Articles from: August 2011

Busy Busy

Our Vigneron Pierre with guests tasting his prize winning wines

Its all go now we are approaching the busy season of the main harvest here in the Loire. At we are as busy as ever with our wine tours and getting to fit our visits into the timetable of harvests is becoming more and more difficult with our vignerons as they gear up for the most important and busiest period of the wine calendar. The harvesting of the main Chenin blanc and Cabernet crops is getting ever closer.

We have a wine tour organised with some American guests next week. On the tuesday we are hosting a wine tasting dinner and our winemaker Pierre at Domaine de L’Enchantoir is hosting the tasting of the wines at the start of the evening on the terrace. Pierre however has arranged for the harvesting of his Chardonnay on Monday or Tuesday so he will be extremely busy preparing and executing the picking and pressing of the grapes for his sparkling Saumur. This year he is going to use some of his chardonnay to blend with the chenin to make his Sparkling white. The remainder will be sold off to a broker. Normally he will sell off all his Chardonnay crop of 1 hectare, but the chardonnay will add some complexity to his Saumur Brut blanc. 

All this activity in the vineyard will obviously effect his other activities and I hope he will be able to do our evening.

Its the same with our other winemakers. Hubert at Chateau Brossay will be hosting a tour with our guests on the wednesday afternoon and he has said that we will have to take pot luck! I haven’t even heard from Richard at Chateau de Chaintres. He’s too busy to answer his messages on the mobile!

I am sure everything will turn out all ok. After all the French are all so laid back and what will happen will happen.

So with the 2011 vendage now starting to get into full swing its time to look at our 2009 vintage on the website, cos it was a good year and you can be guaranteed a wine to be savoured. Have a look at gfwine and see what we have to offer. Cheers.


Today’s blog is all about the Saumur Appellation.

The chalky tufa soils to the south of the town of Saumur are home to the Cabernet Franc grape, the father of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Quite a pedigree. The cabernet franc is used to produce fresh, light fruity wines that the french love to drink as an aperitif wine but most importantly as a wine that can be drunk with all manner of dishes. If you go to a dinner with a french host you will no doubt be offered red wine only with your food. You might start with a sparkling Saumur or Cremant de Loire but the French just love the joy of wine that allows you to drink it on its own but also that it is of a sufficient body and structure to be able to match all sorts of dishes. The real cleverness is that the winemakers here now make wines of differing structure and body. So you may get a light fruity wine, or a medium bodied wine with a little bit more structure made using more contact with the skins and with a longer maceration period, or indeed, a full bodied wine made from old vines ‘vieille vigne’ on heavy soil and aged in old oak barrels to maintain the style of the appellation. Thesebdifferent wines are able to match all sorts of food types and so that is why red manages to fit all when it comes to pairing with food.

Saumur covers reds, whites, pinks and sweets. The reds are made under the Saumur, Saumur-Champigny, Saumur Puy Notre Dame appellations, the whites under the Saumur blanc appellation, the pink under the Cabernet de Saumur appellation (an off dry pink), and the sweet under the Coteaux de Saumur appellation. Then you have the sparkling wines of pink and white under Saumur Brut appellation. Its a great area for all styles of wine.

Why not check it out on our website and discover the great appellation of Saumur. Cheers.

Guests at one of our dinners enjoying the red of Saumur

Keep on Filming

James with Maggie Law

James enjoying the sun on the terrace

Forgot to mention that we took James Ellison with us for the filming. James is an avid film buff. If you need to know anything about films James has the answer every time. He wanted to see our new film this year ‘When we are married’ actually in the making and to see Maggie Law  in action as the director. She’s very good at getting the best out of us amateur actors with her encouragement and direction. James was much impressed with the filming. It was the last day and we were doing the scene between Henry Ormonroyd the photographer from the Yorkshire Argus and the maid  Ruby played by Electra. The scene was in the front room of Maggie and Peter’s house in France.

Afterwards James enjoyed lunch with us all and had a long chat with Electra. He talked all about his film knowledge and his work writing scripts for film and TV which he is looking to sell to the industry.

