Archiv der Kategorie: Camper Van

Chasing the grape with a camper van

Table wine from table grapes – Lagasquaïre, Domaine de la Gasqui

This summer it was time again to visit our beloved Provence. It was hot so we decided to go for a new place, surrounded by flowing water: L’Isle sur la Sorgue.

This little town in the Vaucluse was built in a swampy area and gained fame from the drainage channels, leaving the nick name: Venice of Comtat.

L'Isle de la Sorgue

There are still some watermills to be found that have been used for a lot of different purposes in the history of the city. Milling, wool making…

Sorgue12

Today it’s more tourism and antique shops plus agriculture that influence the town.

There is a Campsite near l’Isle but also a winery that is taking part with France Passion , an organization allowing camper vans to stay one day with their members for free if you can produce this year’s vignette,

The winery Domaine de la Gasqui lies a bit outside of L’Isle sur la Sorgue and it is slightly elevated too. Taking the bicicle into town was an easy quarter of an hour, the way back took slightly longer and more muscle power as well…

Sorgue9

The camp site is a plane plain with some trees giving shade if one calculates the movement of the sun, between the winery and vineyards.

WoMo bei Gasqui

The first impression we had was from our little friend for the day…

Besuch bei Gasqui

The tasting itself, conducted by the senior winemaker started off slowly. There were on rosé, a white and 4 reds to be tasted but the white alerted my inner fossicker… A vin de France, no vintage and at 9€ not exactly a bargain. Asking about the wine Mr Feraud Senior got more talkative.

The white is a blend of table grape Gros Vert and the wine grape Ugni Blanc aka Trebbiano, not a real star variety… Both planted by his grandfather. The Gros Vert grapes are quite big and thick skinned with lots of seeds. Not really something looked for in table grapes at the moment. But then they were caught after because they could be kept until christmas time. He didn’t want to get rid of those plants so he decided to make this wine which he can only do legally because the vines are older than 25 years. Way older…

 

Hunt for Gros Vert

Our friend showed us the vineyard and Gros Vert vines. Which happened to be just the vineyard beside our camper van…

Gros Vert

But what did it taste like?

Honey, elderflower, rose water and a hint of grapefruit. Med bodied with balanced acidity and some more grapefruit on the palate. Maybe a little bit short but still a nice summer quaffer with a legacy behind it.

I hope that these vines keep on bearing fruit as it is quite unlikely that someone will plant them again. 25 years of not being able to make a wine with them, I don’t see anyone have either the patience or finances…

Chilling at Domaine la Gasqui

Wine Crowdfunding – Visiting my Winery – Le Verdus @ St Cyprien-sur-Dourdou

Like at own risk:

After liking a Facebook page about rare grape varieties I was fed this link about a small young winery in Aveyron, France looking for crowd funding. Philippe Rousseau and Aline Solignac want to resurrect the old winemaking traditions of the St-Cyprien-sur-Dourdou village close to Marcillac by founding their winery, Le Verdus.

They looked for the reasonable sum of €2500 with the aim of planting a new parcelle of Chenin Blanc (one of my favourite whites) and one I’ve not heard of before: Roussellou.

I decided to spend €100 which would give me six bottles of wine and a tour of the winery. Enough supporters were found and the aim was surpassed, 151% was collected.

The wines were supposed to be delivered in September and to save the winery the higher postage fees to Germany and to get my free tour of the winery it was decided to visit St-Cyprien-sur-Dourdou in the Massif Central, on this years tour through France.

We did arrive one day earlier so we had some time to check out the neighbouring village of Conques, a quaint village set on a hillside retaining the mood of the middle ages and being officially one of the most beautiful villages of France.

Conques

Yes, it is quite hilly here. We did cycle here from St-Cyprien, which was ok on the way to Conques as it was going slightly downhill and the wind was blowing from behind…

Conques3

A film location for a knight and damsel in distress movie anyone?

The Camping-ground in St-Cyprien-sur-Dourdou is set between the sporting ground and the municipal outdoor swimming pool. It looks as if used to be part of the parking lot, the wash rooms are quite rudimentary and are shared with the sportlers.

