Whilst cruising on the barge “Nymphea”:http://frenchcanalboatcompany.com/nymphea-loire-hotel-barge, in the Loire Valley, we were never served the same wine twice. No mean feat when we had six lunches when rose was served, and six evening meals with a white and red.
We took the opportunity to stock the cellar on route and visited “Domaine de la Grange”:http://www.lagrange-curassier.fr/anglais/index.html, in Bléré on the banks of the river Cher where we were moored.
It was an unprepossessing place and we were introduced to the owner, Bruno Curassier and his father-in-law Bernard. This is an independent winery where they grow the grapes, make the wine and market it themselves, rather than through a collective or cooperative. To signify this the labels contain the words ‘artisan vigneron’.
The winery has been in the family for generations and on their 14 hectares they grow: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin and Chardonnay and in terms of red, Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Malbec (or as it is known in the Loire, Cot).
In the large tasting room, we tried six wines. The first was a 2016 bottle labelled Swing, made from 20% Chardonnay and 80% Sauvignon Blanc. I asked about the unusual label which looked like music notes with grapes as the note head and was told his musical son plays the drums. Despite being informed that 2016 had not been a great year as 70% of their harvest had been lost due to frost, we enjoyed the wine and ignored the spittoon.
Next up was a gold medal Sauvignon Blanc. We noticed the bottles used were rather distinctive and heard they were the slope shouldered ‘Burgundy Bottle’ used for many Loire Valley wines. Another white, this time a Chardonnay followed, which tends to be used for sparkling wine.
It was then onto three reds: the first light and fruity from the Gamay, the second a full-bodied wine made with 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Malbec and finally, another full-bodied red, but this time with only 20% Cabernet Franc and the rest Malbec.
All the wines were on display and priced at less than €10 but my eye was caught by a magnum of sparkling rose at the bargain price of €15. It seemed ideal for celebrating my forthcoming ‘big’ birthday and so we carried a bottle carefully to the car.
We were asked to choose our favourites and Captain Francisco bought three bottles of the Sauvignon Blanc and three of the final red which we enjoyed later on board.
The Sauvignon Blanc I’d chosen, was served on our final ‘Captain’s dinner’ with a starter of crab cakes and hollandaise sauce. The red went beautifully with a strong Roquefort cheese and Valençay, a goat’s cheese which used to be made in the shape of a pyramid. However, when Napoleon returned to the castle of Valençay after his unsuccessful expedition in Egypt, he saw the cheese, and in a fit of rage drew his sword and cut off the top. Since then the cheese has always been made with a flattened top.