ANGELA BIRD'S

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GETTING A TASTE
FOR VENDÉE WINES

 

The wines that come under the Fiefs Vendéens banner are currently classified
as VDQS (Vin délimité de qualité supérieure). 
They are supposed to be being upgraded to the superior category of AOC
(Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) “very soon”. 

 

 Most of the following is based on our own enthusiastic but somewhat
inexpert judgment. Some additional recommendations have kindly been provided
by Edwin Apps, Charles Harriss and Bernard and Christine Collignon.
If you would like to share your own experience on this page, please do email me.

 

NOTE
Many of the relatively small establishments below are not equipped to accept payment by credit card.
If you are contemplating some serious wine-buying and do not have a French
bank account and chequebook, make sure you have enough cash for your intended transactions.

Area numbers refer to those used in the book, to aid location.

 

MUSCADET

AREA 5

Château de la Preuille. A lovely setting near an almost-moated castle. Small wine museum, plus tastings of some award-winning wines among the Muscadet-sur-Lie, Gros-Plant, Gamay and sparkling wine. Tues-Sat 9.30am-12.30pm & 2-6pm (15 June-15 Sept daily). St-Hilaire-de-Loulay, nr Montaigu (2km north of St Hilaire on the N137, turn right towards St-Hilaire-de-Clisson on D93/D54, then signposted off to left). (Tel: 02 51 46 32 32; fax: 02 51 46 48 98).

Domaine de la Vinçonnière. We found here a delicious Laurent Perraud oaked Muscadet called "Amphora" that we had enjoyed in a local restaurant. In the showroom is a glass-fronted barrel in which you can actually see wine fermenting. Nr Clisson (about 4km N of Clisson, just off D54). (Tel: 02 40 03 95 76; fax: 02 40 03 96 56).

Clisson tourist office also incorporates a wine-tasting area, with lots of information on local vineyards.


AREA 6

Château de la Galissonnière. Some delicious Muscadets, and an excellent sparkling wine "Perle de l'Amiral" made by Vignobles Lusseaud. Look out also for a grape jelly called "gelée de vin", which is delectable on croissants. Le Pallet - opposite Le Pallet station, but use the entrance on the lane leading to the village of Les Monnières. (Tel: 02 40 80 42 03).

Vallet tourist office, a little farther north-east, is a mine of information on the Muscadet industry – being the epicentre of production. It can provide a calendar with names and locations of a local vineyard to visit for every day of the year.

Musée du Vignoble. In a state-of-the-art building on the southern edge of Le Pallet is a superb presentation of everything to do with Muscadet. If you buy a souvenir glass at the beginning you can help yourself to a sample of wine on the way round.

BERNARD AND CHRISTINE COLLIGNON WRITE:
Jean-Claude Malidain.
Try the Côte de Grand-Lieu, a muscadet-sur-lie that clocks up a gold medal almost every spring at the Paris Salon de l'Agriculture. The Grolleau - "grey" or rosé - makes a refreshing summer aperitif, and you can also find some reds - cabernet and gamay - though these benefit from being kept a year or so before drinking. 44650 Corcoué-sur-Logne.

 

 

FIEFS VENDÉENS

AREA 2
Brem wines :
Domaine St-Nicolas Cave Michon  
There are two sites for tasting and buying these Brem wines from the producer, but you need to ring and check times on 02 51 33 13 04:
11 Rue des Vallées, Brem-sur-Mer (summer), and
La Croix Begaud, Ile-d’Olonne (rest of the year). Visits to the Chai at Ile-d’Olonne on some Wednesday mornings in July and August ; phone for details, or ask Olonne tourist office.
Domaine Aloha   
Sales, vineyard tours and tastings by appointment, at Le Poiré, Vairé (tel : 06 31 29 55 05)

 

AREA 3

This link takes you to a list of the producers in the Mareuil area, with their hours of opening.

Mareuil wines
Boutique du Chateau Marie-du-Fou
. Red, white and rosé wines by the Mourat family - among the most highly reckoned of the Fiefs Vendéens producers - on sale in a charming little former tollhouse. Located in the village centre, beside the bridge over the river Lay. Tues-Sat 9am-12.30pm & 2.30-7pm (1 July-31 Aug, Mon-Sat 9am-12.30pm & 2.30-7pm. Place Circulaire (tel: 02 51 97 20 10).

Château de Rosnay with its own small museum of wine.

EDWIN APPS WRITES:
Alain Maraquin. This vineyard on the "Route des Vins" was recommended to me by by the Vicare Général of Luçon (the clergy can usually be trusted about wine), and remains a favourite for its good and relatively inexpensive Mareuil. Mon-Sat 9am-8.30pm. Domaine du Prieuré, 1 rue de la Bergerie, La Couture - 4km SW of Mareuil-sur-Lay (tel: 02 51 30 53 52)

Vix wines
EDWIN APPS WRITES:
Mercier Frerès. The white and the red sold here are reliable, well-made and - for everyday drinking - unbeatable value. Domaine de la Chaignée, Vix - 10km south of Fontenay-le-Comte (tel: 02 51 00 65 14).