But who can complain: €14.40 for the camper van, exlectricity, 2 persons, a shady levelled parcelle, own water supply included. Bakery and deli/butcher/grocery within 5 minutes walking distance.

St Cyprien sur Dourdou Camping Platz

Le Verdus lies slightly outside of St-Cyprien aon a hill. After first day reconnaisance tour with the bicycle we went there with the camper van to meet Philippe, who gave us the tour.

The terrain belongs to his partner’s family. The family were making a lot of wine before the Phylloxera-crisis but emigrated to Argentina where they made their fortune only to return to their origin and rebuild the family estate. It was decided: No more wine.

Instead cattle, wheat, fish were going to be the mainstay. The wine cellar was kept intact, built into the hillside to keep temperatures low and constant.

Verdus Cave

The building was built about 300 years ago, two storeyd. The bottom part is built into the hill, the top part has direct access to the vineyard via the backdoor. This is where the wine press was installed.

Verdus Pressoir

The pressed must can then be channeled down to the bottom floor using pipes and hoses without using any pumps.Verdus Cave

The wine is fermented here in the cooler bottom. The barrique barrels are used (5 seasons) and release no more oak aromas but enable a soft ripening. This room is also used to store the bottles and exudes all the charm of an old stone building.

Of course we got to see the newly planted vineyard too..

Verdus La Vigne

Two different Chenin Blanc clones were planted here, both of them originating from the Aveyron region. The Roussellou was planted using massal selection, collected by a specialist from old vines in the region.

Roussellou is the local name for St Côme, a white wine variety that Philippe got to know at a friend’s winery who has an experimental vineyard with lost vines of the region. After tasting some wines they both decided to go for this variety.

The grapes that eventually ended up in my wine are 70 year old Fer Servadou (90%) and Jurançon Noir (10%) from a rented vineyard in neighbouring Salles-la-Source. The vineyard can be used for Marcillac AOC but Philippe decided to go for a Vin de Pays de l’Aveyron for his first wine.

Philippe wants to plant a parcelle of red vines for Marcillac AOC wines but to conform with french law he has to show his ability to make a Marcillac wine first, thus the chances of him making a Marcillac in 2015 are quite high.

La Mitat

La Mitat in the local dialect: Half, Semi.

The vineyard is only half planted, the cellar is only half ready and the wine was made by Macération Semi-Carbonique.

Mitat is also used by traditional Aveyron dancers to call for another round of music if the musicians want to pack up. Hey guys, you’re too early to pack up, it’s just half time…

 

The wine is non-filtered, unfined. Indigenuous yeasts, no additives but a small amount of sulphur prior to bottling.

The nose: Beet root, violets, black currants, artificial raspberry.

Refreshing acidity with only light tannins on the palate. Joined by cassis some pepper and fermented cucumbers.

A perfect summer red which doesnt complain if served slightly cooler. 7€ at the winery.Ok, I did pay a bit more but that’s not what counts in crowd funding.

2013 Malinger – Walporzheimer Pfaffenberg – Johannes Hostert

The second trip with our camper van was down to Mayschoß in the Ahr region. Quite near to Cologne this is a popular spot for short weekend trips.
We parked the van at the camper van site near the train station, lying between the Ahr river and a vineyard with a view on the Saffenburg castle ruins.
Drinking water and waste water emptying facilities are avaiable, as are some lots with electricity avaiable. Some lots, especially those with electricity are far from horizontal. Despite being close to the railway tracks and the main road it is quite quiet.

In this most northern wine growing region in Germany mainly red wine grapes are grown (86% in 2008) which is not what one would expect. Many winemakers produce stil blanc de noir wines, which makes sense if you are sitting in one of the many winery outlets, in the open sun. Our main reason for coming here were not the red wines, nor wines from the village of Mayschoß but a real rarity from neighbouring Rech.

Johannes Hostert owns a small vineyard in Walporzheim planted with over 90 years old, ungrafted Malinger grapes. Also known as Prècoce de Malingre, named after the guy responsible for creating the grape variety, a Parisian gardener. Early ripening it is said to have no real character.
According to Wine Grapes the grape is grown for the table as well. Mr Hostert seems to be the only man in the world producing a varietal wine.