Our wine choice was the new appellation of Saumur Puy Notre Dame which has been created to specifically develop the wines of the tuffeau bedrock which dominates the terroir here around the small village of Puy Notre Dame. This wine has big fruits of cassis and blueberry with a complex struture that has been developed by Pierre Van Den Boom in a traditional way using old concrete vats and plenty of time to develop the wine. We are drinking the 2009 vintage.

James on the terrace with Peter and Maggie Law

 The 2010 still lies in the vats developing and enhancing the structure. The 2009 is nearly sold out so hurry up and buy some at This is only the third vintage of the new appellation so quite unique. It’s on offer on the website now. Cheers.

The day of filming

Lunch on the terrace

Yes it went really quite well. Maggie Law directing and filming the scenes (except the last which Karin did the filming as Maggie had to act in the last bit of filming. We were filming the part of the film where I, that is Henry Ormonroyd the local paper photographer, has come back from the pub to take a photo of the three happy couples. My part has the house maid and me in the front room waiting for the three couples to come and have their photos taken. Henry is a bit tiddly after the pub and there is a conversation with the maid Ruby about marriage etc and he’s a bit sentimental about his position.

Well after our filming we had a glass of wine around by the pool. Domaine de L’Enchantoir PuyNotre Dame AOC a chalky red wine from  the caberent franc grape. Then back to the terrace for lunch. A typical lunch with Quiche, tomato flan, a haricot vert salad, tomato salad, couscous, and other bits and pieces. Our wine was Chateau de Brossay Anjou Village an oak aged cabernet franc. Great with the more flavoursome tarts and spicy dishes.

The Puy Notre Dame and Brossay anjou village are both available on our website. Check it out. Cheers.

The Film

A scene with Peter Law as one of the happy couples

Peter Law showing off his undies!

The pub scene at Mishi and David's barn

Karin in one of her many parts. This time a reporter.

Its my last bit of filming on the J B Preistley play ‘When we are married’ tomorrow. I told you we do a film or play every year with our neighbours Peter and Maggie Law (Jude’s mum and dad). That’s if we get a part. So far so good, but after my abysmal failure at my lines I may not be so sure about next year. Maggie directs and organises the whole thing and Peter takes his part but also does lots of organisation behind the scenes.  They are a great team and its so much fun with all those taking part. Maggie and Peter are the best people you could meet. Gems. Its so relaxed and an absolute hoot with everyone. There’s been a couple of  personalityclashes and other events that will remain forever not told, but I just love the whole business. You may remember my blog on the tea party and sparkling wine. I did an  absolutely terrible day when I was useless at my lines. So embarrassing.  Anyway Mishi and David (Mishi does the costumes and arty bits) had a scene at their house in a big barn doing the pub scene. What a fab time. They are such generous people. We were all in costume and doing the normal things you do in pubs like playing dominos etc and of course drinking real yes real ale. Not the cold coffee you normally get. Then afterwards we socialised and ate and drank wine. I took some of the lovely Saumur rouge from Domaine de L’Enchantoir.

You should jump onto or website and hook onto some of our wines at Cheers.

Our portfolio

The church of Puy Notre Dame on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostelo and the centre of the Saumur wine appellation

Great news from Grainger Fine Wines. We are increasing our wine list to include wines throughout France and further afield. Since the London International Wine Fair we have been very busy working with our new winemakers to develop the business into a truely international brand. We will shortly be showcasing our new portfolio which will include the wines from Muscadet, Touraine, Sancerre/Pouilly Fume, Burgundy, Rhone, Alsace, Provence, Languedoc/Roussillon, Bordeaux. We will also be introducing wines from Italy and Spain. So watch this space.

Our wines will include those from Manoir de Mercey in Burgundy, Chateau Caladroy in Roussillon, Abbaye Sainte Radegonde in  Muscadet, Domaine Gibault in Touraine, Domaine de la Ronciere in the Rhone, Domaine Michel Dietrich in Alsace and Chateau Perron la Gourdine in Bordeaux.

