Peter Morrell is highly impressed with two wines produced on the banks of the Loir, a tributary of the Loire
The vineyards of the Vendômois are located along the banks of the river Loir, a tributary of the Loire proper. It is France’s most northerly wine producing region and grapes have been grown there since the 10th century.
A new and exciting project sees a collaboration between growers and the local co-operative, the only example along the Loir. Founded in 1929, the Cave Coopérative du Vendômois has twenty growers who deliver grapes to be sold under the Coteaux du Vendômois appellation.
At present, the Appellation Contrôlée wines account for 68 hectares of vineyards, that is about half of the entire appellation’s production. The main focus of the cellar over the past decade has been to increase the awareness for their signature bone-dry rosé (locally known as gris), and of 68 hectares planted, a total of 33 ha are dedicated to Pineau d’Aunis harvested exclusively for this purpose.
Until the mid-1990s nine-tenths of the production was sold in bulk to either private clients or a négociant although the balance has now reversed, with most of the wine leaving in bottle.
With this quality remit in mind, resident winemaker Nicolas Parmentier has been identifying specific parcels for special attention. One such vineyard, Cocagne (which is planted with four hectares of Pineau d’Aunis and a single hectare of Chenin), has since been selected both for its orientation and silica soil.
Pineau d’Aunis is a grape with a very specific flavour profile, notably white pepper. Once tasted, never forgotten… It remains the only permitted cépage for the making of rosé. Unchecked, the variety can yield prolific amounts of fruit due to its large berries. The low levels of anthocyanins in the skins is the reason why the grape is blended with both Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc in order to add substance and body to the resulting red wine.
Chenin Blanc remains the only authorised grape for the appellation’s white wines.
I recently tasted two of the wines, Le Carillon de Vendome 2018 Coteaux du Vendomois Chenin Blanc ‘Le Cocagne’ and Le Carillon de Vendome 2018 Coteaux du Vendomois Pineau d’Aunis ‘Le Cocagne’. I tried the Chenin Blanc first, the wine pours a bright golden yellow and in the bouquet there are strong aromas of baked apples, pears and peaches. These persist as the wine moves to the palate and are joined by grapefruit and honey flavours making it powerful and satisfying in the mouth. There is a crisp minerality in the wine which is ideal for drinking with food. The finish is both fruity and buttery.
I liked this wine a lot, particularly the strength of the flavours, and it would hold its own against many foods including chicken, fish and spicy Asian dishes.
The second wine was a rosé made with Pineau d’Aunis (Chenin noir). The wine pours an attractive salmon pink colour, on the nose there are distinct strawberry and raspberry aromas together with good notes of white pepper. In the mouth the fruit and pepper remain and are complemented by floral flavours and a pleasantly dry tartness which makes it an ideal summer wine. The fruity finish is bright, peppery and surprisingly long.
This is a lovely wine that can be drunk as an aperitif, on its own or with food, I would recommend pairing it with seafood or charcuterie.
Not only are these wines outstanding but they are remarkably good value. They are imported by Dreyfus Ashby and can found in good wine merchants in the UK with a price tag of around £13.00.
The label of both the wines is the words and music of Le Carillon de Vendôme. It’s a nursery rhyme dating back to the 15th Century and believed to be France’s oldest folk song. Its melody echoes the peel of the bells of the Abbaye de la Trinité in the town of Vendôme. The refrain describes the position of the Dauphin (later Charles VII). After signing the Treaty of Troyes during the Hundred Years’ War, Charles was left only in possession of the cities of Orléans, Beaugency, Cléry, Bourges and Vendôme, with the rest of his Kingdom being occupied by England and its allies.