Grapevine Archive for Montreuil
Our French colleagues at The Society’s showroom in Montreuil-sur-Mer tell us that as well as advising on wine, they are also frequently asked by our members for recommendations of places to visit in the area.
So, as the holiday season starts to hot up, we asked Marc, Clément and Julien to pick their top tips for visitors to the town…
…oh and while they were at it, we also asked them to name their current favourite bottle!
One thing that I always think should be on everyone’s ‘to do’ list is a trip to the unmissable and almost mythical Caseus cheese shop. As well as local specialities, you can find just about any French cheese for sale here.
If you are looking for a stop for afternoon tea, in my opinion you can’t beat Salon Rodière – the patisserie are amazing, but they also do really good cooked meals too.
Fromagerie Caseus: 28 place du Général de Gaulle 62170 Montreuil-sur-Mer
Salon Rodière: 81, rue Pierre Ledent, 62170, Montreuil-sur-Mer
Marc’s vin du jour
MacManis Family Petite Sirah
I would recommend a meal in one of the most picturesque streets in Montreuil, Rue du Clape en Bas, at the small, family-run Le Pot du Clape where you’ll get generous meals cooked over an authentic wood-fired oven.
Le pot du Clape: rue du Clape en Bas, 62170 Montreuil-sur-Mer.
Closed on Mondays.Service from 11am to 10pm.
Tel: +33 (0)3 21 05 46 35
Clément’s vin du jour
Dourthe No 1 Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux
Why not take a little walk (or bike ride – electric mountain bikes available for hire in Montreuil) around the base of the ramparts, following in the footsteps of Victor Hugo when he was looking for inspiration for his novel Les Misérables? This stroll could also be lengthened by a tour of the marshes around La Madeleine-sous-Montreuil where our local hero, chef Alexandre Gauthier has his roots and digs around for his culinary inspiration. Between the town, river and marshes, discover a page of history set in greenery (see below).
Julien’s vin du jour
Castillo de Viña Crianza, Rioja 2012 which would go perfectly with a Spanish tapas starter followed by marinated and barbecued spare ribs.
For more information on visiting Montreuil, visit our website.
Join us in Montreuil
In May and July, we’ll be hosting two special dining events with Gault et Millau’s Chef of the Year, Alexandre Gauthier, offering the perfect opportunity to visit. More information.
Members who attended The Society’s lunch at Montreuil on 5th September were also guests of the local history group – Memoires de Conflits en Montreuillois. Together with French and British residents, the visitors were treated to a fascinating presentation on the battle of Agincourt by Dr Rowena Archer of Oxford University. Society member Terry Hughes shares a little of the presentation below, as well as details for the next talk, which we hope you enjoy reading.
Drawing on the wealth of records on both sides of the Channel, Dr Archer gave an account of how the battle was fought six hundred years ago (October 25th 1415) at Azincourt, a short drive from Montreuil.
Perhaps bearing in mind the Franco-British composition of the audience, Dr Archer dispelled some of the myths surrounding a battle that has become such a hallowed part of British history celebrated by Shakespeare’s play and Sir Laurence Olivier’s classic film. She described Henry’s rather hapless campaign before his epic confrontation with the huge French army at Azincourt.
Setting out an array of medieval weapons, Dr Archer told the story of what really happened when the armies faced each other. These weapons illustrated how Henry V used the deadly effect of archery to wreak havoc on the French nobility as they advanced on a narrow front.
Yet, military operations were not Dr Archer’s only theme. The human side of the story was revealed by details in the muster rolls of Henry’s army that recorded the names, skills and origins of the king’s individual soldiers.
More poignant, however, was the record discovered by Dr Archer of the advice written by a French noblewoman to help the young widows of fallen warriors. Dr Archer is carrying out further research on the experience of women in the aftermath of Agincourt.
M Bruno Bethouart, the French Co- President of the Memoires des Conflits en Montreuillois thanked Dr Archer for her excellent presentation and looked forward to welcoming Wine Society visitors to future events. Their British Co-President, Siobhan Stevens, is a resident of Montreuil and welcomes UK members.
The next presentation will be on 11 November. The speaker will be Charles Goodson-Wickes on the experience of his great grandfather, Sir Frank Fox , who was a staff officer at Field Marshal Haig’s GHQ in Montreuil during the First World War.
As you may already be aware, 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of The Wine Society’s move from London to Stevenage.
To mark this occasion, The Society is hosting an anniversary fair on the 13th June, displaying 50 of the wines which best represent the Society of 2015.
