Articles from: June 2011

A day in the vineyards

Today we embarked with some guests for an all day wine tour taking in the main appellations of Saumur Champigny (red),  Saumur (red and white), and Anjou (red and white), and also overlying appellations of Saumur Puy Notre Dame (red in tuffeau terroir), Cabernet de Saumur (pink -dry tender), Cabernet D’Anjou (medium pink), Saumur Brut sparkling  (white and pink), Cremant de Loire sparkling (white), Anjou Village (red in schist terroir longer maceration and oak aged), Coteaux du Layon (and Grain Noble) (light sweet to very syrupy sweet), and a non appellation red sparkling (which does not have a designation but it will come).

Our guests enjoyed a picnic in the vineyards with the estate director at Chateau de Chaintres Richard Desouche. He’s a real character and loves to pontificate about all sorts of topical matters. Today we had a discussion over the appointment of the new IMF chief for example. Very serious.

Pierre Van den Boom at Domaine de L’Enchatoir was busy busy preparing for an equestrian event where he sells his wines. His wife Brigette had to hold the fort to do the tasting. She has a good pallette.

Finally to Hubert at Brossay where our guests enjoyed his range of sweet wines and of course the sparkling red!

A great day out had by all confirmed by the bootful of wine purchased and returned to Manoir de Gourin. All these wines are to be found at You are able to get some idea of the domaines and their wines on the winemakers pages on the website.

A French Tea Party

Well it has to be told. Its an unusual event to have lots of cucumber sarnies and yummy cakes with a Saumur Brut sparkling pink wine.  I must admit I had a few glasses or more!  Well maybe it’s usual here in France. The wine was from one of the big wine houses in Saumur called Bouvet-Ladubay. Very good.

Our friends near us have a beautiful house set in the countryside and our hostess is making a film with husband acting as one of the characters.  Each year she chooses a play or film to do here in France over the summer and then proceeds to produce an amazing result from a bunch of their friends all of whom (with the exception of hubby who dabbles on the stage and radio and is therefore pretty damned good especially at playing a drunk with a stick on moustache which always comes off. Yesterday he is sneaking away from the house in a scene and with one hand he is hanging on for dear life or at least his moustache is!) are pretty bad but still she produces some amazing results due to her good direction.

I have made a bet with one of my fellow actors Michael (without the knowledge of the hostess nor with  hubby) that next year hubby will have a moustache and it will be stick on. Last year it was black. This year it was grey. Next year it may be white. He refuses to grow a proper one whereas I, the committed performer, have grown a nice little number. Michael is a builder and we’ve agreed to hatch a plot whereby he will offer some glue to help adhere the moustache to the lip. Its called ‘Mitre Fix’ and is used to fix together pieces of wood. That ‘wood’ sort out the problem! ‘scuse the pun. Not sure how he will get it off though.

There is a scene involving  a tea party and instead of throwing away the props ie the food, we were invited to help devour it all.

Anyway what has all this got to do with sparkling wine. Nothing really except that it proves that you can drink wine with whatever you fancy. Try it with raspberry jelly or with scones, double  cream and strawberry jam!

The 2011 Vintage

After two extremely good years  with some decent weather will 2011 follow 2009 and 2010 and make it a third year in a row for a great vintage in the Loire.

This year  has seen a hot dry spring that has produced early flowering of the grapes that is quite unprecedented in the history of the Loire. If you take the rule of thumb that the harvest is 100 days after flowering that means the grapes will be picked in late August instead of mid/late September. None of our older winemakers have seen this before.  Since then the weather has been mainly dry with a little rain and some sun so we will see how the next two months progress before the end of August. If we have some decent weather to allow the grapes to mature within the 100 days we should hopefully have another good vintage.

2010 vintage has produced, like 2009, a deep fruity red with a decent structure and the chenin has benefited from a hot summer to produce fully mature grapes with loads of sugar so the balance on the dry wines  between the fruit and acidity is at a peak of perfection.

