Archive for September, 2011

A big day

Yes today started early at 5am when the picking of the cabernet franc grapes for the main red harvest commenced at Domaine de L’Enchantoir, some three weeks in advance of the usual time around the middle/end of October. The weather has been so kind to the Loire Valley winemakers. It has been hot and sunny for two weeks now allowing the berries to reach maturity and loose the effect of the rains on the concentration. Enchantoir’s grapes for the Saumur Rouge and Saumur Puy Notre Dame have now reached 14% potential alcohol and its a lovely day to harvest. Pierre our winemaker started with the cabernet franc of the parcels of Saumur Puy Notre Dame in his vineyards. The parcels have been kept in seperate vats and vinified so Pierre has the  option of blending or not when it comes to the final stage of bottling. If last year is anything to go by the terrior produces some extraordinary differences between parcels. Next the harvester picks the cabernet franc from the parcel at the rear of the house for the first vat of pink. Pierre is clever as each year he alternates between the dry appellation of cabernet de Saumur and the demi sec of the cabernet d’anjou appellation. This year is the turn of the demi sec. Pink needs a slightly more acidic content of the berries when picked as the cabernet d’anjou in particular needs some acid to counter the sugar levels. Pierre picks the cabernet for the pinks down on the floodplain of the Thouet river below the house where the vines are sheltered and are at the bottom of the slopes. Here the maturity is slightly less than the Saumur and Puy Notre Dame at 12.5% which with the acid level gives the right balance in the finished wine.

A bunch of Cabernet Franc berries

One of the helpers directing the berries into the vat

The top of the vats

Look at those lovely berries

During the day Pierre will alternate the pinks and reds so that this gives time for the pinks to be pressed whilst the reds are harvested and pumped directly into the vats as you will see from the photos.

As with the whites I reckon this could also be a good red vintage. More on another blog.

As an aside we are off back to blighty on Sunday and taking some wines for the Restaurant Show at Earls Court. The prize exhibit has to be Pierre’s 2009 Saumur Puy Notre Dame. A gold and silver medal winner. If you fancy some log onto our website www.gfwine.co.uk and grab some. Cheers.

A guest’s comments says it all

Manoir de Gourin at dusk

Manoir de Gourin at night

Our guest Keith being interviewed on TV for the Rugby world Cup in Paris.

We now have a famous wine tour guest. Keith and Jo from Canada came on holiday and stayed at Manoir de Gourin. They had a great day our wine touring in the Loire valley., Here’s a comment from Keith on his holiday experience with us. It goes:

“We got back to Montreal last evening after a wonderful holiday.
 
In Paris’ Jo and I talked about doing it all again, if we could coax a couple of friends to join us. If so, we’d be looking at a couple of bookings, but this is all very premature at this time. We’ll certainly be talking up Le Manoir de Gourin to our family and friends.
 
At the Manoir, I had mentioned that we would be taking in the Canada v France rugby game (from the World Cup in New Zealand) at the Great Canadian Pub in Paris on the Sunday morning. We got to the pub at 10:00 for the 10:30 start (20:30 in New Zealand) and saw a BFMTV crew was there. They were looking for a different viewpoint on the match. Their reporter asked if I spoke French and as I did, he asked if I minded giving live interviews before, at the half and after the game. Jo took a picture of one of the interviews (attached). I got my 15 minutes of fame – all across France!
 
As much of an experience as that was, it was really the week in the Loire that we will remember the most, especially the wine tour and the dinner on the terrace with our terrific hosts. I’m convinced that it’s the people that you meet that make the vacation great.

I’ve also added a coupe of photos of the manor house that I took, one at dusk and the other after Simon turned on the flood lights.
 
We also checked out Simon’s wine blog – interesting reading and great photos! I’ve forwarded the link to some of our family and friends.
 
Thanks again for a great holiday and hope to see you again soon.
 
Keith

There we are. What an we say, except Cheers.

Tea for six

Karin, Liz, Roy, Gracia and Ray enjoying the sparkling pink with our afternoon tea!

