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Loire Salon 2012: An Early Start

I awoke four minutes before my alarm clock sounded at 4am on Saturday morning; it’s funny how the brain’s internal clock seems to manage such precise feats of timing such as that. Thankfully the anticipated ‘big freeze’ was obviously delayed somewhere which meant my departure from Edinburgh airport wasn’t. After about two hours in the air I landed at Paris CDG Airport 15 minutes ahead of schedule, and yet I soon realised – as I stood at the back of an interminably long queue through passport control – that if I didn’t do something quick I was going to miss my train to Angers. I leap-frogged about eighty places in the line, with the assistance of airport staff it has to be said (I’m British – I’m allergic to queue-jumping unless done with official authorisation) and after a well-paced run through the airport I made it onto the 9:48am train for Angers just as the doors were closing. It was all vaguely reminiscent of my late night dashes for the last train home after the monthly meetings of Chester Claret Club, which I attended many years ago; I would often find myself leaping onto the train just as the door-closure alarm was sounding.

Aside from trying to eject a Frenchman from seat 61, only to quickly realise I was in the wrong carriage and had the wrong seat 61 (thereby affording me a valuable opportunity to practise apologising in French – my intention all along of course) my journey out was thankfully uneventful. By 1:30pm I was lunching on an entrecôte in Angers, and by 3pm I was en route with Jim Budd and Tom King of the RSJ Restaurant for Domaine de la Bergerie.

Yves and Marie-Annick Guégniard, Domaine de la BergerieThere we met Yves Guégniard and his wife Marie-Annick, and we made a tour of his estate, which is a handsome one at the best of times but with the vneyards lying under a moderate dusting of snow it was even more picturesque. We looked at some of Yves’ oldest vines, Chenin Blanc of approximately 100 years old, the original plants grafted oto American rootstock but then – remarkably considering the fact the original planted were so established – propagated by provignage. This is essentially tip-layering, bending down one of the shoots and securing it under the surface of the soil, traditionally with nothing more technical than a rock placed over it. Once it has rooted (on it’s own roots, note, not grafted) it can be separated from its parent plant, although this last step – as we saw with Yves’ vines – isn’t essential. I wonder if this maintained union between the grafted vines, and its offspring established on its own roots, is somehow important in preventing the younger vine from succumbing to phylloxera?

Later we returned to Yves’ residence for a tasting, first featuring the wines not of Yves but of friend and colleague Vincent Ogereau. I will write these up in due course but the overall impression was of a range of wines quite understated in style, with unfortunately unattractive labels but with a capacity – having tasted quite a few older examples now – for aging. Vincent doesn’t receive the press he deserves in my opinion, and the same can be said of Yves Guégniard of Domaine de la Bergerie, whose wines came next, and were also very good across the range. We finished up with Claude Papin, and some of his wines, which are still fashioned by Claude, although the hand of René Papin – one of his two sons – is increasingly present I think. Certainly I thought some of Claude’s whites displayed a tighter, more minerally and reductive style than I have experienced before.

We finished our day with dinner at La Bergerie, the restaurant run by Yves son-in-law David Guitton. This was a truly excellent dinner, accompanied by wines from Claude, Yves and Vincent, and I’ll be writing it up in due course. The most striking wine was perhaps Yves’ Crémant de Loire Rosé, perhaps one of the most elegant and yet seductive examples of the style I have encountered. Must get my hands on some of that…

More on Sunday’s adventures soon…

One Response to “Loire Salon 2012: An Early Start”

  1. Starting June 4th and every Saturday Tower Group 8pm meeting will be a step study/step doing.For those interested in going through the steps while we study the steps I’ll be more than glad to assist you.Bring a 1 or 3 subject spiral notebook,pen,highlighter and your Big Book.This is going to be fun as well as a new experience.Yes We have entered the world of the Spirit.Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness.