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Loire Salon 2012: A Snowy Preamble

Breakfast was at a very civil 8am on Sunday morning; even so, after a late night on Saturday, I still stumbled bleary-eyed into the dining room as if it were four hours earlier. It was only when Jim Budd directed my vision outside that I realised something very unusual had happened; a significant snowfall. The ground outside was covered with two inches of snow; nothing unusual in Scotland, but here in Angers (and for much of the rest of France) it was equivalent to the landing of a UFO and Elvis stepping out – ie. somewhat unanticipated and worthy of hours and hours of televsion news coverage. An appropriate response to this event from the French authorities seemed, I thought, rather unlikely (I’m referring to the snowfall here, not Elvis; just to be clear, there is no Elvis at the 2012 Salon). Nevertheless, once our car was cleared of ice and snow, we got underway. Within and around Angers my concerns proved well-founded; the roads were snowbound, and we progressed at about 20 mph. Fortunately the autoroute had been more thoroughly gritted and salted, and thereafter we made good progress. Naturally as we approached our destination – Domaine Luneau-Papin near Le Landreau – the conditions worsened again, but nothing that held us back.

Pierre luneau-PapinAt Luneau-Papin we eventually located Pierre in his underground garage, after about 15 minutes of knocking and doorbell-ringing. First up was a tour of the cellars, and a chance to taste through all the 2011 brut de cuve samples, along with a selection of other recent vintages, mostly 2010 but also the occasional cuvée from the 2009 vintage. The most notable feature here was the pure, rich, clean, minerally character of the wines. Perhaps the most important word here is clean; having already tasted a large number of Muscadets from this vintage it is clear that 2011 was seriously troubled by rot. Watch out if you encounter any for the tell-tale flavours; dead fruit, brown fruit, undergrowth, dead leaves, damp soil and even plain old rotten fruit, in wines that should be vibrant and fresh. If you’re unsure about this ‘rot’ flavour I find blackberries, left on the bush until the core has turned from white-green to sticky brown, often assisted by rain, to provide a very vivid flavour of rot. Somehow I don’t think this is an aroma/flavour that will be making it into those expensive nez du vin sets anytime soon though.

Then inside for more vintages, back to the 2002 Excelsior and 1999 L d’Or, as well as plenty of younger vintages, as well as a brilliant lunch of langoustines, scallops and cheese. We left fairly early, anticipating road mayhem on our return journey, but in fact the situation had improved, and we made it back in time for oysters and onglet at the Angers’ Brasserie de la Gare, with wines from Didier Richou, Jo Landron and Domaine de la Noblaie. Although the roads around our hotel remain untreated and are thus now covered in compacted ice and snow, and deadly treacherous, the rest were reasonably clear. Let’s hope they stay that way so we can make it out for the first day of the Salon tomorrow.

More on Monday’s adventures soon….

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