Yep we actually sat down for tea today to have a civilised tea break. Our friends Liz and Roy came to collect some wine and brought Liz’s brother Ray and his wife Gracia. So Karin bought some lovely cakes from the boulangerie in Doue la Fontaine. An apricot tart and some choux buns which she deftly turned into profiteroles with the addition of some chocolate covering. dipped into lovely dark rich chocolate. What loveliness. So we had Yorkshire tea with Karin’s engineered cakes.

Roy and Liz have a house near Richeleau and her brother was over for a break. He’s a retired banker and his wife Gracia a masseur consultant. They are big into dancing. I suggested they bring over a group from the states and enjoy a wine tour with us. Liz and Roy are into yoga and I know Liz has her old group from the Uk over so perhaps they can do a wine tour with us.

We finished our tea as you do in France with a sparkling pink from Domaine de L’enchantoir. Well received. Cheers.

The magnificent eight

Our guests at Domaine de L'Enchantoir with winemaker Pierre.

Its very unusual to get eight of our self catering guests to do a wine tour together and also difficult as the motor only takes four guests. However all eight of our guests decided to take up our wine course and tour to the domaine of Enchantoir on Wednesday last 21 September. Luckily our guests Robert and Amanda agreed to take their car as Amanda does not drink wine (she does now because having tasted some she has been won over).  It has to be said that we had some lovely guests  staying who were all up for a wine tour. Alan and Marit from North Kent. Alan a retired City of London coppper whose personality shone brightly with his glamorous wife Marit of Norwegian descent. Howard and Sheelagh. Both retired and enthusiastic discoverers of fine wine. Before us they had travelled to Burgundy to pick up some cru wine. Howard was telling me that they visited an estate recommended to them. They arrived to find the place desserted but everything was open even the wines were within easy reach. They behaved themselves and took down the phone number and arranged a subsequent visit to pick up some wine. Robert and Amanda who are our kayakers. And Finally Tom and Laura our newlyweds.

They all had a great time with our host Pierre. We started in the vines first looking at the chenin vines already shorn of their berries for the sparkling wines and then the chenin yet to be harvested for the main still wine saumur blanc appellation. Here Pierre was able to talk about and demonstrate his close attention to the health of the berries which I will talk about in another blog.

We visited the chai to see the new chenin and chardonnay juice fermenting at 20 degrees centigrade in the concrete vats for Pierre’s sparkling cuvees. Then down to the caves to see the white and reds ageing in the old bordeaux and burgundy barrels.

Finally we tasted the range of wines in the reception room (too many for the tasting room) and out of all that Pierre was relieved of some 90 litres of wine in bottles and Bibs. Everyone expressed their enjoyment and we did not arrive back at the Manoir until 7pm. A great afternoon out.  Thank you Pierre and Cheers.

Stocking up for winter

Tasting the Cuvee Madelaine white Saumur from the barrels at Enchantoir

Many of our friends are summer visitors to France during the normal sunny days around here in the Loire valley. Not so much this year but still warmer and more pleasant than in UK. We’ve had an indifferent summer with warm days up to 34 centigrade and beautiful cloudless skys, but also wet and windy days  particularly during the later half of the summer in August.

So now our friends are starting to pack up and travelling back to the UK over the winter. Time to consider stocking up with wine for the UK.. Most of our lot have in the past taken back bottles which are heavy and not particularly environmentally friendly, but now the move is towards the good old Bag in Box (called bibs in France). Wines from the small estates are the same whether in bottles or Bibs, or indeed Vrac where you take your own container and have it filled at the domaine directly from the vat.. For example Pierre at Enchantoir will when the wine is ready in the vat use some to bottle and some to put in BIbs. Its exactly the same. So now we and our friends take Bibs. Usually 5 litre white which sits nicely in the fridge to keep cool and 10 litre reds which sit quite comfortably on the worktop or on a cupboard shelf out of sight so you do not have to be embarassed when you have visitors. As in France you can then decant both the white and red into used bottles of the same wine for dinner parties and for when you have visitors. There is some worry about how long the wine may keep in Bibs. We have kept ours for 3 months so you should have no problem here unless you are a very very slow drinker! The wine is so much cheaper in Bibs because the cost of a bottle/label/cork etc is so much more than a foil bag and cardboard box.

