Grapevine Archive for Vouvray
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
Quick visit to Domaine Huet at Vouvray in the Loire valley with Sebastian Payne MW.We’d just come from Saumur-Champigny and were pleased to be offered a little lunch of local produce – rillettes, rillons, sweet boudin and a bowl of tomatoes for the one of our 5 a day that we were likely to get. Before, during and afterwards, Noel Pinguet, who many members will know from his Society tastings in the UK and at the Domaine (48 members are due to visit in a fortnight’s time), showed us his wines.
As members know, the vineyards of Vouvray are pretty special in that they can make a vin sec, a demi-sec and a vin moelleux from same vineyards, not to mention the sparkling. Given this diversity, perhaps we should offer a tasting case: maybe 2 bottles of sec and demi-sec, one each moelleux and sparkling? What do members think?
Sebastian asked Noel to talk a little about his vineyards being biodynamic. He described how the natural way of cultivating vines back in the 1920s reminded him that it is possible to make great wine without too much intervention. With a scientific background, one can understand his initial scepticism, but he’s been following the biodynamic now for some years, and while he doesn’t know why it works, he knows that it does! He describes himself as “a practising non believer in biodynamics”.
After the biodynamics have had their influence in the vineyard, we come to the most important part of winemaking according to Noel – the pressing. Dependant on the vintage, quite different amounts of time are required – 20 minutes only in 2004 and 4 hours in 2003, all very gentle. After the pressing, as Noel says, “the less we touch the better” but we are sure he does actually work all the year through.
Confirming the quality over the decades, Noel treated us to a couple of unlabelled bottles from his museum bin. These sensationally well-preserved bottles are re-corked every 30 years or so, and it was a privilege to taste both a very light and balanced 1959 and a richer, darker 1921 with definite burnt caramel tones. These vintages are, according to him, among the greatest of the century for Vouvray: others include 1947 and 1989 (which will be like the 1921 with similar age – if only any of us were around to appreciate it).
As we left and thanked him for his visit he mentioned that he had many members of The Society visiting him and he always welcomes them with a special tour effort so do make the detour to Vouvray when you can.