ROGER STOWELL RECOMMENDS:
Prieure de La Chaume, Try the Orfeo and Bel Canto ranges.
Route de La Rochelle, Vix (tel: 02 51 00 49 38).

 

AREA 4

Domaine de la Barbinière, for Philippe Orion’s reds, whites and rosés. St Philbert-du-Pont-Charrault, nr Chantonnay (tel : 02 51 34 39 72)

Domaine Croirier, North of Fontenay le Comte, these are Fiefs Vendeens wines. 15 Rue des Gélinières, Pissotte (tel : 02 51 69 40 98).

 

 

 

OTHER LOCAL PRODUCERS
IN VENDEE AND LOIRE-ATLANTIQUE

AREA 2

St Etienne du Bois
Domaine des Iles  
Pierre Pénisson and his two sons make a wide selection of reds, rosés and whites on their 60-hectare domaine - including a couple of AOC Muscadets and a VDQS Gros-Plant. Open Wed-Fri 6-8pm, Sat 8am-noon. Chemin des Iles, on Le Poiré road (D81), St-Etienne-du-Bois, 12km N of Aizenay (tel : 02 51 34 50 70).

Domaine de la Grande Villeneuve  Bernard Bouhier produces several reds, whites and rosés. Open Tues-Fri 6-7.30pm, Sat 9am-noon. La Grande Villeneuve, on Le Poiré road (D81), St-Etienne-du-Bois, 12km N of Aizenay (tel : 02 51 34 51 17).

Beaulieu-sous-La Roche
Cave de l'Atrie
 Visit Julie Bernard’s barn to taste her organic vin de pays: red, white and rosé. Open Fri 2-7pm; Sat 9a10-12.30 & 2-6pm. Beaulieu-sous-La-Roche, signposted off D50, Maché road (tel: 02 51 98 26 42).

 

AREA 6

Paulx
Domaine des Cinq Routes  Didier and Sophie Tallé produce a variety of wines just across the border in Loire-Atlantique. With a Muscadet Cotes de Grand-Lieu, a Chardonnay, a Gamay, a Cabernet-Sauvignon and some Grolleau rosé at between 3.81€ and 4.27€ a bottle; also an award-winning sparkling white for 5.67€.  Open Tues-Sat 9am-noon & 2-7pm. Paulx, 16km NE of Challans (tel: 02 40 26 00 45).

 

 

 

 

RETAILERS

LE MARCHÉ AUX VINS
CHARLES HARRISS WRITES:
The Riviere brothers (who also own the Clemenceau restaurant in La Roche) stock some unusual wines that are not at all badly-priced. Look for "Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh" from Madiran - although not cheap, it is a bit of a treat. Caves Rivière, 74 Rue d'Aizenay, La Roche-sur-Yon (tel: 02 51 37 00 80).

 

Supermarkets often have excellent wines; take advantage of their annual “Foires aux Vins”–special “wine fairs” (foires aux vins) held over a week or two in autumn. A specialist member of staff is on hand to give tastings, and the prices are specially good if you buy by the case.


Current Customs & Excise wine limits for personal importation into the UK are around 100 normal-sized bottles per person – but if you bring back such large quantities you might be asked to justify that it is for your personal use (i.e. be prepared to provide proof that you are organising a wedding or other large party).

 

NEAR FERRY PORTS

If you have not the time to buy your wine while in the Vendée, or you don’t want to leave your car full of obviously interesting boxes while you stop on the way home, you still have a chance to fill up before boarding the ferry. 

 

Each of the Channel ports has a strategically-placed wine emporium near the end of the route: St-Malo, Ouistreham (for Caen) and others–and of course the Calais area.  So if you have time before you board, stop off and fill the gaps in the car with cases of wine. 

 

Caen
For the Ouistreham shop, keep to the right fork at the little island, so that you drive alongside the canal the last bit towards the ferry. (There are a lot of very challenging speed bumps to negotiate along here, so this is not a good route if you already have a heavily-laden car though.)  The Normandie Wine shop has parking outside.  They also have a branch at Cherbourg.

Calais
For shopping just before the Tunnel, near Calais, turn off at J41 and work your way to the large Auchan hypermarket (signposted on the N1).
For shopping before the ferryport, I often stop at a big Leclerc near Lumbres (exit 3 from the A26 « Autoroute des Anglais »), about half an hour SE of Calais.

 

 

 

 

LEARNING ABOUT WINE-TASTING

 

Here are some hints from the prestigious Decanter magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

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