Anyway we took some friends to Domaine de L’Enchantoir to do a tasting with the express intention of seeking out a wine to bring back to the UK for the winter. Peter ended up buying 80 litres of Saumur red in Bibs , and John and Sally took back 20 litres of saumur blanc in Bibs and some bottles of Saumur Puy Notre Dame appellation (normally the higher end wines are not used in BIbs).

All in all a plentiful and fruitful day for all. Our visit to Pierre to buy our wines for the winter will be next week. We’re still trying to decide how much we will take, particularly as Xmas celebrations need to be taken into consideration.

All you need to do is contact us at sgrainger@gfwine.co.uk to see how you too can get hold of these award winning wines in BIBs. Cheers.

2011 White Vintage

Tasting at Domaine de L'enchantoir. The best winemaker.

A further word on this year’s white wine vintage here in the Loire valley. In our area Anjou/Saumur the start of the season was very early by some 4 weeks due to the very warm months of April and May. The vines flowered in early June so the harvest was predicted around the second week of Spetember. They say around here that the harvest is about 90 to 100 days from flowering. If the weather had stayed warm throughout the summer the berries would have been ready then but as is the unpredictability of the weather the months of July and August were not very settled with cloudy colder days and rain. This delayed the ripening of the berries and this put back the harvest of the main crop by two weeks so over the last week the chenin blanc has been harvested and next week will be the turn of the cabernet franc.  Normally October is the month of still wine harvests so we are still early. We have had a lot of rain over the beginning of September and only in the last week have we had some good weather with warm sunny days. The bad weather had two effects on the berries. First they started to be affected by rot from the damp conditions and secondly the  berry juice concentration has been reduced but this has one good attribute in that the acid levels tend to be reduced so there is less concern with the too high acid levels. The maturity was around 12% at that stage and the not so careful winemaker will have harvsted before the rot got too bad. Unfortunately from my knowledge the white still wine may exhibit some ‘rust’ taste which will impart some affect on the final wine. The period of warm weather we are now experiencing has helped to rebalance the juice concentration in the berries and if you are a good viticulturist  tending your vines carefully the rotten berries will have been removed to help prevent further rot and with the process of effeuillage or leaf removal this has exposed the berries to the sun and helped air circulation around the bunches. Maturity will have climbed nearer to 13% and the balance with acid should now develop a well balanced wine.

So in conclusion, the vintage will be mixed and my advice will be to seek out the best viticulturist/winemaker as his wine will be more elegant, structured and balanced so it could be as nearly as  good as last year whilst with the winemaker who is only interested in harvesting his maximum allowance of the appellation the harvest will be mediocre and certainly not as good as last year.

For most people finding the best winemaker is impossible unless you have someone to point you in the right direction. Here at Grainger Fine Wines we can do that for you as we only have top quality winemakers in our portfolio. Have a look at the 2009/2010 wines we currently have on offer at www.gfwine.co.uk.  Cheers.

Wine room update

The wine room taking shape

The external door taking shape

Its been some time but do not despair we are progressing with the wine room at Manoir de Gourin. I have now finished plasterboarding the ceiling and filling the joints. George our mason has been busy preparing the stonework for the Pierre a Parrant with the tuffeau stone exposed with repointing of the joints. We are also creating a new studio apartment on the first floor so George has been busy with a new entrance at first floor level with an external opening. We are proposing to put in an external staircase and balcony for the apartment.  Today I have been getting the place ready for George to start the repointing with a visit to the builders yard in Doue la Fontaine to pick up some sand and lime for the mortar. Tomorrow I will need to clear the decks of the old stones and earth mortar for George to  start on Monday.  A slight detour, as it were, occurred when our neighbour decided to approach the boundary wall at the rear. Here recently  the wall had collapsed and now we have the discussion about who is responsible for the repair?

Anyway work is progressing well and I hope we will be up and running for next season in May for our wine tastings overlooking the pool. Its a real joy to behold.

If you decide to join us the view over the pool from the tasting room is magical. Why not join the ever increasing numbers who come to join us for a wine course, tour and tasting of our wines. They are available  at gfwine.co.uk. Its such a joy. Cheers.