We are finalising the details and hopefully in short shrift you will be able to buy from our extended list soon. Keep an eye on the website. Cheers.

The vendage begins

The harvester at work in the vineyard.


The chardonnay grape

The stalk remains on the vine after the berry has been picked by the harvester

Emptying the grape berries into the trailer from the harvester.

The destalking machine

The auger below the destalking machine that sends the berries to the press

The press where the berries are pressed into juice for fermentation

The nectar to be fermented into wine

Well we have started the grape harvest today here in our part of the Loire valley. Its early as I said it would be and first to be picked is the Chardonnay grape for making the Saumur brut and Cremant de Loire. The Saumur is machined picked and the Cremant hand picked. Today our winemaker Francois Letheuil from Domaine de la Saugourde is machine picking his Chardonnay for the white Saumur Brut.

The grapes are picked slightly green ie not fully mature at about 11%potential alcohol as the wine has to go through the second fermantation when about 1.5% alcohol is added in the bottle with the addition of sugar and yeast. This is the ‘Methode Traditionelle’ way of making sparkling wine as in  Champagne. Better still is the ‘Methode Ancestral’ which has no added sugar or yeast and is made by stopping the first fermentation by lowering the temperature of the wine when there is sufficient sugar still in the wine to allow the remaining amount to be fermented in the bottle to produce the bubbles. This method is better in my view as the grapes can be picked at maturity and so the resultant wine has more flavour and structure.

Anyway back to the harvest. Francois has his chardonnay vines in our village of St Macaire du Bois so its a walk up the road to have a look and to take some pictures.

The modern machines are able to pick the berries off the stalks in the main and any leaves that are in the pickings are removed in the machine from the berries and some juice that ends up in two containers at the back of the harvester. The harvester straddles the line of vines as you will see in the pics. When the machine is full it tips the grapes into a trailer that takes them back to the wineroom. Here they are tipped out of the trailer into a machine that removes any remaining stalks and leaves before the berries are augered into a revolving pnuematic press. Inside there is a bag that is expanded within the confines of the press and the berries are squashed inside and the juice runs through small holes on the outside of the revolving drum and is collected in a tray underneath and then either sent straight into the vats for fermenting or sometimes drained into an underground container to allow the bigger sediment to settle before being pumped into the vats.

The juice ferments and thereafter the wine follows slightly different methods as every winemakers has his own way of vinifying his wines. At some stage the wine has to be drawn off the vat leaving the solids and some wines are left ‘sur lie’ to obtain as much of the flavours as possible. Some winemakers use a stirring system to help impart flavours from the lees.

The wine needs to be aged and left to develop in the vats. Again winemakers age for different times and some age their wines in barrels. Some even ferment in barrels. So you see that is why proper non manufactured wines taste so different from one another, even when made from the same area and with the same grape.

Our winemakers only make proper wine from the grapes of one vintage. They do not blend between years  nor add substances in order to make the wine taste the same every year like these big conglomerates . How natural is that. Try our natural wines at Cheers.

The Wine Room Part 1

The wineroom in progress

I thought that I would start the saga of the wine room here at Manoir de Gourin. As you know we provide wine tours for guests and our wine courses here at the manoir are conducted on the rear terrace which was the old Chai where the barrels of wine were filled with the pink juice of Rose d’Anjou and fermented into the staple wine of the area. Not anymore but I do have a bottle of the wine for prosperity. We have now created a large terrace overlooking the rear formal gardens where we have our dinners as well as the wine courses and tour introductions. The wineroom where the grapes were crushed in a  large vertical press is next door (obviously) and all that is left of the old process is a concrete vat in one corner. These took over from the oak barrel fermentation and once the fermentation was completed the wine was put into oak barrels for ageing.

The old wineroom is now in the process of being converted into our new wine tasting room and a venue for courses and introductions to our wine tours. So during the conversion work I will post regular blogs on the progress of the work in hand.

