VISIT TO CHATEAU DE FESLES DEEP IN THE HEART OF BONNEZEAUX

Chateaux de Fesles, Grand Vin de Loire winemakers known to be the Yquem of the Loire Valley,  fronted by its Italianate rose gardens. This wine appellation has the benefit of a temperate but dry oceanic climate known as the "Angevin sweetness". The winemaker is Jean Pierre SAUVION.

Chateaux de Fesles, Grand Vin de Loire winemakers known as the Yquem of the Loire Valley, fronted by its Italianate rose gardens. This wine appellation has the benefit of a temperate but dry oceanic climate known as the douceur angevine  “Angevin sweetness”. The winemaker is Jean Pierre SAUVION.

One of the advantages of ‘Living in the Loire’ is that it enables us to indulge in our pleasure of visiting lovely chateaux and discovering new wines of the region whenever we get chance and yesterday was one of those days when we were invited to visit the renowned Chateaux de Fesles, (pronounced “Felle”) situated in the district of Thouarcé in the Anjou region very close to the village of Bonnezeaux itself, lying about twenty kilometres south of Angers and about thirty minutes from our gites at Le Clos des Guyons. So, off we went through the delightful countryside around Thouarcé, driving past the sloping vineyards and herds of white, Charolais cattle lying in the sunshine.  That is the cattle were lying in the sunshine not the vines!.

A presentation bottle of the 2010 Chateau Fesles Bonnezeaux

A presentation bottle of the 2010 Chateau de Fesles Bonnezeaux

Chateau de Fesles is a magnificent estate dating back to 1070, however, records of producing superb wine are really found in the 1870’s when purchased by the Boivin family. It has one of the greatest reputations in Angers and is certainly the grandest. Several owners later it still has an enormous reputation.  The estate covers 33 hectares of which only 14 are classified as AC Bonnezeaux. These 14 hectares lie on the slope of the hill immediately around the chateau and are planted with Chenin Blanc.  These vineyards slope down to the river Layon and it is the humidity and the rising Autumn mist which encourages the “Noble Rot” which gives their impeccable Bonnezeaux its unique taste.The soil here is stony, Silurian soil covered by a mixture of decomposed shale as well as blue and red clay.  As well as Chenin Blanc on the slopes on the plateau both Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are planted for an Anjou Rouge and some Grolleau and Gamay for the Anjou Rosé. On entering their reception/tasting room we had a friendly welcome before being guided through various tastings including their Chenin Sec Blanc “La Chapelle” Vieilles Vignes, Anjou Rouge, Cabernet d’Anjou, Rosé d’Anjou and lastly different vintages of their prestigious and delicious Bonnezeaux sweet wine which was mind blowing making you appreciate the subtle differences between each vintage; How these wines age so gracefully over the years!

Wine slumbering in oak at Fesles

Wine slumbering in Oak and Arcaia barrels at Chateau det Fesles

We were not disappointed with any of the wines we tasted and were tempted to buy a few bottles including their 2014 ‘La Chapelle’ Vieilles Vignes Anjou Blanc (limited edition No 18088) a dry white wine made with 100% Chenin grapes and matured in oak casks for 12 months. It has a lovely straw colour and a nose of, lime and elderberry and the typical Chenin white fruits and citron. Very well balanced and a lingering finish – we loved it. Also we chose their 2014 Rose d’Anjou, a beautiful salmon pink colour, delicately perfumed with strawberries, well balanced and we thought an exceptional aperitif wine!  The local grolleau, when used judiciously gives an almost pinot noir feel to a Rosé.  Finally, a visit to Chateau de Fesles wouldn’t have been complete without purchasing some of their exquisite Bonnezeaux. This is a hand crafted production  and like all great sweet wines takes patience and courage with harvesting taking place ‘berry by berry’ by ‘multiple passes’ through the vineyard, a process known as “tri”.  Its work which is intensive, time consuming needs a lot of belief. We selected their 2010 Vin Rare – an excellent year – the wine was bursting with luscious honey, lychees and melon with that typical lemon on the finish.  As Sheila pointed out this would be perfect to share with our guests for her special birthday celebration looming in a few months time and so now it’s slumbering in our wine chais at Le Clos des Guyons waiting for the occasion. However it is important to realise that Sheila is a bit like the Queen in that her birthday celebration can take well over a month so when it will get opened I’m not quite sure!. Before leaving we had a quick tour of the operation including their cave fitted with rows of Oak and Arcaia barrels full of Bonnezeaux and Chenin just resting in air conditioned tranquility! What a grand and noble sight! After we had filled our car boot we decided to enjoy the hot sunshine and took a walk around outside and admired their beautiful rolling vineyards next to the Layon river. All in all a memorable visit with helpful and friendly staff !  Indeed we have always found that the Loire wine region welcomes its visitors with warmth and friendliness and the only problem is that tastings can last much longer than anticipated!  Well, when I say problem…………..?!

