FINE WINE THE FINER THINGS IN LIFE Wine and Food Diary of Giles MacDonogh

June Wine and Food

Written by Giles MacDonogh

June Wine and Food

Wine and Food Diary Post Written by Giles MacDonogh

June was again dominated by French food and wine. That is normal enough: France is the nearest place to Britain that makes wines in the full cornucopia of styles. It is also home to hundreds of thousands of British expats seeking a better life. The Domaine de la Météore in Faugères and St Chinian is a case in point. It is owned by two British doctors and a couple based in San Francisco; but the winemaker Simon Frech at the 28 hectare, organic estate, is French. The domain takes its name from a 200 metres by 80 metre created caused some 10,000 years ago, when a meteor hit the surface of the earth at 30,000 miles per hour. The heat generated by its impact and was enough to turn primeval forest into a multitude of minute diamonds. Today the vineyard soil is largely schist and apart from troops of wine lovers, the vines are regularly visited by eagles and wolves. The vines grow in and around the crater, as well as in a plot a little way away in St Chinian Roquebrun. The wines are almost all named after famous meteors. Among the whites, I liked the 2019 Lyrides best, with is savoury, salted almond taste. There was also a pleasant orangey 2022 Sunflowers, made for the Van Gogh Museum in Arles. The red that struck me most (like a meteor perhaps) was the 2020 Léonides, which is two-thirds Syrah. There was a 2017 vintage to taste too. The Parangoa 2018 came from St Chinian.

A Loire tasting revealed the by now familiar truths about climate change: many wines have changed shape because grapes produce more alcohol than they did a decade or two ago. In some instances the results are good: Vouvray used to be largely off-dry, but now there is more of the bone-dry version, as the acidity is no longer as lip-puckeringly high. Other wines, however – Muscadet is a case in point – have become more ponderous, and less successful as food wines. In the past, Muscadet was the inevitable partner to oysters and shellfish, now it is often too heavy. Barrique-ageing doesn’t help much either. The best of the Muscadets were the 2022 Château des Grandes Noëlles sur lie, the 2021 Vignoble Malidain, Demi-Boeuf Côtes de Grandlieu sur lie which had good fruit and a just ever-so slightly oaky 2016 Vignerons du Pallet Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Le Palle

A lot of the sparkling Crémants shown were a touch too sweet, but three wines appealed: the appley Domaine de Bois Mozé, the creamy Vouvray La Dilletante from Catherine and Pierre Breton with its little taste of salted caramel and the Vouvray Brut from our old friends at the Domaine Champalou. Among the Chenins I liked the 2021 Anjou ‘Wally’, again with a salted almond character, a well-structured 2021 Château du Hureau Argile, the 2020 Domaine de Bablut Petit Princé, and, a notch up, the 2020 Clos du Papillon Savennières with its flinty, creamy fruit. The best of the Touraine Sauvignons were the 2021 Bonnigal-Bodet and the smoky 2022 Baudry-Dutour La Chapinière. Again the Sauvignons were heavier than I remembered. That light, grassy, nettle-like character has largely gone.

A warmer Loire was possibly welcomed by red-wine makers using Cabernet Franc, where most years a little more ripeness would not have gone amiss. The 2020 Domaine de la Noblaie, Les Chiens Chiens – had a slightly earthy raspberry taste, the 2020 Tuffe from the Château de Hureaux, Saumur-Champigny, the 2014 Domaine Fabrice Gasnier, Chinon Signature, 2021 Domaine des Roches Neuves ‘Fruit’, 2018 Manoury Espirit du Lieu Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame and the smoky 2022 Domaine des Bouquerries, Royale were all noteworthy.

A cookery demonstration on the foods of Mexican Yucatan was the only non-French thing I attended last month. The chef Alonso Wilson taught me how to make a black bean tamale. This is Mayan food, and as such surely as ancient as any cuisine in the Americas. We were allowed to leave with our creations wrapped up and sealed with corncob coverings looking like a little dolly and ready to be poached for 45 minutes in salty water. I am not keen on black beans. My daughter ate it for her tea.

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Giles MacDonogh

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