However, the following Saturday, on June 20th, something much more gruelling will be undertaken by seven members of staff.
It all began with a casual off the cuff remark – ‘why don’t we cycle to Montreuil to mark the occasion?’ – between a couple of members of The Society’s newly formed cycling club in the summer of 2014.
This spawned into a handful of eager, and some not so eager, cyclists from throughout The Society to rise to the challenge of cycling from The Society’s UK Showroom in Hertfordshire, to The Society’s French Showroom in Montreuil.
The team consists of a handful of experienced, and some not so experienced, cyclists from throughout the ranks of The Society’s staff. The Tastings Team is represented by Simon Mason, Matthew Horsley and Jon Granger; Member Services by Freddy Bulmer, Ben Briffett and me; and the warehouse by Thom Cleary.
The true nature of the ride only really hit home when the route was mapped out, totalling a staggering 145 miles. The idea to complete the distance in a day naturally shook a few of the group who are a little newer to cycling; however, with a few training rides, the wheels are in motion for the longest bicycle ride that any of us have undertaken in a day.
Although some long distance knowledge is on our side, the route through rural Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent and northern France will be a challenge for even the mentally and physically strongest among us!
So with tyres pumped solid, training plans plotted, and weekends lost to peddling through rain and shine, we’ll be ready to go on the day of the ride.
All of that said, the hardest part of preparation is getting seven oenophiles to agree on what to drink in celebration at the end!
The ride itself is a celebration of 50 years of The Society’s home in Stevenage, but we will be also raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support. Should you wish to donate, you can do so via this link.
If you are travelling to or from France on holiday, or just coming for the day or weekend, these relaxed, informal buffets offer the chance to take a break, meet fellow Wine Society members, enjoy some local cooking and taste a range of 20 or so wines.
The next lunch date, Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis, is on Saturday 28th June, offering a selection of local dishes alongside wines chosen specially to complement these. Ch’ti is the Picardy dialect and the nickname for its inhabitants, whose culinary specialities include the delicious tarte au Maroilles made from the cheese of the same name, the simple but delectable tarte au sucre and the town’s own excellent cheese, Le Pavé Montreuillois. The lunch and walk-around tasting start at 11am and will go on until around 2.30pm, tickets at £45 per head are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Contact Member Services or buy tickets on our website.There’s plenty to see and do in Montreuil itself and the surrounding area, making this a good destination in its own right for a short break or long-weekend. Angela Bird’s guidebook Northern France: What to do and see within 90 minutes of Calais is a good source of inspiration and insider knowledge. For those planning a trip the coming weeks, Angela has provided details of some events that may be of interest.
Things to do in and around Montreuil-sur-Mer
18th May & 15th June, 2014
Aux Marches Du Palais
A meet of collectors’ and classic cars, organised by the Le Touquet Automobiles de Collection club, featuring around 100 vehicles from Britain, Germany, Italy and France.
Palais des Congrès car park, Le Touquet. Information from Le Touquet tourist office, Palais des Congrès, Place de l’Hermitage, Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, 16km NW of Montreuil (tel: 03 21 06 72 00).
24th-25th May, 2014
Journées Doullennaises des Jardins d’Agrément
Delightful garden show, with stands laid out inside the town’s ancient citadel. Bigger every year, it attracts around 60 exhibitors from France and England alike. Special focus this year on “Les plantes et la mémoire”.
Doullens, 28km N of Amiens, 64km SE of Montreuil (tel: 06 07 27 68 79).
Admission 6€, under-15s free.
30th May-8th June, 2014
A series of 16 classical concerts and an opera given in a variety of venues located between the Canche and Authie rivers. Performances will be held at Berck, Montreuil, Le Touquet and villages around, and include open rehearsals, music related to food or to dance, and opportunities for audiences to mingle informally with performers.
Festival office, 4 Rue de la Rivière, 62180 Tigny-Noyelles (tel: 06 03 74 36 70).
Times and admission charges vary.
1st June, 2014
Balade Aux Jardins
Their proud owners give the public a chance to ogle some cherished American cars in the centre of Montreuil, before they set off for a leisurely drive around the flowery villages of the Montreuil area.
Place du Général de Gaulle, Montreuil (tel: 06 08 63 49 56).
7-9th June, 2014
Week-end ‘The Rose’
A couple of days of flower-themed activities and entertainment, with an exhibition of painting on porcelain; the creation of a new garden by the municipal gardeners; a sale of plants and roses; and, on Saturday (3.30pm), stilt-walkers striding through the streets.