Bon dégustation Brian Loire Valley Wine Tours Gites in the Loire Valley

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Doué la Fontaine

October in Anjou

There are times when the term la Douceur Angevine really does live up to it’s name. The term means the sweetness of life in Anjou and Saumur and throughout France the term is used to describe the region adding to the fame of its wine, history, culture and, of course, its chateaux. It doesn’t just mean its mild weather either, but the general laid back, relaxed attitude to life. The picture was taken on a Sunday morning from within the Bar le France, (as usual I have to say that it is “le France” and not as you would expect “la France” nobody really seems to be quite sure why)! The bar is also a licensed betting shop called a “PMU” and that is how it is normally referred to. For me It’s a meeting place for what a group of us call our “charity work” i.e., making sure that bars continue to survive in these hard economic times. It’s hard, selfless work but someone has to do it.  The temperature was around 28°C, not bad for late October and the stall that you can see in the background is selling shellfish from the region’s Atlantic seaboard.

à bientôt

Brian

Gites in the Loire Valley

ENJOYING A DEGUSTATION AT THE ‘FESTIVINI’ WINE MARKET IN SAUMUR!

Wine tasting at Festivini

Brian about to taste a glass of 2012 Coteaux du Layon

Enjoying a relaxing degustation at the ‘Festivini’ Festival Wine Market with old friend and neighbour, Hubert Deffois from Chateau de Brossay, a 45 hectare Domaine in Clere sur Layon, our old village where we lived for three happy years before arriving in Le Puy Notre Dame.  It’s situated on the high Layon south of Anjou and west of the Saumurois.

This Domaine has been in the family for four generations and is currently operated by Hubert and Raymond Deffois and family, producers of exquisite Coteaux du Layons alongside L’Anjou Blanc, Rosé de Loire, Cabernet d’Anjou, Anjou Rouge, Anjou Village, Crémant de Loire et Saumur Brut Rosé and Brut Rouge.

It’s well worth a visit and you are guaranteed a very warm welcome!

The vendage has now started and the sunny mild weather we are currently enjoying is very much welcomed.  Provided we have no unforeseen disasters it looks like 2014 will be an excellent vintage.  The only cloud on the horizon (literally) was an horrendous thunderstorm and cloudburst together with giant hailstones which hit us last Friday.  Luckily it was very isolated and does not appear to have caused any damage in the vineyards.  When I say isolated, here at Le Clos des Guyons it was rain and hailstones bouncing of the roofs, gutters couldn’t cope and one of our gite guests drove his car into one of our outbuildings because it was being damaged by the hail.  Meanwhile, about 300m. away Brian was sitting outside the bar with a group of friends in full, warm sunshine.

Here’s to a good vintage year for the vignerons!

Brian

Loire Valley Wine Tours

A GREAT DAY AT “FESTIVINI” IN SAUMUR AND SOME OUTSTANDING WINES!

Wine fair at Saumur

All the tents house a different winemaker. In the background is Saumur’s old theatre, undergoing restauration. The dome on the top will be a bar/restaurant with panoramic views of the pretty Loire-side chateau town.

Today we had a great day out visiting FESTIVINI the Marché des Vins de Loire presented on the Saumur quayside!

