on Jun 13, 2013
by Majestic Commercial
Last week, myself and three of my colleagues were lucky enough to head off to the Loire Valley for three days of exploration.
We met at City Airport and were soon bubbling with excitement to be heading off to one of the few wine regions where none of us had previously visited. When we touched down in France we were swiftly whisked off to our hotel in the centre of Nantes and left to our own devices for the evening. After a typically local dinner of escargots, steak tartare and crème brulee (and some fantastic wine) at the renowned la Cigale restaurant we decided to retire to bed, keen to be fresh for what the next few days promised to offer.
We were greeted in the morning by Antoine from Les Grands Chais de France from Nantes and taken to Château du Cleray in Vallet, approximately 30km south east of Nantes, where we met with Loire Winemaker Serge. Serge gave us a tour of the vineyard explaining how the region is approximately 2 weeks behind where they were this time last year in terms of flowering on the vines, but were hoping for the glorious sunshine that we were experiencing there to continue so that by the time they were due to harvest they had caught up these two weeks.
Following a tour of the idyllic grounds and the winery, complete with underground concrete vats (as well as shiny stainless steel temperature controlled ones) it was time to get down to business and taste the wines which make Serge such a local celebrity. The Chateau du Cleray Muscadet 2012 was a real show stopper and showed a much more tropical nose and palate to the 2011.
After lunch which was lovingly prepared by the resident cook at Chateau du Clerey we headed off to the production site of “le Cheteau” for a tour of their winemaking equipment, before heading back to Nantes with some spare time to enjoy the city in the warm evening sun.
A delicious meal with Antoine from les Grands Chais de France followed, at Brasserie Felix overlooking the Loire on the Ile de Nantes involving platters of giant whelks and clams washed down nicely with Cremant de Loire.
The next day we were up bright and early to head off to another of Les Grands Chais de France’s flagship sites. Courtesy of some rather poor map reading skills by myself, we finally ended up at Château des Fesles, situated approximately 90km due East of Nantes near the village of Thouarcé at about 11 o’clock.
We were met here by their passionate winemaker Giles Bigot who took the time to show us around his vineyards and told us all about the challenges they are facing by the poor weather so far this year but how optimistic he is that the weather will continue to improve and they will be back on track. They seem particularly determined after 2012 which proved that although it was a small vintage it was of incredibly high quality.
Following the tour of the vineyard and grounds we were invited into their beautifully immaculate cellar to have a demonstration of Giles performing “le batonnage” which involves the stirring up of the lees in his Chenin Blanc which imparts a richer, fuller flavour into the wine. We were also treated to a vertical tasting of the beautifully honeyed Chateau de Fesles Bonnezeaux (an AOC wine from the Coteaux du Layon) from vintages 1993, 2000, 2007 and 2010.
Following a delicious lunch including a local goat’s cheese which paired perfectly with the Pouilly Fume we tried earlier we were whisked off to the next stop on our tour.
Arriving at Bouvet-Ladubay in Saumur (approximately 35km east of Thouarcé) we were struck by the beauty of the old site which is beautifully carved into the Truffeau stone, which was in stark contrast to their ultra-modern new production site, fondly named “Full metal” where, thanks to their high-tech machinery, they are now able to produce nearly 6 million bottles of wine a year.
Currently run by the fourth generation of the Monmousseau family, the winery has a real family feel to it and we were treated to a tasting of some of the wines in the Bouvet portfolio with Juliette Monmousseau. The Saumur brut and rose were excellent and the demi sec sparkling red wine was also surprisingly delicious but perhaps the most intriguing is their collaboration with actor and neighbour Gerard Depardieu “Taille Princesse” which is a drier than Brut style of wine made from Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay and named after Depardieu’s grandmother who was a gemstone cutter.
After the tasting we checked into our rooms in the privately owned and run guesthouse, Château Bouvet-Ladubay, which was contructed by Etienne Bouvet himself at the end of 19th century. The elaborate décor was a real hit with us, with the gold sparkly Jacuzzi being a real highlight!
Dinner with Juliette Monmousseau followed at the Brasserie du Port where we had the chance to taste even more wines from the Bouvet Ladubay range, which Denis (chef and proprietor of Brasserie du Port) matched effectively with different delicious courses.
The next morning saw us collected by wine brokers Philippa and Charles Sydney to enjoy our final leg to our trip. Charles and Philippa have spent the last 20 years working closely with leading wine makers across the length of the Loire and were the perfect hosts as they also acted as knowledgable tour guides on our journeys between the winemakers we visited with them.
The first stop was at Château de Targé where we met with the inspirational and passionate winemaker Edouard Pisani-Ferry who showed us his vineyards and the modern winery that he built having inherited the beautiful Chateau in the early 1970s. The views from the Château were breathtaking and a true delight to visit.
We followed our tour with a tasting with Edouard of his stunning Saumur-Champigny red wines (100% Cabernet Franc) including the delicious Quintessence de Targé, made from old vines and hand harvested.
