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October 25, 2011

Wines to Die For … A French Vineyard visit

by Val Reynolds
Domaine aux Moines vineyard

Domaine aux Moines vineya

Roses planted at the top of each row of vines at Domaine aux Moines, monitor the health of the plants. Black spot and mildew attack roses and vines alike so if either are detected on the roses vineyard owners know it is time to spray – of course only chemicals approved by the French equivalent of our Soil Association

Last summer I paid a visit to the vineyard Domaine aux Moines* on a bright sunny day where we could see for miles around from the highest point of the area. Tessa, daughter of Monique Laroche, co-owners of the vineyard, took us for a walk round the vineyard giving insights into its management and philosophy.
One of only a few vineyards run entirely on organic principles, generally referred to as biologique agriculture, Tessa and her mother produce wines of exceptional quality. What makes me say that? Well, I have made fruit wines at home for about 40 years now and am used to judging flavour, strength and aroma of alcoholic beverages. I have of course drunk wines made from grapes from all round the world.

I had tasted some wine from a neighbouring vineyard at a restaurant in Angers a day or so earlier and I was startled by its fresh taste and particularly the aroma, or nose. (I hate using the word bouquet, it seems so affected. Anyway it reminds me of Hyacinth Bucket and all that she stood for!) I was very keen to visit the area where the wine came from and jumped at the chance to taste the Domaine aux Moines wines.

We tasted white wines from Chenin grapes, from several years. Fascinatingly each one differed in flavour and nose. I found them all quite, quite delicious.

To describe wine is difficult for me as I draw back from eulogising in terms of flowers and fruit, nuts etc, but the wine I chose to take away – Cuvee des Nonnes 2007 – did remind me of the scent of Christmas pudding. If you consider the ingredients of that pudding – raisins, nuts, dried fruit, and brandy of course – you may be able to understand my description. It is a mellow wine, reminiscent of a Muscadet, with less sweetness but enough to serve as an aperitif. The Domaine aux Moines website provides food and wine recommendations, very useful indeed.

I realise now I have drunk a lot of indifferent homogenous wines over the years and am really eager to learn more about the differences and the reasons for them. I have to say I think it has a lot to do with the constituents of the soil in which the vines grow. Some years ago now I produced about 100 litres of wine for a family wedding, made from concentrated grape juice of no particular origins other than red grape, and tap water ferried over from Correze. People found it hard to believe I had made it at home in Hertfordshire – it just tasted so ‘French’.

The Domaine aux Moines website gives you a great deal more information about their wines and its production. Much of it is exported to America and Canada, but is available from Les Cave de Pyrene in Guildford UK.

I’m planning another visit to the vineyard in the not so distant future and hope to visit others using the same agriculture biologique methods in the area. We will be encouraging friends and relatives to do the same – we know they will have a great time and be made most welcome.

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor

*Located near Savenniére, Domaine aux Moines is about 8 miles west of Angers, France

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