A 1947 Saumur Blanc and Memories of War.

1947 Saumur Blanc

1947 Saumur Cuvée Charles,

With what we thought was a magnificent gesture on the occasion of Sheila’s birthday, we shared this vintage bottle of wine provided by Robert and Jeanette Guyons, our very special friends and neighbours ‘en face’, being the former owners and winemakers here at Le Clos des Guyons or Le Domaine des Guyons as it then was.

This was the last bottle of 1947 that Robert had in his wine cellar which was made by his father, Charles Guyon, in what is now, our wine chais  after being released from a prisoner of war camp in Germany where he had been incarcerated since 1940.  In fact we found about a dozen bottles in our caves, hidden under sand,  when we were helping Robert to move his things.  Of course there was no label other than the one which was originally tied around the neck but Robert (or more probably, Jeanette)! had written “Happy Birthday”, and Cuvée Charles 1947″.  A nice touch I thought.  Were the wine to be bottled now it would probably be as Saumur Blanc and in 1947 would have been an Anjou/Saumur as the individual Saumur appellation wasn’t created until later (the Anjou/Saumur appellation dates back to 1936).  After tasting I am not sure where it would fit now as it has developed such individuality that it would probably defy all the “typicity” requirements of any of our local appellations.

base of 1947 Wine bottle

“Well” at the base of a 1947 Saumur wine bottle.

It is very difficult for people who did not live in occupied Europe to grasp what it was actually like during that period.  Robert, who was a young boy at the time, tells us of the Germans arriving into the village of Le Puy-Notre-Dame and taking over the school as their headquarters, how the village was almost empty of young men as they were either in England or in German POW camps and how the situation changed after the SS. took over a couple of years later, when Resistance arms were discovered in one of the many caves in the village.  How the owner of the caves was deported, later to die in a Concentration Camp, (Le Place de la Paleine was later renamed in his honour, Le Place de Jules Raimbault), and how the Germans disappeared overnight and the village was formally liberated by a Gendarme, on a bike, with the tricolour attached, pedalling from Doué la Fontaine.   Couple experiences like thatwith with memories of the devastation caused by five years of war and the fact that Le Puy-Notre-Dame is not that far from Oradour-sur-Glane where women and children were burnt alive in a church because the Resistance had abducted a German Panzer leader and, a similar instance occuring just the other side of Tours, that is why, for someone of Robert’s generation, opening a bottle of 1947 wine isn’t just about the wine itself but about celebrating the end of one of the worst, most horrific periods in human history.  To add a personal opinion it probably also explains the difference in attitudes towards the European Union in the UK and on Continental Europe.  No matter how much they may moan about the EU.  In all our 12 years in France I have never met any average French person who would really want to go back to a time of competing nation states where war was, to quote Clausewitz, merely “the continuance of diplomacy by other means”.  The photo below was taken in 1970 and shows Charles and his wife Aline a woman of very strong character who, through sheer will power, kept the vineyard going by herself, despite all the tribulations of the years of occupation.  She only died a couple of years ago, at 92 years years of age.

Monsieur et Madame Charles Guyons

Monsieur et Madame Charles Guyons and their pet dog, Louky

Anyway, enough of that –  back to the wine!  In fact, we were not sure how the wine would taste once this old heavy bottle was uncorked, (don’t know whether you can make out the “well” but it is much, much deeper than in modern bottles, having a depth or around 7cms).but the anticipation was well worth what was to come, not to mention the privileged feeling of sharing this together.  Robert pulled the 1947 cork which was well intact after all these years and we were not disappointed. 1947 is one of the great years for French wine, a reference year.  The Chenin grape is one which is full of complexity and is capable of developing many facets as it develops and this was a great example.  It had lost the lemony, white fruity tang of its youth and developed a multi-layered, minerally feel which reflected the limestone based terroir on which it was grown.   The wine had undergone the sort of controlled oxidation that you find in sherry or in very old white Rioja which has spent up-to 40 years in old oak, giving a sherry like layer to go with the rest of the complexity in the mouth which it filled with a sumptuousness which is difficult to explain.  The length, whilst prolonged was a little short given the power of the wine itself but perhaps this is only to be expected in a wine approaching its 65th. birthday.  We shared a toast and chinked our glasses to Charles Guyons thanking him for the pleasure he had given to us all at that moment, but without doubt it held more emotion for Robert and there was a glint of tears in his eyes as, I’ve no doubt, the years rolled away and the memories cascaded in.

