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DOMAINE HENRI BOURGEOIS, Sancerre
Spring has come again. The earth is like a child who knows poems.
Rainer Maria Rilke – Sonnets to Orpheus
gunflint, initially steely, then ripening in the mouth with a broad array of flavours and wonderful length. The Monts
Damnés (M.D.) is from grapes harvested on the Monts Damnes, slopes so steep that they are called “cursed”. A grace
and flavour wine that will age and age. Since the eleventh century noblemen would try to outbid each other just to
possess a small parcel of this prized land. We would also draw your attention to the manifold other cuvées. The wittily
titled Petit Bourgeois misses appellation status by a gnat’s whisker. This belt-tightening faux-Sancerre has undeniable
typicity. La Vigne Blanche comes from vines grown on slopes separating the village of Chavignol from Sancerre, the
terroir being an amalgam of clay and limestone chalk. Oak aged in barrel for five months on the fine lees, La Vigne
Blanche is vinous with herbaceous notes of elderflower and ivy as well as a hint of kiwi fruit. Cuvée d’Antan (70 year
old vines) is a different ball of silex made in “the old style” from vines on south-facing slopes. Viticulture is
biodynamic, grapes are harvested by hand and after pressing and maceration the wine is left in old wooden barrels
for eighteen months batonnage. Racking is done after the full moon. The style is sui generis: the wine fills the mouth
with layer after layer of creamy fruit, a touch of breadiness from the lees and the terroir notes of truffle and warm
stone. The Jadis is grown on Kimmeridgean Marl (60-year-old vines) and is made according to grandfather’s recipe.
This is a wine of great charisma; very aromatic and concentrated. Complex and well-balanced, Sancerre Jadis reveals
aromas of exotic fruits and honey. The oaked Etienne Henri cuvée comes from the older vines on flint clay slopes.
Such a method of vinification requires top-quality grapes for a successful marriage of wood and wine.
Alcoholic fermentation is exclusively in oak barrels followed by 12 months of maturation on fine lees. Result: a fine
wine of great complexity. Les Demoiselles is a Pouilly-Fumé made from select Sauvignon grapes from the Saint-
Laurent Kimmeridgean marls, the site of the first vines planted in Pouilly-Fumé. Around 85% of this wine has been
fermented in stainless steel and the other 15% in oak from the Tronçais forest. It is aged on the fine lees for seven to
eight months. Finally, don’t neglect the rosé, a real wine by any other name, with its lovely nuances of wild strawberry
fruit. All the wines are sublime with cheese.
Once upon a time, o best beloved, a great oak was planted in what would become the National Forest of Saint-Palais
near Bourges. As the centuries passed it grew bigger and stronger and one day became the eldest and most majestic of
a line of great oaks that were used to build the frame of the Saint Etienne cathedral in Bourges. Located at the
crossroads of telluric forces (yes, this was a feng shui oak tree), legend has it that Sully, King Charles V and Agnès
Sorel came to rest at the foot of this great oak and many others since used it as a place of assignation. But in 1993 a
violent storm struck down the 433 year-old tree. In the subsequent auction the Bourgeois family outbid interested
buyers from around the world to preserve this piece of local culture and to renew it by crafting it into barrels in which
they placed the fruit of their most cherished Sauvignon and Pinot vines. As you wipe away a misty tear know that the
wines are magnificent, liquid testaments to the vessel in which they have been aged. “Old noted oak! I saw thee in a
mood /Of vague indifference; and yet with me /Thy memory, like thy fate, hath lingering stood /For years, thou hermit,
in the lonely sea /Of grass that waves around thee!”
QUINCY “HAUTE VICTOIRE”
SANCERRE BLANC “LA VIGNE BLANCHE”
SANCERRE BLANC “LA VIGNE BLANCHE” – ½ bottle
SANCERRE BLANC “LE M.D.”
SANCERRE BLANC “CUVEE JADIS”
SANCERRE BLANC “ETIENNE HENRI”
SANCERRE BLANC “CUVEE D’ANTAN”
SANCERRE BLANC “LE CHENE SAINT-ETIENNE”
POUILLY-FUME EN TRAVERTIN
POUILLY-FUME “LA DEMOISELLE”
SANCERRE ROUGE “LES BARONNES”
SANCERRE ROUGE “LE CHENE SAINT-ETIENNE”
SANCERRE ROSE “LES BARONNES”
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FOOD AND WINE OF THE LOIRE
Gustave Flaubert once wrote of the Loire valley: “The wind is mild without voluptuousness, the sun soft
without ardour; the whole landscape pretty, varied in its monotony, light, gracious, but of a beauty which
caresses without captivating, which charms without seducing, and which, in a word, has more common
sense than grandeur and more spirit than poetry. It is France.”
