Bonjour à tous,
We took our Australian guests, to the Domaine de la Paleine in Le Puy Notre Dame for their annual Open Day to the public. The Domaine is a biodynamic wine producer that has been producing wine for more than a century, it consists of 35 hectares planted mostly with Chenin and Cabernet Franc on limestone and chalk soils, and is owned by Marc and Laurence Vincent. It’s involved in the promotion of our new village appellation, Saumur-Puy Notre Dame, an appellation born in October 2009 and Monsieur Vincent is the President of the Saumur-Puy Notre Dame wine makers association. His 2010 Saumur-Puy Notre Dame has just been awarded a gold medal by the 2012 Concours des Vins de Saumur as did the 2010 Saumur Champigny.
It was a hot sunny day and on arrival we were met and welcomed by Monsieur Vincent, his wife Laurence and Patrick Nivelleau who is the Chef de Chais, (not forgetting ‘Blackberry’ the Domaine’s Alsation dog who cheerfully greets all guests)!
Brian knows these wines very well, regarding the multitude of wines produced as amongst the best in the region with a constant emphasis on quality. Courtesy of his friendship with both Marc and Patrick, he is trusted to conduct the
tour for guests and, on this occasion, we started in the vineyards, then explored the underground caves and tunnels, extending for 1.5 kilometres, which maintain a necessary and constant 12C temperature needed for storage and maturation. Here lies more than 100,000 bottles. We saw the old pressoir and machinery and he explained the methods applied to create the famous sparkling wines of the region, Saumur Brut and Crémant de Loire. We then viewed the bottle labelling machine which has a speed of 600 bottles an hour – very impressive! (Always fascinating to find out what work goes into producing your bottle of wine and for the price!!). He then showed us this opaque, black wine glass – have a guess what it’s for – answer at the bottom of the page! Finally, we entered the spotless chais with its state-of-the-art equipment. We covered around eighteen tastings of new and older vintages of Saumur blancs, Saumur rouges, Saumur rosés, Saumur-Puy Notre Dames, Bruts, Crémants, and then lastly the Coteaux de Saumur with its delicious honey and walnut palate and citrus fruit finish, a fantastic way to finish the tastings, but all are lovely and delicious to sample. We also discussed the appellation Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Chateau de Pasquette from the newly acquired vineyard in St Emilion, and on tasting the 2010 it was an extremely good expression of the merlot cepage.
These wines are a pleasure to taste but I need to mention that their names are inspired by Marc Vincent’s love for Italy and opera, so trying to get your head around the challenging pronunciation is not easy! Just to say that we love Italy too and have visited so many times in the past, (all our friends know we almost bought a vineyard in Piedmont before coming to France), and love it with Southern Italy being our favourite, even though it’s noisy, congested, has famous lightning strikes (bit like here really), it’s a great country! Anyway Brian loves pronouncing the names of the Paleine wines and sounds like a true Italian! Here we go:- Traviata, Papageno, Pamina, Moderata Cantobile (a red Saumur 2005) or Casta Diva (being more simple to say) from Bellini’s opera ‘Norma’. Casta Diva by the way is a Saumur blanc, a very limited production of 3,000 bottles and made from the best chenin grapes thus a perfect expression of Chenin blanc. My current favourite, (name wise) is “Allegro ma non troppo”, a Saumur-Puy Notre Dame oak aged for 2 years. Brian says it is almost as good as his all time favourite name, “Recioto dela Valpolliccelo Amarone”. A great name for a stunningly different Italian wine. I am secretly hoping that one day perhaps there will be a wine named Pagliacci as my all time favourite is “Vesti La Guibba” because I once had the great honour of having an Italian sing this to me in Naples and whilst he bowed down on one knee to sing, I admit the tears just poured down my face. I will have to have a word with Monsieur Vincent some time and suggest this name – you never know. (Funnily enough our Australian guests, Roslyn and Graham, had just holidayed in Southern Italy on the Amalfi coast before arriving here in the Loire Valley, so they well appreciated the Italian influence)!
They didn’t leave without buying some memorable bottles to drink during the course of their stay, including a bottle of Coteaux de Saumur to pair with their Foie Gras (bought from one of the local producer’s who had stalls in the chais exhibiting gourmet food), for a special meal planned at chez nous later in the week. They also had plans for another meal in the village restaurant after they had asked Jean Yves, the Chef, if he had Ox Cheek as this was one of their favourite meats in Australia?! He didn’t but offered to prepare it for them one night so no problem! Here is a picture of us altogether in the Bouchon Ponot Restaurant on Ascension Day evening along with our good neighbours, Robert and Jeanette Guyon, who joined us too while celebrating their birthdays –and why not! By the way, the Ox Cheek was formidable being the main ingredient of “le Boeuf Ponot” Jean-Yve’s take on the famous Boeuf Bourguignon of Burgundy.
Wishing you all happy times.
Le Clos des Guyons, Le Puy Notre Dame.
Oh almost forgot to give you the answer about the black wine glass! It’s for use in blending wine. The Paleine, like most vineyards around here, have many relatively small parcels of vines scattered throughout the village and it’s hamlets. Patrick then vinifies each parcel separately and then blends each cuvée, (vat). So a lot of the wine is the same grape from the same vineyard but from different parcels. This allows the estate wines to take advantage of slightly different soil types, orientations etc. The reason that the opaque glass is important is that it prevents the blender from being seduced by the colour of the wine, concentrating just on the nose and the taste. Voila!!