It was a truly memorable occasion which enhanced the pleasure of living in an historic wine village like Le Puy-Notre-Dame here in the Loire.

à votre!

Brian

Vacation properties and wine tours tours of the Loire Valley.

“Le Puy a Vins”, Le Puy Notre Dame, Val de Loire!

Le Puy a Vins

Le Puy a Vins. The new restaurant in the Loire Valley.

As all of our regular visitors know, the village has one thriving full time restaurant, “Le Bouchon Ponot” which has served us all very well for several years and offers excellent French cuisine for a reasonable price.  The Chef, Jean-Yves and his assistant Mag, are our good friends and so it was with mixed emotions that we greeted the re-opening of a second full time eatery in the village, “Le Bar a Vins”.   We are  happy to say though that both restaurants are doing very well!

Located in the heart of Le Puy Notre Dame at the side of the eglise in rue des hotels,  the new establishment is superbly placed for dining outside in summer being situated on the new “Place” by the side of the medieval church.

Le Puy a Vins was originally bought and refurbished a couple of years ago, but  it was closed as often as it was open because of other commitments. Now, under the  new ownership of David Beaufreton and Romain et Marie Amblard things are very different.  They will also be organising musical concerts in association with Puy-z’Arts, whose presidente is the previous owner, Pascale.

The restaurant is open both midday and evening from Tuesday to Saturday with a lunch time ‘Menu du Jour’ available at 12 and 16€, or alternatively,  it’s possible to have a plate of charcuterie or cheese with a glass of wine depending on your appetite!   The evening offers gourmet cuisine dining.  They concentrate on a  selection of  wines from the surrounding Val de Loire vineyards within a  100km radius and we were delighted to see an emphasis on  local wines (of which we are passionate) to demonstrate the dynamisme and quality of Le Puy Notre Dame wines including some of our favourites from the Domaine de la Paleine with their Rigoletto 2011 Blanc and Moulin des Quints 2009 Rouge;  plus the Domaine des Guyons L’Ardile 2010 Blanc.  Ah- we are spoilt!! In fact we are people who always choose our wine before food on the menu – it’s a fact!!!

We were  invited to their Soirée d’Inauguration and all guests were very warmly welcomed. The evening began with lots of conversation about the new venture over delicious aperitifs and selection of wines of which we chose a glass of 2010 Vent du Nord a crisp and elegant Chenin Blanc, made by our friend and village winemaker Franck Bimont of Domaine des Guyons. (The Vent de Nord was previously made in our own wine chais at Le Clos des Guyons, so we have lovely memories of it being stored in massive cuves and barrels, when we used to help ourselves by courtesy of Franck and Pierre, his father)!

L'orque de Barbarie

L’orque de Barbarie

Afterwards we were delightfully entertained by the duo called …..wait for it…..”De La Marquise Elizabeth De La Haute Motte De Saint Martin Du Fouilloux Garance La Haute Motte De Saint Martin Du Fouilloux Lucienne Trouchu” otherwise known, (luckily) as ‘Les Elles dans l’Do” with their musical soirée aided by a kind of musical box with windup handle and paper roll music sheets (un orgue de Barbarie in French). It was a quite typical Parisian spectacle, with a combination of humour, acting and singing, which finally culminated in much hand clapping, bravos and encores!  They gladly continued their repertoire and handed out song sheets to enable us all to sing along with them to the popular Parisian French classic song “Les Champs Elysees”.  Here’s a Youtube link, if you haven’t heard it.   And so …. just to give you the idea – Aux Champs-Elysées, (and, with the trumpet bit, sing)- “pa  la pa la pa”, pa la pa la pa, Aux Champs-Elysées,  Au soleil, sous la pluie, à midi ou à minuit, Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux champs Elysées, (In the sun, in the rain, at midday or midnight, there is all that you want in the Champs Elysee).  Finishing with a deafening POUET POUET at the end which I have since found out has no interpretation it’s just a joyeus expression!  Brian sang away merrily but have to admit it was all just a bit quick for my French, but I did my best.  We had a marvellous time and we continue to enthuse over future visits and recommendations to our guests!  Hats off to the team!