Place de la Concorde, Hardelot; information from Hardelot tourist office (tel: 03 21 83 51 02).
15th June-15th September, 2014
La Cathédrale en Couleurs
This fantastic summer illumination show brings to life the wonderfully-carved medieval sculptures on the west front of Amiens cathedral. Traces of paint that originally embellished the stone statues were discovered during restoration. Today for an hour or so on summer evenings they are “repainted” thanks to some amazing lighting technology.
Daily: June 10.45pm; July 10.30pm; Aug 10pm; Sept 9.45pm.
Cathedral west front, off Rue Flatters, Amiens, 95km SE of Montreuil (tel: 03 22 71 60 50)
If you wish to order wines for collection, the showroom is open from 10.00am to 6.00pm. Just turn up and order from the 200 or so wines held in stock, or telephone through your pre-orders of unmixed dozens to Member Services on 01438 740222.
Wines collected from Montreuil benefit from a guaranteed saving of at least £20 per dozen, with an extra €3 per dozen for pre-ordered wines. Please ensure that you allow plenty of time for your pre-ordered wines to be prepared for you. You can find out more via our website.
The weekend before last saw an intrepid band of Wine Society members make their way over to Montreuil-Sur-Mer for an evening of Provencal food and wine, and a son et lumière (‘sound and light’) rendition of Les Misérables courtesy of the local townspeople.
Warnings of severe thunderstorms did not deter us – we came prepared with a large bag of red plastic ponchos, which were to be used in case of emergency – but in the event, thankfully, they did not need to be deployed.
Our first stop was Froggy’s Tavern, which ranks among my personal favourite restaurants in Montreuil. Simple and tasty, their winning formula revolves around a choice of rotisserie meat, accompanied by a bowl of sautéed potatoes and a bowl of green salad.
In my humble opinion this is the kind of food the French do so well (although don’t get me wrong, I love the whole fine-dining experience as well!).
A glass of white, Cassis Clos Val Bruyére Château Barbanau, 2011 was taken outside in the sunshine, before we made our way indoors for a Provencal-inspired four-course meal complete with wines from the area. The pissaladière tomates/anchois was the perfect foil to the Château de Galoupet Cru Classé Rosé, and on my table at least, the Les Terraces, Domaine Richeaume, 2006 was an excellent accompaniment to the lamb main course. Unusually for the area, this particular red is 100% syrah, and whilst obviously still very young, it had a lovely concentration of fruit which enabled it to stand up to the thyme and olives, and the ratatouille which accompanied the dish.
Despite decanting, the Bandol, Domaine Tempier, 2010 a blend of mourvèdre, grenache, carignan and cinsault was still a little closed, though for those who thought to save it for the cheese course, it worked very well. As did the Château Vignelaure, 2006, a cabernet-dominated blend from what is said to be the most famous wine-producing estate of Provence.
By the time we had got to the dessert – a strawberry and basil soup with olive oil ice cream – we had started to run out of options for a Provencal sweet wine. We pushed the boundaries slightly and showed the sparkling Blanquette de Limoux, Méthode Ancestrale from Antech. One might say in our defence that Carcasson is only a few hours away from Provence (with the wind in your favour…). However, in spite of the fact that it wasn’t strictly kosher in terms of where it came from, it did work with the combination of flavours in the dessert.
Dinner concluded promptly to give everyone a chance to stroll along the ramparts to watch the Les Misérables spectacle.
Victor Hugo visited Montreuil in the summer of 1837. His visit only lasted a couple of hours, but it was long enough for him to meet a waitress called Cosette and witness the rescue of a man pinned under a runaway cart, events which made a deep impression upon him and which later made an appearance in his novel, Les Misérables.
Whilst initially disappointed that Hugh Jackman wasn’t going to make an appearance and that there was no singing to be heard, I must say that the Montreuil-Sur-Mer rendition of Les Misérables was truly impressive! The choreography was a feat in itself, especially when one considers that all 600 roles were reprised by the locals. From schoolchildren to the elderly, they put on their costumes and mimed their way through 90 minutes of sheer spectacle – from a prison chain-gang being marched across the streets of Paris to a bloody battle with horses galloping across the set. The evening culminating in an impressive firework display which must have been visible for miles around.
So Les Mis à la Montreuil-sur-Mer? It’s not Hollywood, but it’s no less the worse for that.