L’Enchantoir’s main chenin blanc harvest

A healthy bunch of Chenin blanc at maturity

The harvested Chenin being augered into the press

Well after a very difficult week for Pierre at Enchantoir and all the winemakers of the area with the weather causing some amount of concern after the rains causing a reduction in concentration and an atmosphere for rot in the grapes, we had a break in the weather with a dry spell of a few days which luckily kept the damp at bay so reducing rot  and which helped to reduce water in the berries to build concentration.

Pierre decided to wait until yesterday to harvest, having decided with the wet weather of last week to pick at the beginning of the week. He kept his nerve and waited to allow the berries to reach a potential alcohol level of 12/13 degrees. Acid levels were reduced by the wet weather diluting the concentration so not too much of an issue . A good balance. The warm sunny weather held and he was able to pick early yesterday morning at 6am in the cool of the morning.

Of course good wine relies on good grapes and to this end Pierre has been attending his vines meticulously over the last week or so cutting out bad berries so that the harvester will only pick healthy berries. Most estates just harvest the grapes as they are that is the good grapes and the rotten grapes so that the juice and resultant wine will have as a ‘rusty’ taste from the rotten berries. The not so good winemakers will add chemicals to the wine to offset this taste, but not Pierre. He has spent the last week or so with his workers working day in day out in the vines cutting out the rotten berries and bunches and pruning the leaves around the bunches to discourage rot. The resultant harvest has very little in the way of bad berries and so the juice obtained from the berries will be of high quality with no bad taste. This was amply demonstrated by Pierre with our guests on Wednesday in the vineyard. The chenin berries looked ripe and rounded and all the rotten berries had been cut out and left on the ground.

 I reckon Pierre will produce another good vintage. You need to be on board the Enchantoir bandwagon now so that you have the privelege and advantage of picking up the best wines of the Loire valley. Otherwise you will definitely miss out of the rush for these wines. Pierre only makes  around 12000 bottles. They will be like gold dust. Already they have become ambassadors for the Loire valley. Cheers.

The motley crew

Our guests in the vineyards

Yes they will not mind me calling them that. They are a great bunch. And here they are:

Alan: the chief (ex city of London bobby) he who looks after the proceedings. A great job. Well done.

Marit: the striking blonde Norwegian wife. A wonderful partner.

Howard: The scotsman with a polytunnel full of strawberries.

Sheelagh: recently retired  and now a budding photographer.

Laura: The newlywed and a Phd in Medieval History.

Tom: Jet Propelled. Go for it!

Robert: The kayaker extraordinaire

Amanda: Reformed teatotaller. Sold on Loire valley wines.

So there you have it. . The guests at our dinner.

And they loved the wines from Domaine de L’Enchantoir.

Cheers.

Tom:

Labels

Its a big subject and one that taxes many of the wine producers that we have on our website. We also have to think about the labels as it is the first visual part that you see when looking for a wine. That’s why we put then on our website so you are able to see what the label shows. Not much you might say on french bottles and you would be right. For starters the label does not show any of the ingredients in a bottle of wine except to say it contains sulphites which is a preservative to prevent oxidation. Unfortunately it does not say how much. For example when you buy a bottle of wine in the supermarket it probably contains around 200 milligrams of sulphur dioxide which is at a level that will impact upon flavour, cause problems for asmatics, and can cause headaches. In Australia it can be up to 300 milligrams per litre. It may also impact upon the healthy benefits of wine of which there are many.

The joy of wine is that it can be made naturally with loads of health benefits with only minimum addition of sulphites. The trick is to make the wine naturally so that it retains the natural sulphites for preserving the wine. These mass produced ‘supermarket’ wines may have so much sulphites and other residual chemicals that are not shown on the bottle label because they are at levels that are permissible under european law. The trouble is that nobody knows how these residual chemicals build up over time in your body as you get older and what damage it may do to you and your health. There are untold chemicals used in the vineyards and the winerooms of producers.

The only way you can avoid these is to buy wine from retailers like us who are careful about selling natural wines without manufactured chemicals sprayed on the vines or harmful ingredients put into the wines during the vinification process.

Why not have a look at our wines at gfwine.co.uk. We support natural winemakers and so you have a choice when you pay £5.99 at the supermarket. You buy it and it may harm your long term health or you take the natural wine route. Cheers.