Wednesday, 25 February 2015

5 French Wine Production Styles at a Glance - Understanding the Logos

Confused with all the logos you find on French wine bottles? 
Not sure what type of French wine you are drinking? 
Here is a quick guide to exactly what is going on in the vineyards and 
therefore in the bottle. 

1. Organic - "Les Purs Biologiques"
Winegrowers that don't use either pesticides or herbicides. 
They only have a access to elements made available by nature e.g. Copper 
and Sulphur and the only treatments allowed are those that are washed 
away by the rain and do not penetrate into the plant. 
Wines are allowed to show the logo AB Agriculture Biologique.
AB Agriculture Biologique
2. Biodynamic - "Les Biodynamisyes"
These wine producers are considered the most radical fringe group of the 
organic producers. They refuse to use pesticides and weed killers.
They follow the norms of the organic producers imposed by the label AB 
Agriculture Biologique but also want to revert to typical soils of
animal material and plant matter.
There are two main labels indicating Biodynamic Wine those of Demeter 
and Biodyvin.
3. Natural Wines - Les Natures
This group of producers are different to the pure organic and biodynamic 
producers and are hostile to anything added to the wine during the process 
of the wine making. They are strongly opposed to the use of sulphur in the 
winery. Sulphites are reputed to act as anti-bacterial and are there good for 
conservation of wine. For the Naturalist the taste of the pure grape is all 
that is important. Nothing added and nothing taken away. Currently no label 
for "Natural Wines" but there is an Association des Vins Naturels.
Association des Vins Naturels AVN
4. Reasonable Culture - Les Raisonnés
Durable viticulture with the objective to limit the number of chemical 
treatments, reduce the amount of pesticides and weed killers and other...
...both in the vineyard and the winery. Some of these producers move to 
organic production as a next step.
Les Raisonnés - Reasonable Culture
5. The Conventionals - Les Conventionnels 
Or as I have often heard other producers describe them "Les Chimiques" 
(The Chemicals) 
75% of winegrowers in France are still conventional. They treat their vines 
with chemicals, pesticides and weed killers.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Loire Wine Salons 2015

The big week has nearly arrived and it's time to descend on the various Wine Salons held in the Anjou region of the Loire. Gone are the days of visiting one major salon (Salon des Vins de Loire) as 'Offs' or off-shoot salons have grown year by year. This year we have the challenge of visiting all SIX - yes six different shows within the space of 3 days (although the elapsed time is over 5 days). So here is the unofficial list of what is going on, when and where. Salons are reserved for professionals in the wine trade and usually by invitation although some allow a supplementary entrance to be paid on the door in return for a glass and an extraordinary range of tastings.

Starting on Saturday is the Renaissance des Appellations 2015 at Greniers Saint Jean - Angers Saturday 31st January and Sunday 1st February 9h30-19h. One of our favourite salons for the quality of wines represented and showing organic and biodynamic wines with a great selection from the Loire Valley. Including :


- Didier Chaffardon
– Christophe Daviau
– Yves et Anne Guégniard
– Clément Baraut
– Toby Bainbridge
– Eddy Oosterlinck
– Benoit Blet
– Didier Hauret
– Olivier Lecomte
– Patrick Baudouin
– Xavier Cailleau
– Damien et Didier Richou
– Stéphane Rocher
– Th. Ducleux, JM Brousset et J. Delrieu
– Jean-François Vaillant
– Thomas Carsin
– Jo Pithon
– Nathalie et Vincent Betis
– Thierry Michon
– Joseph Landron
– Frédéric Niger Van Herck et Guy Bossard
– Sébastien Riffault
– Philippe Gilbert
– Michel Gendrier
– Michel Quenioux
– Laura Semeria
– Bruno Allion
– Louis-Jean Sylvos
– Olivier Bellanger
– Paul Gillet
– François Plouzeau
– François Chidaine
– Vincent Carème
– Hélène Fillette
– Eric Nicolas
– Philippe Delesvaux
– Maï et Kenji Hodgson
– Stéphanie et Vincent Deboutbertin
– Joël Ménard
– Thomas Batardière
– Liv Vincendeau
– Bruno Rochard
– Richard Leroy
– Rémi Bonnet
– Bernard et Benoit Landron
– Jacques Carroget
– Tessa Laroche
– Loïc Mahé
– Virginie Joly
– Yannick Amirault
– Sébastien David
– Pascal Lambert
– Etienne de Bonnaventure
– Bernard Baudry
– Guillaume Pire
– Guillaume Reynouard
– Jean-François Regnier
– Jean-Noël Million
– Mathieu Vallée
– Anne-Claude Leflaive
– Xavier Caillard
– Aymeric Hilaire
– Philippe Gourdon
– Mark Angeli