Our customers have all enjoyed the dry whites of Saumur and Anjou appellations and the reds with a deep red fruit structure so its a great pairing with a steak or roast lamb joint. ‘Bon Appetit’.

Vintage thoughts

I suppose you would think nothing of vintage and the significance of vintage each year. You buy plonk from the New World and even from France that has little or no relevance to vintage (of which year it  was harvested) as long as it tastes the same as the last time you drank that particular wine. Truth is that the big boy negotiants and the big vineyard owners are good at making the same bland stuff year on year so that once you have tasted the wine you go back to it again and again because it always tastes the same. No bad thing I suppose for you because you are guaranteed the result.  In order to do that they do all sorts of things (some of which I will not mention here) like blending and adding to the wines. It becomes a label on a bottle that’s all.

Our passionate winemakers at gfwine make their wines separately for each vintage and therefore each year the wine  tastes different to the last and thereby hangs the rub. Do you sell the same old stuff  because its reliable and sells or do you continue to excite your customers each vintage to taste the nuances between vintages that excite the taste buds. I’m in the second catogory I’m afraid. The joy of spending time talking about the vintage with the winemaker and tasting the results of his efforts is a real treat not to be missed.

 Why not sign up to  our website and become a member of an exclusive club which brings you wine of exceptional quality at a price that is only available to you directly from our winemakers via Grainger Fine Wines. We are certainly not of the bland brigade. Enjoy!

A play with bubbly

Tonight we attended a play at a lovely theatre belonging to one of the big sparkling wine houses of Saumur. The capital of sparkling wine in the Loire valley.  A lovely place to come and see. Very historic. It was a great show and lots of fun by an amateur company named by us as ‘The Mad Dogs and English Players’. It was a play based loosely  on the film ‘Brief Encounters’ and acted out as a play on a play. ie like a rehearsal of the play as a play if you know what I mean.

The relevance to wine is not only that it was performed at the sparkling wine house but that they served their sparkling wine at the after play reception.

I mention it because it is an example of pretty mediocre sparkling wine produced basically as a negotiant buying grapes, must or still wine from others to make into sparkling wine and sticking their label on it. You can not only taste the difference between this and a sparkling made by a domaine  but also that there is no provenance with one of these big wine houses because they have no control over the grapes etc. One of our winemakers who sells his chardonnay grapes to one of the big wine houses tells the story that with his sales agreement he is given a packet of sulphites to add to his grapes so that they do not oxidize during the time between the grapes being harvested and then being fermented in the vat which could be some time waiting for grapes from other domaines to fill the vat.

Small is beautiful when it comes to wine. Don’t be lulled into the big supermarket prize wars. It is a false economy and you get what you pay for. Our advice is buy from smaller wine merchants who know their winemakers inside out. only buys wine from small winemakers who have complete control from the growing of the grapes to the bottling of the wine. Provenance is the key.

Sparkling Wine

A big subject. Yes yes yes. Champagne is just about marketing. It doesn’t say anything about quality or provenance. And the method is the same. ie Methode Traditionelle. It says the name only and nothing else. France has an enormous range of sparkling wines and guess what champagne is just another sparkling area with a difficulty in meeting the demand from the gullible public who think champagne is top dog. Its definitely not. So watch out for champagne that might not be from champagne in terms of the grapes nor could it be real. There are plenty of forgeries about.

The sensible way is surely a sparkling wine of more substance that you can really taste with a provenance from a real passionate wine maker who grows his own grapes, makes the wine himself and bottles it at the domaine AND at a price that is less than half that of champagne. That makes sense in anybody’s book. So go to our website  and select one of our brilliant sparklers. Sante. YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE NOW.

What you pay is what you get

Did you know that our lovely government takes a large chunk of tax from the sale of a bottle of wine. Duty on still wine is £1.81 a bottle and then you add the VAT on the duty so thats £2.17. Then  there’s the VAT at 20% on the overall price.  So on a £5.00 bottle of wine thats £1.00. Now go and buy your wine at one of our well known supermarkets for £5.00. Before anything take off  the £3.17 for duty and vat. That’s £1.83 left in the pot. The cost of a bottle, cork, label etc is 80p so we are left with something like a quid to cover the cost of label the grapes, making the wine, the bottling cost, the shipment cost, the distribution cost, the warehouse cost and the profit for all. I say the wine cost nothing. WHAT ARE YOU DRINKING I ASK? CRAP I’D SAY. What else costs nothing?

