I find myself on-line, for practically the only time in September, in an Internet Café in Saumur! So I thought I might fill the silence with a report (though note a detailed note) of a visit to Domaine de la Charmoise a week ago…

When we think of Loire wines we think, usually, of 4 distinct regions: Nantais; Anjou; Touraine and Centre. The first is famous for Muscadet and the last for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir (Sancerre, Pouilly, Reuilly, Quincy….) and we think of the middle two for Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Anjou covers wines from near Angers itself in the West (Savennières, Bonnezeaux, Coteaux – de Layon, – de l’Aubance etc..) and Saumur and Saumur-Champigny in the East. But what of Touraine?

Most people know the Western border of Touraine – it follows the department border between Maine-et-Loire and Indre-et-Loire, cutting South-North between Bourgueil and Chinon on the right and Saumur on the left. The area, unsurprisingly carries on East, upriver, past Tours to Vouvray and Montlouis – and then what?

If you follow the Loire upstream you’ll start heading North-East to Orleans where the river bends back Southwards to take you to Sancerre, which is on the same latitude as Tours and actually East of the Paris longitude.

The diameter of this semi-circle, on a West-East line, is actually the Cher; and Touraine – and Touraine Wines – extend East along the river about as far as Châtillon-sur-Cher. North of the Cher extending up to the Loire near Blois and Chambord is the Solonge area, and nearby wine areas including Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny.

This is the Eastern end of Touraine and Cabernet Franc and Chenin have petered out to be replaced by Sauvignon Blanc, Côt (the original name for Malbec which originates in this part of the world!) and predominately Gamay (which can actually be found, in smaller quantities, all through Anjou and Touraine).

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At the highest point of the Solonge (near Soings) the climate is more continental yet temperate, with milder winters but cooler summers than Sancerre (for example). The soil is well drained Perruches, composed of flint clay with sand or gravel and larger flints and clay mixes. This is where I visited the Domaine de la Charmoise, to try the wines of Henry Marionnet. 

You can see more about Henri Marionnet’s wines by clicking here.

The Domaine is known for attention to detail and a determination to preserve some older styles. As well as cuvées of Gamay and Sauvignon, they have examples (they call them “Vinifera”) of Sauvignon Blanc and Côt from un-grafted root-stock. In addition there are wines from two very rare old grapes: Romorantin and Gamay de Bouze.

Both these originate in Burgundy.The former arrived at Charmoise in the early 19th Century from Chambord where Francis I had had it planted in the 16th Century, Phylloxera killed off the grapes in 1872, except for one vineyard planted in 1850 at Charmoise. The vineyard is still producing wines at the unsurprising price of over £40 a bottle. However the shoots from those vines have been nurtured and planted – un-grafted – in a neighbouring virgin-soil vineyard to produce a more affordable wine. There is talk of replanting the new vines at Chambord…

Similarly rare is the Gamay de Bouze grape…. Again this is from Burgundy, the village of Bouze-lès-Beaune this is a variety that has red flesh (most red grape flesh is pale and in fact Gamay is often called Gamay noir à jus blanc) and produces a deeper coloured and more black fruit wine than any normal Gamay.

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I tried the Sauvignons, a Gamay and a Gamay de Bouze and the Romorantin. They are all hand-harvested and fermented with no additional yeasts…

I won’t give a tasting note here as I plan to show some of the wines at a tasting next year – but suffice to say all the wines had a very clean acidity and a precision of style that surely reflects their making…

I’m looking forward to a detailed tasting in due course….

There’ll be 4 posts in October – until then…..

A Brexit PS:       as usual I have bought about €500 worth of wine on my September trip to France.
Last year that cost me £380 – this year it’s been £435…. Thanks!
Never mind – that 14.5% inflation will come to all those who voted out too, in due course!
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