Friday 21 September 2012

Saumur Champigny

Last weekend were the 'Journées du Patrimoine' as they are called here. This is a European wide event held the third weekend in September. All over the country historical sites hold an 'open house': sites both publically and privately owned --many normally not open to the public-- open their doors. Last year we visited the Chartreuse du Liget and its chapel. You can read about that here.
Saumur Champigny countryside
This year we decided on a day out "in the west": the area between Saumur and Chinon, which is a little over a good hour's drive away. We wanted to visit a historical site in Chinon as well as try some wines at a domaine in the Saumur-Champigny region that had been recommended to us by a client who knows the family and buys wine there.

Saumur Champigny grapes on the vines
The place we wanted to visit in Chinon is only open in the afternoons and the domaine was the further west so we decided to start there.

Located right in the heart of the village St Cyr en Bourg, Domaine de Nerleux is run by Amélie and Régis Neau. Nerleux means black wolves in old French and these animals grace their logo.
Black Wolves of Domaine Nerleux
We tried three reds as well as one white and a Cremant de Loire. Of the three reds we bought a few of bottles of their least expensive Saumur Champigny, Les Nerleux which we found to be light and fruity as well as splurging on a couple of their most expensive: Les Loups Noirs, which we thought was gorgeous. These have been racked for Christmas and we're looking forward to enjoying them with some venison or other game. We also came away with some bottles of Saumur Blanc, Les Nerleux [Chenin blanc] and their white Crémant de Loire, La Folie des Loups which is one of the nicest we've tasted in a long time. Sadly we weren't able to try their other Saumur Blanc, Les Loups Blancs, as it is no longer available. Sweet dessert wine isn't really our thing, so we passed on trying Les Loups Dorés.
neat rows of vines
The domaine has been in the same family for generations and the property has its own chapel which we were hoping to visit. Unfortunately, they only open the chapel during their own 'Portes Overtes' [open house weekend] which is in May and not during the national Journées du Patrimoine. Not a problem; we'll simply come back in May next year. However, despite it being a bit a bit of a trek to get there, we suspect we'll have been back well before then as we really enjoyed the wines.
vegetation for biodiversity between the rows of vines
We managed to squeeze in our visit just in time. The domaine's busiest time of year begins now: the vendange. They began harvesting their Chenin blanc grapes last Tuesday, but told us the harvest of the red grapes will start later; mid October was their estimate.


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Niall and Antoinette:
This sounds to have been exactly the kind of day which we too would have enjoyed hugely, made even better at the thought of returning home with a few rather good bottles of wine.

The countryside, and in particular the rows of neatly tended vines, looks most attractive and how very pleasant to have it all within a fairly easy reach of home.

the fly in the web said...

Those villages always delighted me...all those surprises hidden behind the high tuffeau walls!
It was one of my stamping grounds for buying wine too.

The Domaine de Nerleux used to do a vieille vignes from one plot where the vines were over 25 years old which was could be the Loups Noirs, perhaps...

There are so many good vignerons in that area....
I liked Filliatreau's wines...he was/is a member of the congregation of the Reformed church in Saumur and I first tasted his wine at the christening of one of the family there. Hooked!

I didn't buy my dessert wines in limestone country but further west on the schist and carboniferous soils...I didn't think dessert wines were my thing either, but they became so!

Reading your post and seeing the photographs made me feel as if I were there again, one of my favourite areas of the Loire Valley since I first saw it more than forty years ago.

Thank you.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Jane & Lance - it is a bit too far to just pop over [90 km] but a lovely destination for a 'proper' day out.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Fly - Du rien!
Love visitng the area as well. We first visited in the '90s and we used to just roll up to a domaine on spec. taste and buy if we liked it. 9 times out of 10 we weren't disappointed and our little Citroen AX was loaded to the bursting point with wine bought in the different Loire appelations and taken back to the Netherlands where we lived at the time.

I'm guessing Coteaux de Layon for dessert wines. We went as far west as there, and we did like, and buy them. Both think a good one can give Sauternes a real run for their money. [in general our preference is for dry].

You've a good memory! The third red we tried was indeed a veilles vignes: Clos des Chatains. It was very good but still needed time to to mature and this time we weren't after wine to lay down so didn't buy.

LindyLouMac said...

I have happy recolections of a day out like this one in the Samur region many years ago, thanks for the memories.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Lindy Lou - you're very welcome :-)

ladybird said...

That sounds like a very interesting winery, especially because it produces my favourite red wine! And that white Chenin certainly has my mouth watering. Btw, the next time you are in the area, make sure to have lunch at L'Hélianthe' in Turquant. I really recommend it. Enjoy your Sunday! Martine

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Martine - definitely one to put on your list. Saw this week that the domaine is listed in the blog 'Jim's Loire'; [Jim Budd MW] it's in the side-bar collection of Saumur-Champigny producers.
Thanks, Will make a note of L'Helianthe for a next visit :-)

Perpetua said...

Oh yum, apples aren't quite the same are they?

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Perpetua - no quite ;-)