Brian and Gerrard

Brian with Gerald who used to be the Commercial Manager at Le Domaine de la Paleine in Le Puy Notre Dame but now runs a Bistrot Restaurant called Les Tontons in Place Saint Pierre in Saumur. As you can see he still represents La Paleine on occasions.

FESTIVINI, in its fourth year, is a week long wine festival event held every September in the Loire over two weekends, in which it celebrates the wines of Saumur and the Loire with a programme of organised wine activities.  There is a different event every day including, hikes through the vineyards, dances, this year a privileged wine tastings of vintages at the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud by a reknown winemaker and other special dinners, wine tastings and food pairings.

We walked around for some considerable time talking to local producers (and friends)! from Saumur Champigny, Saumur Puy Notre Dame and Anjou, all welcoming and happy to fill up our wines glasses which were bought at the entrance for 4,00 Euros!

Music to taste by.

Music by the quayside.

There were lots of outstanding wines to sample.  Bravo to the Loire vignerons!  But we really have to mention the Famille Denis from Domaine du Petit Clocher, Clere sur Layon (deep in the heart of the Anjou and Layon vineyards where we used to live before Le Puy Notre Dame) who have been selected for inclusion in “Le Guide Hachette des Vins 2014” for their Red Anjou 2012.  This is a brilliant achievement as over 40,000 wines were screened, 10,000 selected from that and then 500 favourites.  The wine is a rich ruby colour, it exudes aromas of cherries and blackcurrants, on tasting it’s round, light and crisp, just delicious and it is suggested best enjoyed with chicken or Beef Capaccio!

Filliatreau

Fredrick Filliatreau. La Domaine Filliatreau is one of “names” of Saumur-Champigny and was, almost single handedly responsible for turning the appellation from the darling of Parisian wine bars to the producer of excellent, complex, long-lasting reds.

A talented band provided music for everyone creating a wonderful atmosphere and as we strolled around in the sunshine we took time to watch the Loire Cruise boats transporting visitors up and down the river!

What a great day, Life is not boring ‘Living in the Loire’!!

A votre!
Sheila

Have a look at our new website for information about guided wine tours and tastings either with/without accommodation  at an

Gracien - Meyer

Gratien-Meyer. One of Saumur’s great sparkling wine houses.

old wine producing property which dates back to before the French Revolution, deep in the Saumur vineyards of the famous Loire Valley.  We offer two charming self catering, fully equipped gites in the pretty wine village of AOC Saumur Puy Notre Dame, classed a ‘Village of Charm’ and ‘Petit Cité de Caractére’ with its magnificent Collegiale on the route to Saint Jacques de Compostelle!  Come take a look!!!

Moulin Touchais, Coteaux du Layon 1960

1960 Moulin Touchais

1960 Moulin Touchais, Coteaux du Layon

By the simple expedient of ignoring Sheila’s, “things to do list”,  I found a moment recently to rummage through the old wine cellars here at Le Clos des Guyons, only to stumble across a bottle of Moulin Touchais’ Coteaux du Layon 1960 lying in the sand, which I had completely forgotten about – what a great moment!

To give you some background the Vignoble Touchais is a unique winery with the bulk of the wine of no great prestige with much of it being sold for the normal range of Anjou wine and much of the “Chenin” going to the large sparkling wine houses in Saumur.  But there is one continual high-spot in that the grapes from the best vineyards, mainly around nearby Tigné, where the French actor Gerald Depardieu has a long established estate and Martigné-Briand, are used to make the unique cuvée “Moulin Touchais” and these are aged for 10 years before release, making sure that they are perfect for drinking.

The winery was founded in 1787 and the Doué la Fontaine based Loire Valley wine producer is only about a five minute drive out of Doué la fontaine and has been in the Touchais family for several generations.  The winery is now managed by Jean-Marie Touchais whose father, Joseph, really established the practice of aging the sweet wines for a minimim of ten years  before putting them on the market, partly because, at the time, they were difficult to sell.  There are several hundred thousand bottles in their cellars in Doué.  You may well find wine from this era also labelled Anjou because Joseph thought that people in the UK wouldn’t know anything about le Coteaux de Layon. The other bizarre fact is that all Moulin Touchais are sold in bottles of 73cl. not the normal 75cl.