Sing Along

Sing Along

We wish Romain, Marie and David lots of success with their new venture.

Le Puy a Vin is just an easy five minute walk from Le Clos des Guyons being the last house at the end of the village in rue du Moulinon the route vignoble to Argentay.  Take a look at our comprehensive website:- www.closdesguyons.com, giving information about the village, region and our lovingly restored self-catering Gite accommodation “Le Sauvignon” and “Le Chenin” and Chambre d’hotes, which we successfully operate all the year round!   Whether you are passionate about visiting France for its culture, discovering chateaux, troglodyte caves, walking, cycling, wine tasting (of which we offer a range of holidays to suit all levels of interest), gastronomy ‘Angevin’, or simply in need of  relaxation, this little corner of France in the Loire Valley is bewitching and has plenty to offer everyone!

Allez en vacances. C’est beau ici!  We will be pleased to welcome you to our home!

à bientôt

Sheila and Brian

Gite accommodation in the Loire Valley and Immersion in Wine

BEAUJOLAIS NOUVEAU PARTIES HAVE BEGUN!

France’s Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived, always the third Thursday in November, and the drinking furor that ensues from the just-released young wine has now officially begun!

The Gamay grape of the Beaujolais wine region has had a long history in Anjou with its own Anjou-Gamay AOC so there are many of our own Gamay Primeurs to be found but Brian’s incredible wine find was a Muscadet Primeur Blanc! From the vineyards around Nantes it was for sale in a bar in Doué la Fontaine and Brian was so taken by its fresh nose of apples and pears that he bought a bottle, which went down very well indeed with our wine-making friends who tasted it at the village soirée that we attended.

Beaujolais evening in Le Puy Notre Dame

Beaujolais Evening in Le Puy-Notre-Dame

The celebration of the foaming torrent of young, purple wine which flows from the hills of Beaujolais is still quite a big thing in France and several local restaurants will follow the tradition of welcoming the wine. Of course we couldn’t let this occasion pass us by either, celebrating at an evening Fete du Beaujolais Nouveau held in our local eaterie LE BOUCHON PONOT in Le Puy Notre Dame where a Diner-Concert is planned this year.

We arrived to find an excited ambiance amongst our very good  friends, with endless bisous and hugs which followed by having a glass thrust into our hands to start on the complimentary Beaujolais lining the bar!  This restaurant is always up for a lively Nouveau celebration but tonight there were further incentives as guests arrived bearing bottles that they thought were good examples to share! Conversation about wine is especially pleasurable, as a lot of the clients are local vignerons and their professional views and nuances on the wines enhances the evening for us, however, that is not to say that there are also a few animated disagreements on the respective merits of certain wines!

Felicitations to Jean Yves, Mag and l’Equipe, as they created an excellent party atmosphere  for everyone as we were entertained with a lively musical  duo playing a twanging guitar and an assortment of drums including a pitcher jug with holes and something that resembled an old tea chest,  alongside ‘le Baguette d’leau which, to explain, is a long thin stick (the baguette) full of grains, which is twisted and turned in time to the music against the microphone  to get that long slow rattle, kind of mexican I should say and had a brilliant effect on the overall music.

Well into wine tasting

Here is Brian with his friend Michel, both clearly enjoying the wine tasting!!

Dishes of steaming Pot au Feu and Tête de Veau were skilfully delivered to our long table along with copious baskets of fresh bread!  The latter dish, calf’s head, is considered to be a bit of a delicacy, haven’t quite got there yet but Brian loves it.

Following this French tradition is a very rewarding side of  living in a wine-making village in France (apart from the headache the following morning that is)!  At least this year no-one had to be taken home in a state of blissful contentment.

Go buy yourself a bottle and enjoy!

à votre santé

Sheila

Gites, Wine Tours of the Loire Valley.