No better reason then to buy wine from Grainger Fine Wines where you know what you are getting for a very good price. Don’t be fooled by the big supermarkets. Generally their offers are for basic wines with no known provenance from big wine dealers who have little knowledge of what is in the wine because they buy wine from other people and stick it in a big tank  all together and call it Chateau Sewerage or something more marketable.

The Chenin Grape

You most probably have never heard of the Chenin Blanc grape. Surely Chardonnay and Sauvignon but not Chenin. And there’s the rub ‘cos you are missing out on the next big thing in white wine. CHENIN.  Now to drink Chenin you need to be buying your wine from the central Loire Valley in France because it’s the only real place where the grape is grown to make white wine and wow what a delicious wine it makes. The thing is it can be made into a wine for all palettes whatever your taste. So if you are a dry crisp wine fan then this is the wine for you. Likewise if you prefer an off dry tender wine then again the chenin will give you your fix.  Then if its a medium you hanker for no problem its available. It can even produce the most sublime sweet wines. Yes I know nobody likes sweet wines but what I can tell you is that when we have our guests in France for an evening soiree and we give them a sweet with their dessert  they go loopy. Well there we are. Robert today has ordered some to take back to the UK. Its also a great aperitif. Drink it cold. And finally Chenin makes the most fruity sparkling wine here in the Loire Valley. Forget £30 bottles of bland champagne. This stuff is cheaper and so much better. Full of zing and flavour.

So how do you grab your white wine made from the chenin grape. Easy just log onto and select the white wines on offer. We provide details of the wine styles so you can select your particular style.  All our white wines are made from the chenin grape. IT’S THE NEXT THING TO ROCK AND ROLL. You need to be ahead of the game.

If you would like to learn more or arrange a tasting for you and your friends email simon at

Whats in a bottle?

We see more and more the wine writers and commentators being sucked into the Big Boy marketplace. They review the supermarket wines with regularity and what do they say apart from the taste. Actually what may lurk in that bottle? We read recently that  the wine from so and so was only £5.95 supplied by a negotiant. Be careful because these wines have to be taken for what they are.  A mix of  wines from a number of producers all thrown together with a liberal dose of sulphite to stop them oxidizing. BUT what is in that wine. The negotiants are just  buyers of bulk wines and they don’t know what is in the wine because they did not grow the grapes or make the wine. So what chance do we have. What chemicals lurk within?

It is time to properly consider a wine not just on its taste but what it contains. If you follow our route at Grainger Fine Wines of only offering wines to you which have a known provenance you can be sure what you are drinking. So have a look at what we offer. Wines directly sourced from small winemakers who grow their own grapes, make their own wine and bottle it themselves. WE KNOW WHAT IS IN OUR WINE. DO YOU KNOW WHAT IS IN THE BOTTLE YOU HAVE JUST DRUNK?

Laying Down

I don’t mean literally. I mean putting away your wine for another time or so or even years. Now here is the dilemma. Should I invest in an award winning wine to lay down for the future. Not necessarily for financial gain but to allow the wine to age and become somewhat more refined. Its from a newish appellation so there is some sense in this and the wine has already gained some considerable destinction by winning some notable awards. It is already a wine that can be drunk now and that is what I am doing but I feel the depth in the wine will merit some time for aging which will bring out the best.

Me thinks I will and I may well decide to purchase a large quantity for you to savour by buying through Grainger Fine Wines but also for my own enjoyment. Here’s to you. How much have I had tonight?

Almost forgot to tell you. Its from Domaine de L’Enchantoir appellation Saumur Puy Notre Dame 2009 vintage. A gold medal winner in Angers and Paris. Only the best.

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June 2011
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