Articles from: August 15, 2011

Natural food and wine

At Manoir de Gourin we are now reaping the rewards of having a potager (kitchen garden). Its only the second year as we had been so busy with our work to get the manor house, stableblock and grounds up to  a standard that was suitable for our guests. You can see what we have achieved by logging onto our wine tours website It really is a lovely place to come and relax and to learn about and taste the wines of this region. All our guests love the tours.

We had to ask our french neighbour Roger to bring over his tractor and plough to turn over the very hard ground at the bottom of our rear garden. Copious amounts of mushroom compost later mixed in with my rotavator has produced some fairly good soil in which to plant our vegtables and fruit bushes. Apart from  the vineyards and farming here in the Loire valley we have the largest mushroom growing industry in France. They used to be grown in the miles of caves that exist here along the Loire originally mined for the limestone, then used as houses and storage for the wine and mushroom growing. Now most mushrooms are grown on a more industrial scale in buildings above ground. The mushrooms are grown in metal cages filled with chopped straw. After the mushrooms have been harvested the cages are emptied of the straw and it is used to fertilize the land. So off I used to trundle with my trailer to pick up some compost. Now some 20 trailer loads later the potager is looking pretty fertile.

This year we are growing Haricot Vert (green beans), charlotte potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes  (three varieties: Grappe, Cherise Alongee, Cornu de Andes) and peppers in the greenhouse. We also have strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, blackberries and apples.

Its all grown naturally with no spraying or chemicals in sight and when its ready to harvest we eat it quite simply. For example we either eat the haricot vert cooked with grated parmisan cheese grated on top with some olive oil, salt and pepper,or with pasta. Tomatoes are eaten sliced with loads of basil from the herbs grown in pots around the front and rear terraces salt and pepper and my own mix of vinigrette (quite complicated with wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, mixed dried herbs, a touch of crushed garlic, a touch a crushed ginger, worchester sauce, soy sauce, dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, anchovy paste, honey, and olive oil about 3 times the amount of all the other ingredients and give it a real good shake). 

This year our fruit harvest without chemicals and just natural was loads of all the aforementioned. We are still harvesting strawberries and raspberries by the punnet load for fresh at breakfast, compote, jam and frozen for the winter period. Forgot to mention cherries which were in abundance this year. Again as they are fresh, jam and loads of compote for the winter months.

So you see we eat as much as possible fresh ingredients or bought from the local market.

It should be the same with what you drink. Why should it be different? But unfortunately we don’t take as much care probably as we do with food. Lets take wine for example as I have a little knowledge of the  same. We buy our wine in the supermarkets by and large. They have the lions share of the market and so can sell at silly prices. For five quid all you get is, basically, give or take, a pound’s worth of wine as the rest is duty, vat and the cost of the bottle, label etc. Out of that pound everyone in the chain has to be paid so the winemaker gets  very little.  Basically the wine is crap. So with this squeeze on the winemaker he has to make loads of wine from his field of vines and in order that he does not loose his crop to disease or pests he sprays the grapes and leaves with loads of chemicals. That means you get a part of these chemicals in your wine. How much? Who’s to tell as there is no list of these on the bottle as they are below the limit allowed by law in UK and the EU so they don’t have to put it on the label. But I don’t want any chemicals in my wine thank you very much.

If you would like to know about our wines and the natural processes our winemakers use, please email me at Please have a look at our website and see the portfolio of natural wines we sell. Surely it makes sense to drink natural wines. Cheers.