Tastings & Events Co-ordinator
The dinners organised by our tastings and events team have played a core role in this success and this year, to celebrate, we have organised a number of special Tour de France wine dinners and members purchasing from our Montreuil showroom before the end of May will have an opportunity to win tickets to one of them.
Over the years we have hosted many successful events in France, ranging from themed dinners to golf tournaments, treasure hunts, chocolate tastings and son-et-lumière performances. Not only have they proved highly popular but members and staff alike have often returned with many a good tale to tell. Some of these are recounted in the April edition of Societynews and we would love to hear more from members about their experiences of visiting The Society in France, whether attending an event or not. We would especially like to see photos or video clips of your visit to France.
Perhaps you have a particular restaurant or hotel that you would like to tell other members about? Have you been to any memorable places of interest in the surrounding area?
Please add your comments to this blog post or send in your contributions to the news editor at email@example.com or at our usual address.
There will be prizes of bottles of Champagne for the best entries and we may use photos on the covers of our French wine lists.
We look forward to hearing from you.
20 years ago The Wine Society was a pioneer, opening a French collection point for its members on the very day that the EU relaxed its trade barriers.We were the first wine merchant to do so. The night before had seen the launch party, a dinner-dance at the Grand Hôtel in Le Touquet. It was attended by 290 members and their guests, along with members of staff and committee, our new French colleagues, some long-standing suppliers and local dignitaries, including the mayor of Hesdin (whose rather lengthy speech in French is still being talked about).
That we opened such a facility and so promptly was down to the drive and vision of the then managing director, Dr Barry Sutton, who had the revolutionary idea to allow members to have access to their wines at lower French duty rates. Barry sadly passed away last summer, but as a lifelong Europhile and one who enjoyed life, he would have delighted in the success of his project. Certainly, he would have thoroughly enjoyed the celebratory dinner held last weekend to mark the 20th anniversary of its launch, and glasses were raised in his honour.
2012 was a record year for our French operation despite a rather uncertain economic backdrop. Many people have played an important part in the success of Hesdin and now Montreuil over the years and some of those key players were present at Saturday’s celebration. In true pioneering spirit, our members, quite a few of whom had been at the inaugural dinner, had to battle against the elements to get there. But one person who deserves special mention for being instrumental in the success of the business is Véronique Chaumetou.
Véronique, who now runs the French operation on our behalf was there that first morning after the dinner in 1993. Members told me how impressed they were by the highly organised paperwork and Véronique’s friendliness and efficiency. The story goes that Véronique sat at her desk outside the Ryssen Distillery in Hesdin, our collection point in the early days, with the temperature at a perishing -7?C. She was there from 8am, ready to help members with their wine. By 1pm she could not move and had to be picked up, chair and all, and carried inside to thaw out. It took three hours!Over the years, the tastings and events team has played a key role in organising and hosting fun events for members to attend in and around Hesdin and Montreuil. Team Leader Ewan Murray can count no fewer than 80 dinners during his time at the helm. He will soon move to a new role, managing The Society’s public relations full time, and, making one of his last presentations to members, he talked of the ‘Dunkirk spirit’ that they had often displayed when things ‘hadn’t quite gone to plan.’
Who would have thought that the eruption of a volcano in Iceland would have an effect on a Wine Society dinner? When the coach to take diners to Les Trois Tonneaux didn’t turn up, members rallied, ferrying everyone to the event in their own cars. Nobody had thought to inform us that the government had requisitioned all coaches to go to the airports and help repatriate stranded air travellers.
It is hard to avoid talk of Les Misérables at the moment, but the brave members who endured to the bitter end the live outdoor performance of Les Mis during Montreuil’s annual son et lumière under the biggest downpour on record, may have different reasons to remember it!
Janet Wynne Evans, an early trailblazer, remembers one of the first events, held in Hesdin town hall. ‘We had just uncorked the wines and the room was rather warm, so we opened the windows to let in some air. Instead, a bouquet of rancid oil blew in as Chez Christine, the local chip wagon, set up shop in the street below. In all my days of hosting tastings in Hesdin it never seemed to move.’What has always remained constant, reliable and enjoyable is the wine. Representing two such constants at last Saturday’s event were David Ling of Hugel & Fils in Alsace and Nicolas Jaeger, fourth-generation cellarmaster at Alfred Gratien, suppliers of The Society’s Champagne since 1906. David had been at the launch dinner and noted that he had been given the same room at the hotel! Nicolas, too young to have been there 20 years ago, promised members that he was committed to maintaining the quality of our house Champagne and to supplying us with celebratory bottles for many years to come.
