Monday, 8 June 2009

Chenin and Cabernet Franc: The Next Generation

Monday 8th June 7.30
This month we take a look at a renaissance of great wine making in Anjou and Touraine with the expert guidance of Bristol wine merchant Nick Brookes of Vine Trail. Alongside these exciting wines we are serving a menu featuring the classic, temperate bourgeoise cuisine of that region.

This dinner is tremendously good value at an all-in price of £70.00. Bookings at reception or with events manager Nicky Lynskey (nicky@lecafeanglais.co.uk).

Menu

Aperitif

Vouvray Brut Vincent Raimbault

Escalope of Salmon with Sorrel
Montlouis sur Loire 07 Premier Rendez-Vous, Bertrand & Lise Jousset
Anjou 06 Clos des Rouliers, Richard Leroy

Braised Breast of Veal with Broad Beans and Bacon
Chinon 06 Clos du Noyer, Famille Grosbois
Saumur Champigny 06 Amateus Bobi, Sebastien Bobinet

Livarot & Saint Maure, Walnut Bread
Montlouis sur Loire Singulier 07 Bertrand & Lise Jousset
Les Noels de Montbenault 06 Richard Leroy

Cherry Custard Tart
Vouvray 02 Reserve Vincent Raimbault
The New Loire
If there were awards for wine regions that had improved the most over the last 10 years, the Loire would be run away winners. Cast you mind back to the late nineties and Muscadet was overcropping, making a light wine even thinner; Vouvray and the Chenin appellations were doing the same but because their wines were ageworthy, made sure by overdosing on the sulphur; Chinon and Saumur Champigny and all the cabernet franc appellations were made from a grape that very rarely ripened properly, giving fruit with green tannins and a vegetal quality.
Ten years on and the Loire has turned itself inside out. What were the spurs for this change? Firstly, an influx of extremely determined new vignerons bringing in skills learned in other trades, who saw the untapped potential of the region. In Montlouis, for instance, there are now more organic domaines than any other appellation in France. The wines are attracting international acclaim yet ten years ago Montlouis was on its knees. .Secondly, a commitment to hands-on, more determined work in the vineyards leading to better quality grapes has been vital in the region's progress. Working the soils, leaving grass to grow to compete against the vines, a move toward organic viticulture and so less herbicides, pesticides etc. have all played their part in producing riper grapes from lower yields. Thirdly, small is beautiful. It is impossible to put in all the hard graft in the vineyard necessary to produce great wine if there are too many vines to tend. And so many of the top wines are from small vineyards - Sebastien Bobinet in Saumur Champigny has the smallest full-time vineyard in the Loire with just two hectares, Richard Leroy in Anjou has two and a half, Bertrand and Lise Jousset in Montlouis have eight and a half and Nicolas Grosbois in Chinon has nine. Finally a warmer climate as a result of global warming has also enormously helped the late ripening chenin and cabernet franc vines to attain levels of ripeness rarely seen prior to 2000.
There is now a determination evident amongst the best Loire growers to show that their wines are not just good examples of the local wines, but also have enough quality and complexity to challenge the finest wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux. For instance, the brilliant wines of Richard Leroy in Anjou and Jousset in Montlouis are made from yields of 25 hectos per hectare - 20 hectos less than grand crus in Puligny. Not only are these great chenins more versatile food wines, but they are also not suffocating under high percentages of new oak, so can be enjoyed in their youth but will have a life three to four times longer than Burgundy's grand crus. And they are less than a quarter of the price!

Nick Brookes

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