August 10, 2012

WINETASTING

Winetasting is something we really enjoy on holiday and we have become much braver about it over the years.

In our early days of touring France we would spend ages selecting a vineyard with a friendly looking shop, pluck up the courage, shyly enter and enquire very humbly if we could possibly have a degustation.  We were nervous of choosing one where the proprietors didn’t speak English and we were terrified of either looking like complete idiots or being taken for a ride.  Mostly the winemakers we inflicted ourselves upon were patient and helpful (although it must be wearing to have to deal with English twits who know next to nothing about wine) and, to the best of our knowledge, we have never been ripped off.  The experience can be quite intimidating.

winetasting 1

Patricia Denis greeted us and showed us the steel storage for wines in the very smart and modern winery at Domaine de la Renaudie.  You can see Bruno breaking off from his work and striding towards us in the background.

Gradually we have learned more about wine and especially the wine we like so we are much more confident when we go wine tasting these days.  Being able to speak more French helps a lot but it helps even more if you take with you a friend who is fluent !!  So it was an absolute joy to visit the vineyard of Patricia and Bruno Denis, Domaine de la Renaudie. at Mareuil-sur-Cher.  Ken made an appointment for us to visit the vineyard in early July and he came along with us.

winetasting 2 Patricia and Ken share a joke as she fills his containers with wine.

Some of the grapes for the Brunos’ wine are grown in the vineyards behind Ken and Walt’s house.  Walt showed us the vines when we took Lulu and Callie for a walk before we set off on our wine tasting trip and I was impressed how large the vineyard was.  Not all the vines belong to Domaine de la Renaudie, of course, but the whole thing stretches far into the distance beyond the house.  Perfect for dogwalking.

winetasting 7 Lulu enjoyed her walk in the vineyard.  Callie was busy exploring and nowhere to be seen at this time.

winetasting 3

Lots of wine in boxes, white, rosé, and various reds.

At the winery you can taste and buy everything sold in the bottles but they also sell a lot of wine in boxes and even fill your own containers using something like the nozzle you find at petrol stations, straight from the steel vats.  The only wooden casks around were used for decoration.

 winetasting 4 The very smart tasting room.

Patricia spent a lot of time with us, allowing us to taste several wines and making suggestions.  She talked for a long time with Ken about how difficult a year it has been so far, the weather being far from helpful since early spring.  The weather was not looking promising for any winemaker at the time we visited.  I don’t know if the slight improvement since then has made a difference – I hope so.

winetasting 5

The stainless steel vats of wine.

It was a most enjoyable and educational visit.  Patricia was charming and helpful and speaks very good English, although we did our best to speak as much as possible in French, letting Ken take the lead.  In those situations we find we can follow what is being said quite well – well enough to understand most of it.  But when it comes to joining in the conversation we come unstuck, the words and phrases are simply not forthcoming quickly enough and we falter and stutter.  At least we are slowly improving – we think !!

winetasting 6

We bought several different wines and are enjoying them at home in the UK right now.  We will definitely be going back for more some day.

19 comments:

  1. Nice post, Jean. I'm so glad you enjoyed talking with Patricia, and meeting Bruno. And I hope you are enjoying the wines as much as we do. That was a fun outing.

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    1. Ken, the wines have travelled well and are delicious. Thanks again for arranging the visit.

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  2. Hi Jean,

    This was our first wine tasting experience in the Loire a couple of years ago. We've done more since but their pink fizz is still my favourite. We always get a couple of cases of each as our neighbour at home also likes the sauvignon and we take it back as a thank you gift for keeping an eye on our house.

    I don't often drink red so we didn't buy any.

    I haven't bought any BiBs but will try this method next time we go.

    PS Great post

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    1. Gaynor, the sauvignon is one of our favourites.

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  3. We have not done as much wine tasting here as we did in S.Africa. Of course there is was much simpler because they speak English! We have been to Bordeaux here, and tried cognac and Pineau at Cognac. We need to do a bit more travelling and find some new vineyards here :-) Have a great weekend, Diane

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    1. Diane, winetasting is fun but it can be hard on the wallet !!

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  4. I hadn't realised quite how big they were. That's way more vats than most of the wineries we visit regularly. Good post about the process of learning and gaining confidence.

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    1. Susan, speaking the language a little better has definitely made visits to vineyards more enjoyable.

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  5. Nice post--you put it so well how it can be daunting at first; especially if you aren't fluent in a language.

    We visited them last summer with family who wanted to take wine back to the Netherlands [on the back of Ken's comments about them in his blog].
    Unknowingly we turned up the day after Patricia & Bruno's silver wedding anniversay party!! They were certainly shattered and still tidying up but insisted we do a full tasting. Patricia was charming and helpful.

    Like Gaynor we both really enjoyed their pink fizz. a pity they aren't nearer--we'd go more often :-)

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    1. I think we might become regular visitors. We bought several different wines and we liked them all, which is unusual.

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  6. What a great post! I think I could sit down in that tasting room and never leave (well, maybe for a long walk in the vineyard). I find the hardest part for me with Spanish is following what people are saying to me. So, that's wonderful that you're finding yourselves following the French. I'm sure the hardest part for the Spanish people is following what I say to them. The more comfortable I become with the language, the more I make up.

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    1. Making it up can get you into trouble - Nick tries that quite often - if he doesn't know the word he says the English word with a French accent - it doesn't always work out too well !!

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  7. We are living in the middle of the Madiran wine country, and have never done any wine tasting yet. I buy our wine from the supermarket, and normally purchase wine which is a pretty bottle, providing it is locally produced! Ah well, when time permits perhaps we shall explore the local wineries. That is something to look forward to when our building work slows down. Meanwhile, I learnt much from your post and will hold the info for future reference.

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    1. Vera, you would probably get the same wine but cheaper if you went direct to the producers. And while you're there you might just as well sample some others.... !!

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  8. It is intimidating at first, but the vignerons/winemakers are there to sell their wines. If you buy just a few bottles or BIBs you have paid them for the time they've taken to talk with you. If anything, French people are getting more and more used to dealing with all us Anglophones.

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    1. Ken, I had never thought of it quite like that. We always buy something after a tasting as I don't feel comfortable about tasting wine then wasting the producer's time by buying only one bottle- or nothing at all - I wonder if some people do that. It seems rude.
      I often wonder if winemakers groan when they see a car pull up with English plates or whether they welcome us. If you spend plenty of money I don't suppose it matters !!
      Mind you, we did once turn up on our Harleys. We didn't taste because we knew what we wanted but the proprietor was so amazed that she came outside to see how we were going to get two cases of wine home on a motorcycle. It was easy - take them out of the boxes and layer them carefully in the paniers, using the cardboard to cushion them. We gave her the remains of the torn up boxes to dispose of !!

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  9. Loved this post....I learned a lot.
    Here on my island, the rum distilleries are now using some steel vats for storage. However,the old oak barrels are still being used as well.
    I have been reading your blog for a long time, but have never posted before.
    I found Wilf and Digby from your blog, and have been following Angus and the Font since then.

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  10. I love wine tasting, especially at the wineries. Despite my study on the topic, I know little if any French wine. Here French wine is often too expensive to get, and it is considered a bit daunting. So Yanks stick to others. Pity because I suspect there are a lot of good French Wine that isn't thousands of dollars a bottle.

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  11. I loved reading this and wish that I had the courage (lack of language skills in French) to enjoy one of these events. Beautiful images Karen.

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