Loire Valley, day 2

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm

We had a relatively mellow day. We left the hotel at 10 am for Brissac, visited the Chateau there. It started raining just before we left the hotel, which is typical for this area. Samur is only about 150 miles from the ocean, and sees about __ inches of rain a year. One thing that stood out on our drive from Samur to Brissac was the relative lack of vines along the sides of the road. When you’re driving through the southern rhone, there are vines planted just about everywhere you can see, but around here we saw relatively few vines, a few groves of apple trees, and quite a bit of prepared farm land, apparently waiting to be planted with crops. After some inquiry I found out that the reason we hadn’t seen a whole lot of vines was that we had been driving just around the outer edge of the appellation. This area is known as the garden of France, owing to the ample precipitation and low elevation. It’s actually surprisingly high in latitude, which I didn’t realize, but the low elevation means a mild climate, a fairly long growing season, and very long days in the summertime.

We had our tasting and our lunch at the Chateau de Brissac, which is apparently the tallest castle in France. A link to some further info about it will be here as soon as I find it. And here are some pictures.

So, we tasted wines from 4 wineries in the Anjou area.

I started with Domaine des Hautes Sanziers. I’m not going to put in my full tasting notes at this point because I don’t know if everybody wants to actually read through all of them, so for the time being I’m just going to put some basic info about the wines. The Loire is actually pretty famous for sparkling wine, and this producer makes one white and one red sparkling. The white is about 60-ish percent Chenin Blanc, 35-ish percent Cabernet Franc (which goes straight into a press after harvest to separate the white juice from the red skins), and the remainder Chardonnay. It showed a very unique nutty, creamy aromatic character, which I can only assume comes from the Cab Franc. On the palate, however, it was very bright green apple, and great acidity.

They also make a sparkling red from 100% Cabernet Franc, which is very cool, with a lot of bright raspberry fruit, and chalky minerality, but it’s got a fair bit of residual sugar, and I don’t know exactly how I would sell it.

Their Samur Blanc 2009 smelled very pretty, like warm honey, and had great richness in the mid-palate, and nice acidity. The 2010, which is not yet bottled, showed a lot more green bean character, and actually reminded me of Gruner Veltliner. I preferred the 2009.

The Samur Rouge 2009 and 2010 I really liked. They were structured, but not overwhelming, varietally correct, but with nice fruit balance, and overall very approachable.

Domaine les Grandes Vignes is one we’ve sold before in the shop. They farm 55 hectares, and will be certified biodynamic as of the 2010 vintage. Their two Anjou reds were both very rustic, but balanced. The white has the kind of semi-oxidative nose that reminds me of some of the wines of Nicholas Joly, making it somewhat esoteric, but still very cool. I learned something new about Anjou Rosé; apparently there is a minimum for residual sugar, this one is just above the legal limit, at 10 grams per litre.

Domaine des Rochelles makes 3 reds, all of which were quite good. The Anjou Villages Brissac “Les Millerets” is the only one that spends any time in wood, spending 1 year in a mix of 1, 2, and 3 year old barrels. I wasn’t as big a fan of the white.

Chateau de Surondes is a producer from Quart de Chaume, which is further west. The winemaker Guillaume Mordaq makes a dry sauvignon blanc, which has an amazingly unique nose owing to the fact that, like his sweeter Quart de Chaume, some of the grapes are infected with botrytis. It is fermented completely dry however, making it one of the most unique Sauvignon Blancs I’ve ever tasted. I also got to taste 2004, 2003, and 1997 Quart de Chaume, all of which were excellent. Quart de Chaume wines can be made either from late harvest grapes or botryitis grapes, or a combination of the two, but there will soon be a Grand Cru status available for wines that are made from 100% botrytis grapes.

For dinner we had Muscadet and oysters (and some other stuff). Muscadet is the farthest west appellation in the Loire, centered around the town of Nantes, and produces only white wine. The wines are from Domaine de Vinet, consisting of 50 hectares and making wines under 3 labels: Domaine de la Quilla, Domaine Saint Martin, and Clos de la Houssaie. They are all from the sub-appellation Muscadet Sevre et Maine, they all spend 9-12 months on their lees (the legal minimum in order to be labeled Sur lee is 6 months) and the were all quite good, though the Domaine de la Quilla was my favorite.

After dinner we went our for beers, and I ended up in my first ever French Discotheque, which was pretty legendary, though that may have to be a story that doesn’t go on the internet.

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