Also on the Saturday and Sunday 31st Jan - 1st February 10h - 18h is an off-shoot from Les Salons des Amis - Les Pénitentes @ Hotel de Penitents Angers. Bonhomme, Chaussard, Mosse, Puzelat and Villemade have invited a range of producers listed below with empasis on organic and natural wines.

In it's third year now but this time a new location on Sunday 1st February at the Salon Curnonsky, rue st martin, 49700 Angers (in front of the old location of the collegiale saint Martin) from 10h00 - 19h00  is the Vins Anonymes 2015. The idea of this salon is to allow a collective of young and perhaps relatively unknown vignerons show their wines that are either alternative, close to natural and authentic. Some of the vignerons represented include our neighbour Jacky RIPOCHE of LES NOADES SAUMUR along with – LA COULEE D’Ambrosia johana et jf Chene ANJOU – LAMBERT Jérôme ANJOU – CAVE BECLAIR ANJOU – GARREAU cédric ANJOU – SAURIGNY jérôme ANJOU – BOUTIN Thomas ANJOU – LES VIGNES DE BABASS ANJOU – BOREL Pierre BOURGUEIL – DOMAINE DU MORTIER maison Boisard BOURGUEIL - – COURANT XAVIER BOURGUEIL – COURTAULT Joel TOURAINE – LA LUNOTTE Foucher TOURAINE

Let's not forget another of our favourite events of the year the Dive Bouteille this time on the 1-2  February Sunday and Monday in the sous terrain setting of the caves of Ackerman. Organised by Sylvie Augereau this salon features natural wines from all over France, but also some wines from Italy and producers from the USA. This is the 15th Dive and we are sure it is going to be a popular as ever with a diverse and electic range of natural wines.


Many of the Loire regulars including

 – Marion Pescheux et Manuel Landron, Complémen’terre (Muscadet)
– Jérôme Bretaudeau, Bellevue (Muscadet)
– Marc Pesnot, la Sénéchalière (Muscadet)
– J Bresteau et M Houtin, Grange aux Belles (Anjou)
– Philippe Delmée (Anjou)
– Geneviève et Nicolas Bertin-Delatte,Echalier (Anjou)
– Clément Baraut (Anjou-Savennières)
– Sylvain Martinez (Anjou)
– François Saint-Lô (Anjou)
– Stéphane Erissé (Anjou)
– Nicolas Reau (Anjou)
– Eric Dubois, Clos Cristal (S-Champigny)
– Antoine Sanzay (S-Champigny)
– Bruno Dubois (S-Champigny)
– Matthieu Bouchet, Gaillard (Saumur)
– Thierry Germain, Roches Neuves (S-Champigny)
– Sylvain Dittière, Porte Saint-Jean (S-Champigny)
– Caroline et Antoine Foucault, le Collier (Saumur)
– Arnaud Lambert, Brézé (Saumur)
– Emeline et Sébastien Bobinet (S-Champigny)
– Romain Guiberteau (Saumur)
– Patrick Corbineau (Touraine-Chinon)
– Fred Sigonneau, de l’R (Chinon)
– Jérôme Lenoir, cave des Roches (Chinon)
– François Blanchard, le Grand Cléré (Touraine)
– Gérard Marula (Touraine-Chinon)
– Lise et Bertrand Jousset (Montlouis)
– Sébastien Brunet (Vouvray)
– Mathieu Cosme, Beaumont (Vouvray)
– C. et D. Delecheneau, Grange Tiphaine (Mtlouis)
– Grégory Leclerc, Chahut et Prodiges (Touraine)
– Noella Morantin (Touraine)
– Laurent Saillard (Touraine)
– Brendan Tracey (Touraine)
– Olivier Lemasson, les Vins Contés (Touraine)