We were then warmly welcomed back to La Grille in Chinon by Charles and Philippa to enjoy a tasting of the wines in the La Grille range from winegrowers along the Loire in the idyllic surroundings of their Chateau. They have teamed up with winegrowers from each of the main Loire regions to create a range of wines that are full or character and flavour which are of a consistently high standard and are always firm favourites at Majestic.
After a delicious lunch overlooking the vineyards of Chinon we were soon on our way back to the land of Muscadet (approximately 140km west of Chinon) with Charles and Phillipa.
Our final stop was at Gadais Père et Fils and our host was Christophe Gadais the fourth generation to take the helm of the Domaine. Christophe’s passion and enthusiasm for Muscadet was apparent in his tour of his vineyards and of his modern winery and bottling line.
The latest vintage of Muscadet Sur Lie was ready to be bottled the following day and before a more formal tasting, we were lucky enough to taste this straight from the tank. We were also lucky enough to taste some delicious different styles of Muscadet and Christophe treated us to a taste of the surpisingly youthful bottle from the 1995 vintage.
Following a thoroughly enjoyable few days in the Loire Valley we returned to the UK full of enthusiasm for the different styles and wines that such a beautiful part of France produces so elegantly and look forward to returning to the region where we were made so welcome.
on Mar 10, 2013
by Majestic Commercial
You’ve got to feel sorry for the guys at Chivas Brothers distillery in Dumbarton who accidentally flushed away thousands of litres of whisky during the night shift, instead of flushing away the waste water during the routine cleaning of equipment. The blunder was only discovered when sewage workers reported the distinct smell.
Via BBC News
on Aug 31, 2012
by Majestic Commercial
Gavi is a less well known wine that I think deserves more praise. Made from the Cortese grape and grown in the Piedmont region of Italy just outside the town of Liguria which is by the coast.
It has lovely aromas of grapefruit and apples then a lovely herbaceous character on the pallet with a hint of peach. It is typically fermented in stainless steel so maintains its fresh flavours and its light character.
One that I have really enjoyed recently is Gavi Monteiro that is in the main Majestic range.
Gavi is a great wine to have with all types of food but goes particularly well with fish or tomato based dishes. Next time you see it on a wine list I dare you to try it and not be impressed!
on Jul 11, 2012
by Majestic Commercial
Ch du Cleray Muscadet Sur Lie, Loire, France
Bought a packet of crisps recently? Counted how many crisps you get in each packet? Well don’t it’s depressing! Ten years ago these packets would’ve been filled to the brim and you’d be worried about your waistline but now you’re lucky if the bag is half full. And yet the packaging is the same size and the price is similar compared to a decade ago, so why are we getting less? Well, energy costs, distribution, raw materials, wages, inflation all continue to rise but companies know that customers aren’t going to spend big money on a bag of crisps, so reducing the amount of crisps you get in each packet will keep the price down and appear good value. It’s the same story with a Yatzee board game for example, we used to get a felt board for our money but now we get a plastic one that’s cheaper to make, but it just isn’t the same.
You may think that this couldn’t happen with wine due to the fact that you will always need the same amount of grapes to make a bottle, but you’d be wrong. All you need to do is grow more grapes on each vine or plant more vines in the field and hey presto you’ve got more grapes to produce more wines. This all sounds fantastic and economical but there is one massive draw back and that is ‘Quality’. More grapes on a vine could lead to less concentration of fruit which means less quality in the bottle for you and me. This is a tactic that some wineries may use in order to achieve a particular price point but gladly in the wine trade this is the exception rather than the rule.
If you’re a winemaker who’s family have dedicated there lives to producing high standards of wine, are you going to allow the economic pressures to compromise on quality, the answer is no. Sure, value for money is paramount but so is, reputation, quality, heritage and dedication. A winemaker who shares this view perhaps more than most is Pierre Jean Sauvion, Head Winemaker at Ch du Cleray in Muscadet, in the heart of the Loire Valley. Pierre is the fourth generation in his family to oversee things at this fabulous estate and recently a few of us were given the opportunity to visit his vineyard. Pierre’s ethos is to create wines that symbolise freshness and pure fruit that will provide the ultimate drinking pleasure and that’s why he charismatically regards himself as the ‘Pleasure maker’. After a brief introduction Pierre took us on a guided tour round his cellars and parts of his 30 hectares of beautifully maintained vineyards that he refers to as his ‘garden’. It was clear from the start that Pierre is a very enigmatic and passionate winemaker who takes great pride in his wines. But being Head Winemaker at Ch du Cleray isn’t his only responsibility in the Loire, he also oversees many other wineries and projects in the valley including the much respected Chateau de Fesles winery located just half an hour down the road.
Pierre is no ordinary Winemaker, his talents have been recognised throughout the region and has gained a reputation for producing excellent wines, not bad for a 34 year old. But perhaps more important to us is that he’s responsible for producing one of Majestics newest wines, Ch du Cleray Muscadet Sur Lie. This Muscadet displays intense mineral characters with citrus and apple aromas backed up with hints of mint and lime that oozes freshness, quality and dedication. A superb wine and one not to be missed, it goes especially well with fish and other seafood dishes and best of all it’s on offer from £8.99 to £7.99 when you buy two or more. Enjoy!
on Jun 20, 2012