A Visit to Domaine Ogereau, 2017

Emmanuel Ogereau eased off the accelerator of the combi-van just as we passed the pale grey ghost of a dilapidated windmill, and from here on we coasted down the hill. The incline was gentle, nevertheless it was sufficient for gravity to keep all four wheels rolling along the single-track road at a comfortable pace, until we reached the bottom, when a brief dab on the brakes was all that was required to bring us to a halt. We were certainly going no further on this road, the tarmac ending abruptly just a few metres ahead. Before us there stood a wall of trees, thick with lush early-summer foliage, and it was only through a small gap in this wall of green that I could see the subtle movement of water behind.

This was the Hyrôme, one of the less commonly encountered rivers of the Loire Valley. For the locals this is a small but historically significant waterway, part of a centuries-old landscape once very active with agriculture and associated milling. Look back just one or two hundred years and the Anjou landscape was covered with windmills, the stony ruin we had just passed near the crest of the hill one of a once-great number, while the rivers including the Hyrôme were dotted with watermills. Indeed, through the trees I could just make out one such mill on the opposite bank, the building – unlike the spectre on the hilltop behind me – clearly still well cared for.

Domaine Ogereau

The mills of the Hyrôme would probably interest an Anjou historian but I imagine to a wine drinker this river would seem, at least at first glance, to be little more than a minor footnote in the story of the Loire Valley. It is a tributary of the Layon, which is itself a tributary of the Loire of course, and these two rather more renowned rivers receive the waters of many different streams and brooks along the way. The Hyrôme is thus just one of a cast of hundreds, but for fans of the Anjou region’s red wines it has some significance. Emmanuel (pictured above) executed a rather swift three-point turn and drove back up two hundred metres, to the very lowest parcel of vines on the slope. Here, on an east-to-southeast-facing slope carved out by this little river, on warm schist soils, were the vines of the Côtes de la Houssaye, one of the most successful of the small number of Cabernet Sauvignon cuvées to come out of Anjou.

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