New for the 2nd February Dans Nos Pas 12h-21h chez La Gastonomie featuring from the Loire Chateau de Fosse Seche and Ferme de Caudalies (5 mins from Parc des Expo)

Returning again this year is another newish salon La Levée de la Loire scheduled for Monday 2/3/4th February 2015 this time at the Parc des Expositions d’Angers  from 9h - 19h. This is the Association interprofessional of the Organic Wines of the Loire (Vin Bio de Loire) organised in partnership with the Renaissance, the Dive and le Salon du Logis du Gouverneur.


Represented from the Loire we have -

– AMIRAULT Xavier, Thierry et Agnès
– BILLARD Jérôme
– BOISARD Fabien et Cyril
– BOURSE Quentin
– BRETON Pierre
– CAREME Vincent
– CASLOT Claudia, Franck et Bertrand
– CASLOT Stéphanie et Emmanuel
– CHANSON Ludovic
– COURANT Xavier
– DAVID Sébastien- DANSAULT Gabrièle et Régis
– DESCHAMPS Sandrine et Christophe
– DE BONNAVENTURE Pascale et Etienne
– GALBRUN Bertrand- GASNIER Fabrice
– GAUTHIER Pierre et Rodolphe
– GENDROT Fabrice
– GERARD Philippe et DETECHEVERRY Arnaud
– GROSBOIS Nicolas
– GUION Stéphane
– HERLIN Laurent
– JOURDAN Francis
– KLOECKE Jean-Daniel
– LAMBERT Pascal et Béatrice
– LAMBERT Patrick
– LANDRY Thierry
– MABILEAU Frédéric
– MANCEAU Jean-Max
– MERIAS Benoît
– MUREAU Stéphane
– PELLETIER Jean-Christophe
– PICHET Thomas
– PINON François
– ROUSSE Wilfrid
– SIGONNEAU Frédéric
– SPELTY Johann
– SYLVOS Louis-Jean
– VALLEE Gérald
– VALLEE Gérald

Last but never least the BIG one that starts on 2nd February and runs for 3 days to the 4th February inclusive the Salon des Vins de Loire at the Parc des Expositions in Angers from 9h - 19h each day except Wednesday to 18h as everyone will want to go home as let's face it they will be exhausted by this time! It is here that the Medal Winners (Palais de Ligers) are announced along with the winners of the blog trophy, the best student sommelier and many other master classes on terroir and chenin.

Within the Salon des Vins de Loire is also the Salons des Vins de Loire Stand Collectif Vins Bio a stand for the collective of organic producers.

So you see the wine world is going to be a buzz in this area of the Loire Valley over the next week. The logistics of getting from one show to the other are going to be fun but at the least the weather is on our side at the moment but we know how precocious February can be in the region - so fingers crossed !

Previous years we had heavy snow - this years forecast is looking ok!!  
Dive Bouteille - Nul n'est censé ignorer la Loire 
© Sylvie Augereau

Monday, 22 September 2014

Scenes from the Loire Harvest 2014

Harvesting is underway today for the Cremant de Loire (Sparkling Wine) and the Saumur Brut. We are starting to see hand picking and machine harvesting in the vines around Saumur-Puy Notre Dame. Hand picking is obligatory for the Cremant de Loire where as machines can be used to harvest the grapes for the Saumur Petillant / Sparkling Wines.

