The weekend of Pentecost was spent in the Loire. Christian Venier hosted a Portes Ouvertes at his domaine in Madon, Touraine along with his partner Marie-Julienne.
It was an opportunity for winemakers and friends to get together and there was a lot of fun, food and frolics. Jeff Coutelou and most of his team were present including Michel, Vincent and many of the people who spent time in Puimisson during the vendanges such as Céline, Carole and Karim.
I know that Jeff and some others did not get to bed much before 4am on those three mornings. It was also quite amusing to see a lot of French people dancing to ‘Waterloo’ of all songs! Good to know that history is safely in the past. It was easy to make new friends too, as always there is a real energy and friendliness in the natural wine crowd.
The Veniers were great hosts, many thanks to them for their generosity.
To mark the event Christian and Jeff Coutelou made a special cuvée, ‘Devigne Qui Vient Dîner’ (a play on Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner). Gamay and Pinot Noir from Christian assembled with Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault from Jeff and made only in magnums. Very nice too.
Christian’s wines are a great combination of fruit and complexity with plenty of texture. His La Roche 2011 in magnum was a true highlight of the year’s wines for me, a great Gamay which I wrote about as Wine Of The Week. I will be coming back to this later in the article.
A number of winemakers joined the event and having just written an article about how there was a promising new wave of young producers it was good to see my statement supported by yet more up and coming talent.
One of those was a friend from the Languedoc, Sébastien Benoit-Poujad of Domaine de la Banjoulière. Sébastien bottles his wines at Jeff’s cellar and his wines are starting to show real quality, his light, fresh Aramon 15 and, especially, his lovely Carignan 13 were on great form. Sébastien’s partner Tina is also a familiar figure on these pages as she worked at Jeff’s during the 2014 vendanges, that’s where the pair met.
Of the Loire new wave there was:
Noella Morantin whose old vine 2014 Sauvignon Blanc ‘LBL’ was especially good
Benoit Courault, very good reds especially the Grolleau 2014 ‘La Couléé’.
Laurent Saillard, whose wines spoke of their grape and terroir. ‘Scarlett’ (Gamay and Pinot d’Aunis) and the Sauvignon Blanc ‘Lucky You’ 15 were especially good.
Finally there was Cédric Bernard who has worked with Christian and is now venturing out on his own. In an act of incredible support and generosity Christian has given his La Roche vineyard to Cédric to help him. This is the parcel of Gamay whose 2011 I so enjoyed. What a spirit of sharing and humanity. And the first Gamay from that parcel was lovely, named ‘La Cabane À Marcel’. After the 2011 it was my favourite wine of the weekend and as a bonus it comes in a litre bottle! I look forward to drinking the bottles I bought. I very much liked the Chenin Blanc ‘Brin De Chèvre’ too. If this was Cédric’s debut year as a winemaker he is definitely a talent to watch.
It was interesting to compare notes with Vincent and find out that La Roche and the Gamay of Cédric were his two favourite wines. Every one of these winemakers is someone whose wines I would gladly buy and recommend.
A sad postscript was the news that the April frosts hit La Roche vineyard hard and unfortunately there will be no wine from there this year. The vicissitudes of life as a vigneron, a tough break for a man starting out.
Christian took Jeff and myself out to look at his vineyards on the Sunday morning. His passion for his land and vines was evident. It was interesting to see the vines surrounded by parcels of wheat and other crops such as asparagus which grows well in the more sandy areas of the land. Christian showed us some of the frost damage on his parcels though happily he has not been too badly affected.
Ironically a parcel more prone to frost was left untouched this time. He showed a few rows that were touched because they were next to the wheat which created humidity which in turn encouraged the frost. However, the positives shone through and it was a great experience to spend time with Christian.
Finally, it was also good to be left in charge of the Coutelou stand and share wines with the people who wanted to try them out. I even completed some sales. My education continues.
A lovely weekend, shared with great people in a relaxed and spirited environment. Christian, I hope I’ll be coming to dinner next year too.
May 24, 2016 at 1:54 pm
What fun. Thanks for sharing. I appreciate hearing the stories of these special times.
I don’t believe I’ve ever had wine grown near asparagus…. as the frost capacity due to approximation to wheat exhibits, everything counts….interesting to ponder.
I hope to taste from these winemakers soon. I’ve got a santa-sized list of non-imported wines to try.
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May 24, 2016 at 2:05 pm
There’s just one problem with the alternative wine scene in France, to which the Loire seems especially prone – so many new names every few months.
A few years ago I was drinking so many Loires, you know the names, Alan. Then, I took my eye a little off the ball, like Liverpool in those opening second half minutes.
Started drinking more natural wines from Austria, South Africa, Argentina, Beaujolais and Bugey…All of a sudden there’s a lot more going on and a host of new names. Thanks for bringing them to my attention.
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May 24, 2016 at 3:41 pm
Thank you Jill and David. Yes the list lengthens at every turn. I was unaware of most of these producers until 2 weeks ago. I bought wines from most and would have done from all if space had allowed. That’s always a good sign. People like Puzelat were there, as he’s Christian’s cousin, but only to taste. It was a lovely occasion.
I shall ignore the football reference David out of respect for your usual good manners 🙂
May 25, 2016 at 8:42 am
The Loire in particular has had a lot of winemakers hit retirement age. The land is also relatively cheap but it’s well-respected, so if you’re just starting out and don’t have a huge lot of money, it’s very attractive. I’ve been down there many, many times in the last couple of years… Exciting times! Thanks for your report on Christian’s tasting.
May 25, 2016 at 9:47 am
Thanks Emma, that would make sense. Younger winemakers seem to be based here in the Languedoc, Ardeche, Loire etc, ie cheaper land prices. Happy drinking!
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