Wednesday, August 29, 2007

And a Bordeaux at less than 5 Euros

Who said that Bordeaux had become far too expensive? In fact, many small properties in the generic Bordeaux appellation sell their wines for less than 5 Euros. Unfortunately, too many of these wines are mediocre and uninspiring, and the sad story is that these vignerons are struggling to survive. However, if you're lucky, you might discover a real winner at a bargain price.

One of these good values is the 2004 Château de Perière, another wine that my father-in-law found at his local Carrefour. The wine is medium-red in color with a subdued nose. The palate is clean, medium-bodied, and well-balanced with supple tannins. Overall, it's an agreeable wine that complements well my mother-in-law's roast with a purée de courgette.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The best table wine at less than 1 Euro

When I was visiting my family in France, I got impressed by the rare findings that my father-in-law had discovered at his local Carrefour Hypermarket near Paris. In fact, he pays less than 1 Euro for his everyday white table wine, a wine that I found of remarkable value for the price.

The wine is non vintage from Gros Plant du Pays Nantais, a lesser Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure appellation located at the westernmost part of the Loire valley, near the Atlantic ocean. It is made of Folle Blanche, also called Gros Plant in the region, a highly acidic grape variety traditionally used in the distillation of Cognac and Armagnac.

The wine is light, crisp, uncomplicated, but deliciously refreshing, the perfect match for a simple plate of tiny crevettes grises (grey shrimp), fresh bread, and Brittany butter (with sea salt).

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A visit at the Domaine des Huards in Cour-Cheverny

The Château La Gagnotterie, where we organized our family reunion, is located in the Loire Valley appellation of Cheverny. This appellation, south of the Loire river at Blois, produces a wide range of wines from Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Pinot Noir for the reds, and Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin blanc for the whites. Cheverny has also a small sub-appellation called Cour-Cheverny that had been specifically created for wines made from the little-known but interesting Romorantin grape.

So Monday morning after the party, we decided to drive to the tiny village of Cour-Cheverny and pay a visit to one of the best producers for the Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny appellations, the Domaine des Huards.

Cabernet vines at the entrance of the Domaine des Huards

The domaine covers 32 hectares including 8 hectares planted exclusively with Romorantin. The soil is mostly clay and chalk with a layer of sand in some areas. The estate is certified biodynamic, banning weed killers and chemical fertilisers in order to keep the microbiological diversity of the vineyard.

Tasting at the Domaine des Huards

We tasted different Cour-Cheverny cuvées as well as their Cheverny reds. Here are my notes:

• 2002 Cour-Cheverny Domaine des Huards: 100% Romorantin. Light color, mineral, herbal, crisp. One of the few wines that could be paired with asparagus.

• 2002 Cour-Cheverny Domaine des Huards Cuvée François 1er: 100% Romorantin old vines, the oldest planted in 1922. Bright golden color, nutty nose with hint of hay, crisp, full and complex mouthfeel, long mineral finish, ageworthy.

• 2005 Cheverny Domaine des Huards: Gamay 55% Pinot Noir 30% Cabernet Franc 10%. Deep red purple color, gamay nose, peppery , floral notes of peony, light-bodied, balanced palate.

• 2005 Cheverny Domaine des Huards Cuvée Le Pressoir: Pinot Noir 80% Gamay 20%. Garnet color, red berry nose, raspberry notes, lively finish.

• 2004 Cheverny Domaine des Huards Cuvée Jean-François Deniau: Pinot Noir 50% Gamay 40% Cabernet Franc 10%. Floral peony nose, fuller palate, long finish of licorice.

• 2004 Cour-Cheverny Domaine des Huards Cuvée J. M. Tendresse: 100% Romorantin demi-sec, late harvest style. Light golden color, delicate nose, flavors concentrated on the palate, nutty, herbal finish.

All these wines were delicious but I really liked the cuvée François 1er (I bought half a case to cellar) and the serious but very food friendly cuvée Jean-François Deniau.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

7/7/7 family reunion at the château de la Gagnotterie

What do you do when you have a large family in France (my husband has 8 brothers and sisters with an average of 3 children per family) and you want to see all of them together? You find a convenient time, a location that can accommodate everybody, and you organize a big family reunion party.

So on July 7 2007, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and a happy crowd of cousins between 2 months and 18 years of age, gathered at La Gagnotterie, a nineteenth-century château near Blois in the Loire Valley.

Château de la Gagnotterie

For the main dinner on Saturday, my sister-in-law Claire-Élise had planned a mouth-watering catered buffet (terrine st jacques à la laitue de mer, marbré de foie gras de canard aux artichauts, pavé de blois au chocolat et nougatine, crème fine au pain d'épices...) and I was in charge of the wines.

Naturally, the wines that I brought were all from the nearby Anjou-Saumur, Touraine and Centre regions. We started with a lively Saumur Brut, the Saumur Brut Bouvet-Ladubay cuvée Saphir, a refreshing Chenin Blanc-Chardonnay blend made, like in Champagne, using the Méthode Traditionelle.

Our two white wines were very different in style although both equally excellent. There was a Savennières from the renowned Domaine des Baumard, the 2003 Savennières Domaine des Baumard Clos de Saint Yves. It was a 100% Chenin Blanc sourced from a south-facing vineyard next to the distinguished butterfly-shaped Clos du Papillon. it had a bright light golden color and a delicate honeyed nose. The palate was complex with a mineral backbone and a lenghty finish of citrus and white flower aromas.

Our other white wine, the 2005 Sancerre Alphonse Mellot La Moussière came from the exceptional Domaine La Moussière, a southwest exposed chalky vineyard of over thirty hectares, planted with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. This was a seductive and generous wine with a light yellow-green color, a fragrant Sauvignon nose, a well-balanced palate with a hint of oak and some nice acidity on the finish.

The red wine selection included the 2003 Anjou Château de Pimpéan Cuvée Passion, a nice mellow drinking Cabernet Franc with gentle tannins and a fruity finish, a perfect accompaniment to the pâté d'oie en croûte.

After the appetizers, the pavé de selle d'agneau grillé and the magret de canard en tapenade were calling for a more serious red and the 2001 Bourgueil Pierre-Jacques Druet Grand Mont happened to be exactly what we needed. Showing a dark red-purple color, this 100% Cabernet Franc had a spicy nose of blackcurrrant and plum and a firm palate followed by a finish of great earthy-mineral quality.

After such a feast, nobody had much room left for the cakes and pastries, but that ended up not being a problem: we served the cakes again on Sunday and they all disappeared, mostly eaten by a hungry crowd of kids.

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