Monday 22nd September 2014 and the grapes being picked today include Chardonnay and some Cabernet Franc for the sparkling.

Here are a few shots from the early harvest activity today.

 Chardonnay hand picked into buckets and then transfered to crates for Ackerman

 Chardonnay machine picked for Domaine Aupy - Puy Notre Dame

 Crates ready for picking at Domaine de L'Echantoir - Pierre says he'll start picking on Wednesday

 Happy crew hand picking grapes for the Cremant de Loire for Bouvet Laduaby

 Chardonnay for the Cremant de Loire of Bouvet Ladubay

 One of the growers for Bouvet Ladubay outside Le Puy Notre Dame

 Equipment being prepared at Domaine des Guyons in Le Puy

 Equipment being prepared at Domaine des Hauts Baurds in - Puy Notre Dame 

 The Ackerman installation just outside Le Puy Notre Dame 

 Machine harvesting at Domaine Aupy

Chardonnay in the shade waiting to be taken for pressing at the Ackerman installation

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Great Events in the Loire Valley 2014

Here are some events that you might want to see during your visit to the Loire Valley this year. I'll add to the list as the season progresses but for the time being here are a few of our favourites :

Livre et Vin - Bouvet Ladubay 13th April

Fete du Thoureil - 27th April Annual boat festival along the Loire and the first of the season is held in Le Thoureil

On the water in Le Thoureil for the Fete

Fete de la Batellerie - 24th May Chinon

La Sterne moored up in front of the Chinon Chateau

Anjou Velo Vintage -  28-29th June Saumur Come and join the fun you can hire a vintage bike and enter the circuit in vintage costume. It's great fun!

Pushing the bikes up hill !

Zaz plays at Avoine Blues - 6th July Local to the area and fabulous in concert Zaz returns to play this year at the Blues Festival in Avoine near Chinon

Zaz in Concert

Bastille Day - 14th July Fireworks and Celebrations in Saumur

Carrousel de Saumur - 19-20th July Cadre Noir Performance of the wonderful horses

Le Puy Notre Dame Retro Grand Prix - 26- 27th July 

Vintage cars on their drive past La Grande Maison

Grande Table de Saumur Champigny - 6-7th August For two nights in Saumur we have the largest restaurant in the world. With wine supplied courteousy of the winemakers of the Saumur Champigny region.

The largest table in the world in Saumur

Aubigné sur Layon - Fete du Vin Art Music and Gastronomy - 31st August Serving the first sampling of the Coteaux du Layon in this pretty Layon village. Music, art, literature plus great food and wine.

Serving the Coteaux Du Layon

Fete de Vins Festivin - Saumur 6-14th September

Jacky Ripoche of Les Noades at Festivini

Fete de Vendanges - 28th September The annual hand harvest at the Chateau of Saumur

Olivier Coussin brought his horse and cart to help the harvest

Ar(t) Cheval -  26th October to the 9th November at the Centre Contemporain Bouvet Ladubay

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Chocoholics Easter Wine Tour 2014 in the Loire Valley Vineyards

Easter Wine Tour 2014 for Chocoholics in the Loire Valley France
18th - 21st April 2014 

Spring time in the Loire Valley is simply beautiful. Everything is fresh, the vines are coming into bud and the weather is warming up. What better time to take a Wine Tour and now you have the opportunity to learn how to make chocolates as well.

Spend an hour or so learning how to make handmade chocolates with chef David Beaufreton at the wonderful Le Puy à Vins and dine there on one of the evenings during your stay. 


Back at La Grande Maison we will open a bottle of sparkling red and sample your homemade chocolates, a perfect match. Made from the cabernet franc grape Sparkling Red wines from our local producers Langlois Chateau and Bouvet Ladubay are sublime with a little Easter chocolate.

All you need do is arrive - we’ll take care of the rest!