So here’s to the next 20 years…
This was the first time that we’d been back to Le Clos des Capucins since husband and wife team Guillaume and Isabelle Duvivier had taken it on so we were quite intrigued to see what it would be like.
The theme of the night was the wines of Burgundy, and so the menu was themed accordingly. As there isn’t much choice as to grape variety (it’s really either chardonnay or pinot noir with this one), we decided to try and show wines from as many of the communes north to south as was possible within the framework of the dinner.
It being a dreary night – the best kind of night to have a nice dinner on as it gives you something to smile about – we couldn’t take our aperitif outside as we have done before, so everyone took their glass of Chablis seated at their tables, giving them a chance to meet their dining partners for the evening. Realising that the room was quite small and that the noise levels over the dinner would inevitably rise, I decided to talk about all the wines in one fell swoop, so whilst everyone sipped I talked about the different communes and the wines we would be tasting that evening – it was then the challenge of the evening to remember the salient facts for each wine as it came round.
At the end of the evening as always we took a vote for the favourite wine of the evening. The Volnay was the hands down winner: still relatively youthful despite its age, it was rich and elegantly fruity, and made the perfect accompaniment to the Epoisses. A cheese whose bark is definitely worse than its bite, (or in this case, its smell is of old socks), but it tastes sweet, mellow and quite frankly divine!
The food was delicious, and the wines showed really well and seemed to work in harmony with each dish. The full list of what was eaten and drank is here.Aperitif & amuse-bouche
Oriental crayfish brochette
Chablis, Premier Cru Montmains, Domaine William Fèvre, 2006
Quail salad with truffle
Macon Vergisson, Joseph Burrier, 2009
Puligny Montrachet, Premier Cru Les Referts, Etienne Sauzet, 2008
(The 2007 is currently available here)
Fillet of veal with escargot aioli
Nuits St Georges, Premier Cru Les Pruliers, Jean Grivot, 2001
Chocolat fantasy with marc de Bourgogne sorbet
Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, Domaine des Bernadins, 2009
Tastings & Events Co-ordinator
If you are travelling via The Wine Society’s French Showroom in Montreuil and enjoy good seafood, Etaples would make a great detour. We first discovered it following a fruitless search for a good beach on that stretch of coast (all recommendations for one in striking distance of Montreuil gratefully received!).
Lunch was our next priority and the Michelin came up trumps once again, tempting us with the restaurant Aux Pêcheurs d’Etaples, on Quai Canche, which it recommends for its perfectly fresh seafood. We were only to be disappointed once again, when, arriving with only 10 minutes of service remaining, we were greeted with a Gallic shrug and rather unapologetic “Non”, reminiscent of the old Barclaycard ads. We have not yet made time to try again.
However, as the Michelin points out, the restaurant sits above a large and mouthwatering poissonnerie. We were like children walking into a sweetshop. It looked wonderful, and smelt of the sea, offering almost as much cooked and prepared fish and shellfish as that fresh off the boat.
On our last trip home, in possession of fresh garlic but little else, we treated ourselves to fresh Gambas (with, helpfully, a fresh lemon. We could have bought a tub of their garlic mayonnaise too) and just a few hours later, arrived home to fire up the barbecue for our feast. A treat, even if Tesco’s last, rather limp pot of parsley did not really live up to the occasion. The poissonnerie, which is, surprisingly, open on Mondays, also sells a few wines, but hopefully members won’t need those.
We spotted a couple of smaller poissonneries on the same drag, which may be as good, and possibly cheaper, but queues were shorter and the big one was frequented by locals as well as visitors. Sadly, we have still not had time to find a Boulangerie nearby, but this is France; I feel sure there must be at least one good one nearby.
Joanna Locke MW
Montreuil-sur-Mer is well-known to members of The Wine Society who have ventured across the Channel to pick up their favourite wines at favourable French rates of duty and discovered the many delights of this atmospheric walled town.
What is far less known is that Montreuil was home to the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the largest army Britain ever put into the field – the British Expeditionary Force – from 1916 to 1919. Montreuil was a key strategic stronghold in the 11th and 12th centuries, and its site on a hill surrounded by impressive ramparts still played a role in its fortunes right up to the middle of the 20th century. The part played by Montreuil in The Great War is now celebrated with a permanent exhibition in the blockhouses of the Citadel. Members at our event on Saturday 18th June will have the chance to visit as part of the ‘treasure hunt’ during the afternoon.