Our local mason George has been busy cleaning the old tuffeau stone face of the internal walls which he will repoint and turn into what we call in France ‘Pierre apparent’. So we will have an original stone wall exposed with lime mortar joints. So far the stone has been cleaned and the next stage is to smooth off the stone. Meanwhile  I am installing a ceiling underneath the new tiles roof. First I have run the new cables for the ceiling lighting and then installed a multi layered insulation material. Finally a plasterboard ceiling is being installed using a metal suspension system fixed to the rafters.

The room has a first foor of which part is being turned into a studio apartment for renting out. On the lower end the ceiling is too low so I will remove the first floor joists to create a mezzanine gallery once the ceiling is finished so we have a full height room up to the slope of the ceiling.

Anyway so far so good. The picture is of work in progress with the new ceiling.

Of course we will use the room to showcase our local small domaine wines which you also can buy in UK if you go to Try a case of one of our wines. They are natural and contain loads of good healthy ingredients. Don’t buy the rubbish from the well known makes. Its full of sulphites and little of the naturally contained good stuff in wine as its mass produced and shipped, in the case of third world wines, half way round the world. What stupidity. France is just over the channel and the loire has the best of wines. Cheers.

Wine touring

JIm and Sally from the USA with Richard our winemaker from Chateau de Chaintres

Our claim to fame is the joyous time our guests have touring the vineyards and tasting the wine with the winemakers themselves on one of our wine tours.  At we provide personal escorted tours of the vineyards in the Loire valley with the winemakers so that you get first hand the benefits of the person who makes the wines  telling you all about it. We spend many a happy hour with these passionate people talking shop. That is our guests being able to get close and personal which is an incredible thing to be able to do talking with the man who makes the wine.

We have guests from all over the world who come to enjoy these experiences. From Canada, America, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Ireland and the UK. Withour exception our guests tell us about the unique experience they have with us and the enjoyment of meeting our winemakers.

If you would like to join us on a wine tour then please log onto and see what we have to offer.

We represent all the winemakers we visit on our tours in the UK so you can try their wines for yourself without leaving your front room. Just log onto and check out our wines. Cheers.

Lets have a quickie

Our guests on the terrace

I don’t mean what you’re thinking or maybe doing. What I mean is that I’m late with my blog tonight and dog tired after a long day ending in a great dinner with guests until now.

So we had a wine tasting dinner with eight guests ie a different wine with each course. We started with a white Savennieres from Moulin de Chauvigne 2007 which I paired with the starter of oven baked goats cheese tartlets, beetroot and balsamic vinegar dressing. You would be amazed at the way these ingredients combine to make an outstanding starter. The wine is 2007 so has taken on some complexity and structure that matches well with the stronger flavours of the dish. Our guests were initially sceptical at the tasting but agreed that it was a good match when tasted with the starter itself.

Next came the main course of pan fried pork fillet, caramalised apples, champignon de Paris mushrooms (button to you and me), and a pink wine reduction with blue cheese. This was accompanied by our own potatoes and haricot vert from the potager. I paired this with a pink wine from Domaine de Rochville ‘Le troubadour’. This is a Cabernet de Saumur which is a dry pink from the stable of Philip Porche who makes some seriously good wines. Again the structure of the wine is a good match with the richness of the sauce which incidently is a pink wine reduction of the same wine.

The cheese course wine was a red from the Saumur Champigny appellation of Chateau de Chaintres. A medium bodied red from the Cabernet Franc grape vinified by Richard Desouche. It may seem harsh as a wine on its own but it come into its own with a piquant cheese sauce. Delicious.

Dessert was a fruit brulee or a raspberry flan so a fruity sweet from the Coteaux du Layon appellation was just the ticket. Francois Letheuil makes an exceedingly good light sweet with a good balance that everyone always enjoys with our desserts.

There we are except we had to finish with a Combier Triple Sec liqueur. I mean what else? Its from Saumur and its jolly good old boy so why not?

You can grab the Domaine de Rochville pink Cabernet de Saumur, Saumur Champigny ‘Chateau’ and the Coteaux du Layon from Domaine de la Saugourde on our website Cheers.

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