 Experience the French countryside, fabulous chateaux, chocolates and enjoy Loire Valley Wines with our Chocoholics Easter Wine Tour 2014

On the first evening we serve you a delicious Wine Sampling Supper in the grand hall with an AOC Loire wine with each course and topped off with a serving of Sparkling Loire red and handmade chocolates.

Wake up to a  delicious continental breakfast, freshly squeezed orange juice, fresh coffee or tea, croissants and baguettes all collected daily from the boulangerie and Easter Eggs of course.

We head off the next day into the Saumur Region on the Easter Wine Tour where we will have the opportunity during the day to visit 2-3 wineries, sample the wines, tour the caves and buy wines at cellar door prices.

There is a picnic lunch en-route either in the vineyards or on the banks of the beautiful Loire River. In the evening we’ll take you to a local restaurant where you can sample the regional food.

On the second day of the Easter Wine Tour we’ll venture a little further to discover the delights of the Chinon, Bourgeuil and St Nicolas de Bourgeuil vineyards or Anjou and Savennieres.

The area is so rich in history and culture that we always throw in a little sight seeing along the way too. 

Back at La Grande Maison you will be greeted with tea/coffee and biscuits in the stunning gardens and have time to relax before being taken to a local restaurant in the evening. After a delicious breakfast the following morning we return you to your selected departure point. A not to be missed tour of the caves and tunnels at La Grande Maison is also included. SO EASY!

19th April - 21st April 2014

What’s included in this package:

THREE NIGHTS STAY AT LA GRANDE MAISON in the VINES - ONLY 555 euros per person (based on two persons sharing a double/twin room) - extra nights bed and breakfast available on request - extra nights available on request if you want a longer weekend.

Welcome drink on arrival

3 night(s) accommodation at La Grande Maison 

1 Wine Tasting Supper at La Grande Maison (per person)

3 Breakfast(s) at La Grande Maison

2 Picnics in the vineyard or on the banks of the river

Transport in roomy 6 or 9 seater vehicle

Qualified Wine Guide - English Speaking

Translation and explanations by guide whenever necessary

A one day visit to 2-3 local Saumur/Saumur Champigny wine producers

A one day visit to 2-3 local Chinon/Bourgeuil/St Nicolas de Bourgeuil wine producers
Chocolate making session
Tastings of local white, red, rose and sparkling wines

Route map

Details of Domaines to be visited and meet the winemaker

Helpful descriptions and notes

Wine Tasting note book and pencil

Bottled water to take on the tour

Opportunity to buy wines at vineyard prices

Transportation of wines bought to La Grande Maison

Tour of the wine caves and tunnels at La Grande Maison

Lifts to and from local restaurants of choice on 2nd & 3rd evening

Tea or coffee in the gardens on return from your tour


"Our first trip to France. Six nights in Paris followed by four nights at La Grande Maison. Whilst Paris was interesting, historic and busy, our four days with you were relaxing and we experienced more of the REAL FRANCE than in Paris. Your facilities, service and hospitality were the "Icing on the Cake!" Thank You" - Max and Deena Warren - Arizona USA

“How wonderful to be able to drink 29 different wines in the space of one weekend and console yourself with the fact that it's educational as well as pleasurable - heavenly from the first to the last drop. Our hosts not only provided great food and fascinating lessons in viniculture but were excellent company too. We shall be back!” Kirsty Lang of BBC Radio 4 - London UK

"This is as good as it gets. Thank you for an amazing four days. All five senses are fully engaged in pleasure, when you have the perfect combination of fun and interesting people, delicious home made food & beautiful wines!!" - Leah and Barton Melbourne Australia

"This is exactly what we were looking for! Your hospitality and thoughtfulness made our stay extra special - we will definitely see you again! Graete" - Leonie, Helonna and Nicolas - Pretoria South Africa

A selection of dates are available this year for the Chocoholics Easter Wine Tour please email us your dates to check on our availability. Please note this tour is exclusive to La Grande Maison.