We were very keen to try it and decided  to have it with our last Galette de Rois of the year shared with friends, what better excuse! (lost count of these this year but have the extra kilos to show for it)!

And so, onto the wine:-  The colour is a rich gold and the first thing that hits you is the mineral feel of the Chenin.  When young, Chenin has vibrant fruit flavours but an aged Chenin develops these complex, mineral notes which are quite difficult to describe.  There is a clear hint of “rancio” and more than passing notes of rich sherry-like flavours.  Caramel developed in the mouth.   The sweetness was not as intense as you would expect from the great Layons particularly those of Bonnezeaux, Chaume or Quart de Chaume and that is clearly not the intention as apparently 20% of the grapes are picked quite early to ensure the acidity.  The rest is  late harvested and I couldn’t find any hint of noble rot.  The overall effect is, despite it’s age, a fresh rather than an intense Layon (or at least as fresh as a 53 year old wine can be)!  It had a good length with a pleasant burst of citron on the finish in fact the vibrant acidity helped to give it a much more youthful feel despite the aged Chenin and sherry, (Orloroso).  In summary it was not the intense Layon which we have come to expect, but perhaps an example of an older, softer style of Anjou winemaking when things were simpler, (natural fermentation, no oak etc).  A surprising amount of acidity which was certainly beneficial and probably reflects the year; 1960 wasn’t an specially warm year, and the grapes would therefore have retained a lot of acidity. Of course with a wine of 53 years it is almost impossible to do a direct comparison with younger wines especially as Chenin develops a total different character after it has cast off its youthful exuberance.

The wine is naturally fermented, a temperature controlled cool ferment in concrete, epoxy lined tanks and bottled  in the April following the vintage.  Moulin Touchais sees no oak.

Jean Marie Touchais has said that their 2003 will be released this year  – can’t wait to get my hands on a bottle of this given that 2003 was a distinguished year.  Although the extreme heat, (15,000 French people died of heat related illnesses), did lead to a certain lack of acidity, it will be a very interesting tasting.

Wishing you all a ‘bonne semaine’ .  As I went for my walk this morning to the café/bar, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and I could feel Spring in the air!  Two red squirrels shot across the courtyard and everywhere felt good.

à bientôt

Brian

Wine Tours and Holiday Lets in the Loire Valley.

Brian

FOUR COWBOYS OF LE PUY NOTRE DAME AND A GAME OF LA BOULE DE FORT

When we arrived in Le Puy Notre Dame, which seems many years ago now, I often passed “le Société des Arts”, normally when I was en-route to the bar.  Now, I am not adverse to a bit of art and culture but neither did I want to hang around like a spare part while people painted, sculpted and discussed how much formaldehyde it took to pickle a shark or how much detritus you could arrange, ( artistically of course), on an unmade bed.  So I gave it a wide berth.  However I was eventually informed that the  “Art” bit was actually short for Artisan, in other words it was a Working Mens Club.  After this refreshing bit of information I called in one day when Chez Sonia was closed and found, not budding Damien Hirsts or Jackson Pollocks but everyone who I normally passed the time with in the bar.  Wine and beer is very cheap, annual membership is a couple of Euros and inside was a court for playing “Les Boules de Fort”.  Boule de Fort is a game rather like boules itself, which anyone who knows anything about France will know about.  But it is played on an indoor court which is “U” shaped in profile so that the ball doesn’t go in a straight line but progresses down the court in a series of sinuous curves, first rolling up one side and then the other until it finishes close to the small target boule, “le Maitre”.  It is decidedly addictive.

Boules Court

The indoor boules court at le Societé des Arts in Le Puy Notre Dame. You can clearly see the curvature of the court.

Anyway le Société or le Soc – for short, is now a regular part of life and many a happy hour has been spent there.