Joanna Simon writes in Wine With Food: “Gourmet and gourmand, the two extremes (though not opposites of good food) can find
contentment in the… Loire region” Stretching as it does from Nantes almost to the Ardèche it would be foolish to generalise about the food
from the Loire, but the region, if we may call it so, has an exhilarating gastronomic heritage. Flavours tend to be fresh and subtle rather than
heavy and rich. Dishes are cooked simply to highlight the quality of the ingredient. The white wines are pungent from the brine-scented
Muscadet to the intensely flavoured (but never heavy) Chenin and Sauvignon to sapid light reds from Cabernet Franc, Gamay or Pinot Noir.
Then, of course, there are the fabulous sweet wines…
This is a “nantaise” specialty. People from Nantes attribute its creation to Mère Clémence (a restaurant on the levee called the “Divatte”).
Its reputation grew quickly and it began to be served at all the fine tables in Anjou, Tours and all the way to Orléans. Beurre Blanc
accompanies pike, salmon, turbot, and even scallops marvellously. The sauce is an emulsion of melted salted butter thickened with a
reduction of shallots and vinegar (Muscadet wine vinegar for purists).
The wild salmon fished in the Loire has now become a part of legend. It is now as rare as truffles would be on the daily lunch table and
has been replaced with imported salmon or salmon from fish farms. The salmon is cut into steaks which are then grilled or served in fillet
with sauce. Wild salmon should be drunk with Savennières, the muscularity of the noble fish pierced by the harpoon of the wine’s natural
acidity, the natural oils of the fish softening and enriching the angularity of the Chenin, a true regenerative mutuality. Pike is a very
savoury fish that is gorgeous with beurre blanc, but may also be served roasted – as it is in Sologne. Loire River pikeperch fillet in
Vouvray wine with asparagus and morel mushrooms is a classic rendering (with Vouvray, naturally). On a similar theme, grilled shad
with wild mushrooms and sorrel, or braised with white wine with beurre blanc are particularly good hosed down by a nippy Anjou or
Saumur Blanc. Friture de Loire is composed of bleak fish and gudgeon and is prepared with garlic butter. Muscadet is a good bet here.
Muscadet and oysters are another happy marriage and for the skyscraper fruits de mer platter good quantity as well as good quality is a
prerequisite! You can even try Gros Plant (or maybe not). Anguille (eel) is prepared in matelote sauce with red wine, cut into chunks,
stewed in red wine with mushrooms, small white onions and lardons and sometimes served with fresh pasta and local truffles. Local chefs
will cook their eel in Chinon or Bourgueil; these reds have an earthiness that respects this hearty rustic dish. More elaborate dishes might
include: sautéed scallops served with vegetable parmentière, whipped cardamom sauce and beetroot butter or John Dory fillets served
with ginger butter and garden vegetables or roasted langoustines set around a creamy risotto made with local andouillette (sausage made
of chitterlings) seasoned with shellfish vinaigrette. One of Henri Bourgeois’ oak-aged white Sancerres would fit the bill beautifully here;
even a red Sancerre would do.
The rillettes from Tours and Vouvray are just as renowned as those from Mans. Rillons are delicious served warm, not hot. According to
Balzac they look like “pork residue sautéed in fat which looks like cooked truffles.” Uncork that bottle of Gamay de Touraine from Henry
Marionnet which has been cooling in the fridge and gulp with extreme prejudice. That opposition of sweet fat with the hint of bitter
cherry and damson makes a happy marriage. The rustic flavours of a casserole of snails from the St. Nicolas de Bourgueil area, Touraine
high quality free-range chicken, Bresse pigeon or calf’s sweetbreads braised perhaps with candied lemon and cumin and served with
turnip-rooted chervil attract a chunky Anjou-Villages (they don’t come chunkier than those from Ogereau) or an earthy Saumur-
Champigny. “Potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism are very good for the lips: especially prunes and prism,” quoth Mrs General in Little
Dorrit. Cooked with pork, rabbit, chicken and fish, prunes feature heavily in Loire gastronomy – prisms are noticeably absent. A good
Bourgueil, such as the one from Domaine de la Chevalerie, is a tremendously adaptable red; its soothing gravelly flavours, ripe tannins
and refreshing acidity, neither dominate nor are dominated, but flow, swirl and eddy like a river around the constituent parts of the dish.