Why not see a little more of the real France with our unique Chocoholics Easter Wine Tour 2014 in the Loire. To book today email :

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Loire Dining on the Salt Route

For centuries in France the River Loire has been the route of important trade exchanges and goods transported on the river included hemp, limestone (tuffeau), slate, wine, and of course saltThe boats that were built to transport the goods included barges of all kinds, flatbottomed river boats, wine and salt barges, sand dredgers, ferry and steamboats.
These days in Le Thoureil you will find many modern day examples of the old boats that used to sail the Loire from simple flat bottomed barques to the futreau with it's square sail and the covered toue cabanees. Used for fishing, sight seeing or pleasure you will find these boats dotted along the the quay. You will also find La Route du Sel, a great restaurant and wine bar that has recently changed ownership.
Taken over by Marie Monmousseau and Daniel Eastcott, we believe it is going to be well frequented this Summer. Marie is a talented and creative chef having worked at Le Muerice in Paris and Locatelli's in London so expect inventive cuisine with a modern twist.
As a big pasta fan I couldn't resist the tagliatelli made with a chestnut flour and served with winter vegetables and shaved parmesan. Great for vegetarians too as there is plenty of choice from both the starters and the mains. For those who prefer their meat dishes there is everything to choose from Duck, Veal, Poulet, Beef even a Chou Farci - cabbage stuffed with veal, cepes, chestnuts and foie gras. Fish gets a great showing too and here Marie has a Loire speciality Anguille de Loire fumée served with egg, horseradish & creme fraiche.

It was hard to part a spoonful of Sue's 'Gateau de Marie' away from her to taste. A light and extremely delicious chocolate fondant served with a confiture de lait and grilled sesame seeds. The Crémet du Thoureil was equally delicious, a fromage frais served with meringue and red fruits that was neither too sharp or nor sweet - just perfect!

We'll talk about Daniel's fabulous wine list in a later post but let's just say he is an excellent host and has a great knowledge of the wines of the Loire region. So if you are hoping to try Nicolas Reau's Grande Cuvée L'Enfant Terrible or sample a chilled glass of Bouvet Ladubay's Crémant de Loire Cuvée Excellence whilst the sun goes down and the hot air balloons go up - then this is a great place to be. Sante !


Monday, 13 January 2014

Sunday Lunch at Le Puy à Vins

A wonderful blue sky sunny Sunday today so we took a walk through the vines from La Grande Maison to our local village of Le Puy Notre Dame for 'Sunday Lunch' at Le Puy à Vins.

The appellation of Saumur-Puy Notre Dame and it's vineyards

Le Puy à Vins specialising in great local organic and biodynamic wines from the Loire Valley

Rillette de Saumon Et Tartine Grillé

Volaille Rôtie au thé fumé, ratté du Touquet

Dacquoise amande, praliné feuilletine et chocolat

Great selection of wines from the local Saumur-Puy Notre Dame appellation 

If you take the chance to visit the Church of Notre Dame look out for the Misericordia a carved wooden altar stall from the 16th century featuring a monk drinking from a barrel.

This has become the symbol of the Le Puy Notre Dame vineyards and you will see it outside many of the local wine domaines around the village.

Take a closer look at the carvings and see if you can find the headless bishop....
(apparently this is Denis of Paris you will see a similar carving on the portail of Notre Dame in Paris. Denis was the first bishop of Paris who had his head chopped off but carried on walking 10 km's preaching a sermon along the way!)

 ...or the disgraced angel.

The pretty village Le Puy is well worth a visit as it is on the Route of Santiago de Compastella a pilgrimage route that makes it's way to Spain and you will see the many shell symbols such as the St Jacques dotted around the houses of the village.
Making our way home through the vineyards after lunch (or dinner) is an ideal way to work off those extra calories.

If you are visiting any of the Loire wine salons during February such as the Dive Bouteille then make sure you take the timeout to dine at Le Puy à Vins and sample the great selection of natural, organic or biodynamic wines.

Santé !!