The scene now shifts to our friend Marcel who, after having taken early retirement, passes the bulk of his time making movies. He rang one day and asked if he could ask me a question.  “Yes”, said I, “of course”.  “Have you got a leather coat?”  “Yes”, I replied cautiously, I have known Marcel too long not to know when he’s building up to something.  “How about a cowboy hat”? “Funnily enough, no”, I replied.  ” That’s ok, I’ve got one” was the next cryptic comment.   “Good, I’m very happy for you”. I retorted, determined not to crack first and ask what the hell he was banging on about.  “What about boots, cowboy boots?  “No, sorry”, I admitted.  “Mmmm…never mind, can’t be helped”, he murmured. “Yes, c’est la vie”, I added.  Slight pause, and then he came clean.  He was doing a film on Le Puy Notre Dame and wanted a jokey ending so he’d dreamed up this idea of a high-noon shootout.  Four dangerous looking cowboys meet in the village and then walk, with murderous intent down to the Societé des Arts where they enter into a winner take all game of boule de fort. ” So can you meet me in the Société at 1400hrs?”. asked Marcel.  “Certainly” I replied, “Who are the others?”  He told me the names of two people I didn’t know and Robert, who lives opposite.  “And by the way” said Marcel, “You need to be chewing gum”.  I asked if cowboys always chew gum.  Apparently, they do.

At five minutes to two I left the house and walked to the appointed rendezvous with Robert who, amazingly, had dug up a pair of cowboy boots from somewhere.  No, I didn’t ask.  The day was weird enough already. We met Marcel who shoved a battered, straw sun-hat on my head and gave me a stick of chewing gum.  We then stalked into the boules court, carefully arranged in height, smallest first.  We then chose our boules and stood still for a moment looking terrifyingly menacing, (just for the camera, you understand).  Then onto the game itself and guess who won?  Why me of course.  Although I’ve absolutely no idea how, given the fact that I don’t know the rules and  that my first three boules thudded into the end-boards with enough force to shake the three steeples of the nearby church.

Boule Fort

Me, making my world famous winning shot and trying to hit,… I mean miss Marcel!, at the same time.

Then onto the section of the film which will appear first which is when we are are leaning on appropriate stone walls around the church looking mean, chewing gum, (I was pretending as I’d swallowed mine in giving a shout of joy when I smashed Robert’s boule away from the Maitre), and waiting for high noon.  We then walked four abreast down the rue to the Société looking very serious and with a “this town ain’t big enough for all of us” mindset, all it needed was some tumbleweed and a passing stagecoach. A passing tractor pulling a trailer full of some anonymous animal manure didn’t really have the same effect.   Marcel had even managed to get a mutual friend, Bernard, to run around with “No Entry” signs so that no passing traffic disturbed his filming.  Of course it was actually counter productive as it caused more delay as everyone stopped their cars/tractors/vans, got out and asked what was going on.

So then to the bar to discuss the days artistic achievement although I was quite disappointed that I wasn’t plied with free drinks being the undisputed winner.  I’ll post a link to the film when Marcel has finished the editing.

Just one postscript: Marcel rang later and said that he though the game lacked some crowd participation so would Sheila meet him in the Societé to play the important roll of “the crowd”.  This she did and each throw of a boule was interdispersed with a shot of Sheila showing various examples of emotion or, as I prefer to call it,  pulling faces!!

Although less majestic than the mighty chateaux, the half hidden boule de fort in the village, gives you an idea of the real Anjou, the people who live here, who work here, and who play here, well away from the tourist hotspots.

The game has been designated a “Loire Heritage Game” by the Ministry of Culture and I raise my glass of rosé, (Cabernet de Saumur of course not Cabernet d’Anjou), to the beautiful Loire and to ‘La boule de Fort’ and to a new friendly rivalry, (although not friendly on camera, of course).

La Boule de Fort is a typical Angevin sport and just one of the memorable experiences  enjoyed by many and one which are regular guests have yet to experience so, for those of you returning this year, it is something to look forward to not to mention the cheap wine.

à votre

Brian

Holiday, Vacation lets in the Loire Valley

 

The History of a Loire Valley Wine Property

Charles et Eugénie Guyons in 1925

Charles et Eugénie Guyons in who took over Le Domaine des Guyon in 1925

The post this week is about the history of our property, le Clos des Guyons covering the last 80 odd years and came about as a result of some intriging converstions with the previous owner and

wine maker…read more

Loire Valley Wine Tours