The area along the Loire is known for the diversity of goats’ cheese. The “Chèvres”, as goats’ cheeses are called in France, are available
in pyramids, rolls or conical shapes. Some of the varieties are coated with plant coals or depending on the degree of maturity, covered
with a fine mould rind. The Crottin de Chavignol is most noteworthy; others such Sainte-Maure de Touraine, Selles sur Cher, and
Pouligny Saint-Pierre are worth seeking out. Gourmets respect these goat’s cheeses which have been produced according to an old
tradition in the places they are named after. Take a mature piece of goat’s cheese and put a little on the tip of your tongue and drink some
fine Sancerre and take in the interplay of chalkiness, creaminess and tangy gooseberry as the cheese crumbles on your taste buds.
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Too much and too little wine. Give him none, he cannot find truth; give him too much, the same.
Blaise Pascal (born in Clermont-Ferrand)
DOMAINE JEAN MAUPERTUIS, Côtes d’Auvergne – Biodynamic
Stop sneering at the back. We’ll provide the vin if you provide the table.
Whether grown in volcanic hills called puys, in Limagne, or on the hills (domes) on the eastern edge of the Massif Central,
Auvergne wines are made with the Gamay variety, which has been cultivated in the region for centuries.
Domaine Maupertuis is located in the commune of Pérignat-lès-Sarlièves fairly close to Clermont-Ferrand (twinned with
Salford and Aberdeen amongst other places). The vines, some of them 100 years old, are planted on a mixture of terroirs, but
the Pierres Noires (from vineyards adjacent to La Roche Noire) are on volcanic basalt.
barnyard when it is first opened. This dissipates quickly, but leaves behind a topsoil smell that remains to accompany the
raspberry notes. Sour cherry and pomegranate seed flavours are accompanied with earthiness too. This is a Gamay as nature
intended, organic, unfiltered and unsulphured, as prickly as a hedgehog with ants in his pants, a dark pickled damson strut
across the tongue, and you should drink it with alacrity from a pot Lyonnais with some tripoux or “Truffade” a baked mixture
of sliced potatoes and Tome de Cantal. By the way there is some Mirefleurien in this wine, a grape variety named after an
Auvergnate village. What it gives other than a soupçon of local street cred I have no idea.
It is important to appreciate the simple things in this complex world of ours, as someone once wrote. The Guillaume is an
aerial number and asks you to remove the bottle to the nearest picnic zone. Neyrou is 100% Pinot Noir from 25 year old vines
that grow on an outcrop of marl with limestone overlooking the plain of Limagne. Neyrou is the ancient Auvergnate name for
Pinot Noir. Fermented with natural yeasts in concrete vats this is beautifully pure, elegant Pinot with dark red fruits and
peppery notes. Take the Bulles by the short and pointies. It is a cute Pet Bul made au natural (natch) with wild yeasts and
(second) fermentation finishing in the bottle with manual disgorgement with no malolactic, no filtering, no fining and no
sulphur. Dare we say that this wine has vulcanicity? We daren’t.
CHARDONNAY PUY LONG (2016) ~ limited availability (from autumn)
VDF GAMAY D’AUVERGNE “CUVEE PIERRES NOIRES” (2016)
VDF GAMAY D’AUVERGNE “LA PLAGE”
VDF PINOT NOIR “NEYROU” (2016)
VDF PETILLANT PINK BULLES (2016)
DOMAINE NO CONTROL, VINCENT MARIE, Auvergne - Biodynamic
No Control consists of 5 hectares of vines in the Auvergne featuring the following grape varieties: Gamay, Pinot Noir, Syrah,
Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Sylvaner and Pinot Auxerrois which Vincent uses to make 5-7 cuvees. No Control also has an
impressively diverse range of terroirs born from recent and former volcanic activity. This gives the wines typical features and
a specific mineral taste. Farming respects living organisms, vegetable matter, soil and health. Since 2013, the vines have been
in conversion to organic agriculture. Vincent’s work with Patrick Meyer allowed him to gain and understanding and
experience of biodynamics. Each year the plots get the basic biodynamic preps including 500 (cow-horn manure) and 501
Vincent works one plot without mechanization, using animal traction, a horse, which further contributes to the microbial life
in the soil. “Fusion is named after the name of a music style “which I very much like for its mixing of hip-hop and energetic
rock. My favourite bands are Rage Against The Machine (of course), Faith No More, Suicidal Tendencies, Body Count.
