting in London earlier this year will have discovered. She also has a teasing smile and definite twinkle in her eye (ditto!), so we should not have been surprised to discover her delightful back label, which appears on the 2009 Savennières, Domaine du Closel, and which reads as follows:
“Wine for conversation. A dry and fruity chenin blanc expressing a hill of schist over the Loire valley. Harvested at the end of September, the grapes were golden yellow. After a slow natural fermentation and 10 months of elevage in our old cellar, this wine shows charm and insolence, minerality and elegance of our world heritage landscape, the light of the Loire valley, my love for nature. Drinking Savennières is an art de vivre: Pour it in a beautiful glass, crisp music on, have a friend join you, smell the aromas of white flowers, citrus and honey, take a sip: the palate is round, surprising, slightly smoky. The fruitiness and freshness of this wine will give you an immediate and unique pleasure. You will have an interesting conversation and soon feel hungry. Get some shrimps, grill some fish, steam asparagus in the spring…or be yourself, creative, eccentric and share your favourite pairing with me. Evelyne de Pontbriand.”
I should admit that the back label was brought to my attention by my buying colleague, Mark Buckenham, who was prompted to open a bottle by a member who had been unhappy with his. We tasted the wine over a couple of days and agreed there was nothing to worry about. Savennières is serious (one might even say difficult) wine, and this one, admirably certified organic, benefits from decanting to reveal its full complexity and character.
As far as back labels are concerned, feel free to share with us your best, or worst, examples; we already have something of a rogues gallery here at Stevenage!
Joanna Locke MW
It was a pleasure to visit Loire producers recently with my Tastings and Events colleague, Ewan Murray, in the company of 48 members, partners and guests. Whilst the weather was not very kind to us, especially on the Saturday evening, our chosen Loire representatives certainly were. We were based in Tours, allowing us to go both east and west to find some great wines with fascinating and most hospitable growers.
Highlights for me included the personal introduction to the beautiful gardens at the Château de Valmer (Vouvray), courtesy of Alpha Loire
Domaines – one to go back to when the sun is shining; getting to know young winemaker Benjamin Joliveau a littlebetter at Domaine Huet, also in Vouvray; my first visit to Gratien & Meyer in Saumur, whose bubbles make them buyer Marcel Orford Williams’ patch rather than mine, though I drive past their imposing site near Saumur on a regular basis.
Did you know that 15 to 25 base wines are used to build each Gratien & Meyer cuvée? They produce c. 3 million bottles a year, matured in three miles of man-made chambers dug into the tuffeau. What struck me most, though, was that some in our party were not aware that Gratien & Meyer (Saumur) and Champagne Alfred Gratien (suppliers to The Society for over 100 years) are part of the same company. Which is just one reason why Gratien & Meyer produce such good fizz!
If you are passing later this month or next (Fridays 29th July, and 5,12,19 & 26 August) you could try out one of their “Jazz-Bulles” (Jazz & Fizz) evenings, from 7.00 – 9.00pm, €5 per head, including a couple of glasses for tasting.
We packed three wine tastings, two cellar tours, two lunches and a dinner into our 34 hours – what would your top tips be while touring in the Loire valley?
Joanna Locke MW