Regarding wine, it is also the fusion between the Gamay style from Auvergne and that prevalent in Beaujolais and between
two types of vinification.”
Located in Volvic on feldspathic sand the Fusion vineyards are on south-facing slopes 420 m above sea level. Yields from the
15-110 year old vines are naturally low, the grapes carefully harvested in small crates. They are then fed as whole bunches in
two fibreglass vats. In the first vat grapes are stomped to make space in the vat and to allow maceration of whole bunches in
the juice. The grapes in the second vat undergo carbonic maceration. Devatting, pressing, blending of both vats with the free-
run and pressed juice. Maceration of 3 weeks. No added chemical inputs. Half aged in vat, half in 15 hl barrels for 8 months
No filtration, fining or sulphur added. The real deal –fusion, not confusion. Appellation no control. Magma comes from vines
on the bedrock of the Beauregard Vendon plot. The soil is granitic, the east-facing vines are 25 years old and situated at 430
metres altitude. Classic no intervention winemaking - whole bunches in a wooden tronconic tank with daily punch-downs over
12 days. Devatting, pressing, blending of the free-run and pressed juice. No added chemical inputs.
FUSION - magnum
ROCKAILLE BILLY - magnum
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LE CLOS SAINT-JEAN, RICHARD & JOEL LAPALUE, Côtes Roannaise– Organic
Located by the village of Saint-Jean de Maurice, a famous medieval town, in a commune that is literally at the beginning of
the Loire. Organic since 1996 (certified Ecocert) this small domaine is situated on steep granite slopes Harvest is by hand and
ferment is whole harvest in stainless tanks.
COTES ROANNAISE ROUGE
COTES ROANNAISE ROUGE – 10 litre BIB
DOMAINE DES PALAIS, YANN PALAIS, Côtes Roannaise– Organic
This is an old vineyard abbey now a family estate in the village of Ambierle. The vineyards are on pink granite at 400 metres
above sea level. La Tassee des Anges is a blend of 40% Syrah and 50% Gamay whole bunch fermented with its own yeasts in
stainless tanks. A natural little number with very low sulphur addition. This is what the Roannaise does so well – big scoops of
fruit, but steering wide of the bubblegum idiom.
COTES ROANNAISE ROUGE – 10 litre BIB
GAMAY SYRAH LA TASSEE DES ANGES IGP D’URFE
Here once, through an alley Titanic,
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul-
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
There were days when my heart was volcanic
Edgar Allan Poe
DOMAINE DU PICATIER, GERALDINE & CHRISTOPHE PIALOUX, Côtes Roannaise– Biodynamic
Domaine du Picatier is the project of Christophe and Géraldine Pialoux, who took over the estate in 2007, Christophe having
previously studied at the lycée viticole in Beaune and worked extensively for Drouhin. Of the couple's 7ha of vines, there is
1ha of 40-year-old Pinot Noir, and another 1ha devoted to Chardonnay; the rest is Gamay. Domaine du Picatier is situated in
the the département de la Loire (42), within the greater region of
the Rhône-Alpes in the centre-east of France. The small
vineyard region of the Côte Roannaise (200 hectares) benefits from a diverse landscape and farming. But also from the flow
of the Loire river which has its source just a few kilometres from Saint-Etienne. The vines of Domaine "Le Picatier" reach 400
metres above sea level at the foot of the Monts de la Madeleine.
The vineyard is on granitic sand and granitic porphyry. The Pilalouxs are very proactive amongst the vines using biodynamic
preparations and working according to the Maria Thun calendar to stimulate photosynthesis. Low dose of Bordeaux mixture
and sulphur in the vineyard against mildew and oidium, allowing grass to grow between the vines and then harvesting by
hand in October putting the bunches into small cases. Vinification respects the farming with foot-pigeage, semi carbonic
maceration, indigenous yeast ferments and maturation on the lees in a variety of different vessel, from fibreglass to old
The Chardonnay is from sandy clay soils from 30 year old vines with a 24 hour maceration of the grapes before pressing. The
wine is aged in futs de chene on the fine lees before being bottled without filtration or fining. Auvernat is a synonym of Pinot
Noir in the Orléanais and the 40 year old vines here are on sandy limestone slopes. The grapes are vinified with whole berries
with a one month cuvaison on indigenous yeasts. Vinification is semi-carbonic for 10 days and finishes in 228 litre used
barrels. Unfined, unfiltered and low sulphur addition.
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