After a short stop at the coop winery Winzergenossenschaft Mayschoß-Altenahr and a stroll on the Rotweinwanderweg to Rech I could finally get my hands on this rarity. On the terrasses of Weingut Johannes Hostert.
Malinger 2013 im Glas

A really light colour seemed to confirm the low character of the Malinger grape. A nice suprise on the nose with roasted hazelnuts and a lot of honey. Soft with low acidity with some residual sugars. With 11.5% I would have loved to taste a dry version as well. I bought a bottle for later to see if this one can take some time in my cellar…
Flasche Walporzheimer Pfaffenberg Malinger 2013

Battle Vin de Savoie Malvoisie 2011 vs Coteaux de l’Auxois Pinot Beurot 2010

Todays battle sees the 2011 Vin de Savoie Malvoisie Cuvée Prestige from Domaine Girard against the 2010 Vin de Pays de Coteaux de l’Auxois Pinot Beurot La Mystérieuse from Vignoble de Flavigny-Alesia pitched against each other. Both wines are made using hand picked grapes, which does not really call for a battle.
Ok. They are both whites, from France… Both winemakers are members of France-Passion,
where camping car owners can stay the night after buying a sticker valid for one year.
Not enough?
Ok, both wines are made using Pinot Gris, though both use different names on the label.
Both the pink skinned mutation of the Pinot Noir as well as its white counterpart are rarely seen in France. The amount of Pinot Gris vines grown are about 10% of Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc even just 5%.
Both are mainly grown in Alsace, where Pinot Blanc is mainly used as an ingredient for Cremant d’Alsace whereas the Pinot Gris is part of the 4.5 Grand Cru gang. Why 4.5? The 4 classic Grand Cru varieties are Riesling, Muscat, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris with Sylvaner being the exception for the Grand Cru Zotzenberg only.
Before Hungary’s joining of the EC Pinot Gris was called Tokay in Alsace.
Apart from the Alsace there is also the Reully AOC in the upper Loire region where it is used for rosé wines in conjuncture with Pinot Noir.
It is also allowed in a variety of burgundy reds but it is not widely planted so the chances of finding even traces of Pinot Gris in red Burgundy are pretty slim. Here it is called Pinot Beurot.

The wine growing region of Coteaux de l’Auxois is part of Burgundy but not part of Bourgogne AOC. It’s hills are rather green with grass and dotted with big cattle. The Auxois is an old earldom in the western part of the duchy of Burgundy. The vinery Vignoble de Flavigny-Alesia lies south of the quaint village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain immortalized by the film Chocolat featuring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche. It is also near to the historic place of Alesia where Caesar utterly destroyed gallic resistance by defeating their army in 52 BC. Beside the Pinot Gris which is the vinery grows Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Auxerrois and César. Alluding to the battle of Alesia the wine bottle is roughly in the shape of an amphora.

The Malvoisie from Domaine Grisard was bought in Mens, where I bought the Verdesse as well. At first I was not sure which grape variety hid behind the Malvoisie, as there are many grape varieties using this name, like the Frühroter Veltliner or the rare Malvasia bianca di Piemonte. But the Domaine put the real grape variety on the back label and they must know, because they also grow vines for sale in their pepiniere viticole.

Fresh from the fridge:
Vin de Savoie: Pear, light muscat-note, chalk. Soft, off-dry.
Coteaux de L’Auxois: light peach, apple core, green hazelnut, rape honey. Strong acidity with light bitter note.

Room temperature:
Vin de Savoie: Pear, dried Mango, fresh and ripe Mangop as well, some beeswax. Light peppery finish.
Coteaux de l’Auxois: light button mushrooms with mustard. Savoury, raspberry vinaigrette.

I’d serve them with:
Vin de Savoie: pan seared scallops
Coteaux de l’Auxois: Plate of Charcuterie

Two days later:
Vin de Savoie: pear williams, fresh ripe mango, light pineapple. Sweetness more pronounced.
Coteaux de l’Auxois: Mustard, pear, unripe mango, light onion. Acidic.

The winner is the wine from the Alps though i must admit that the interesting flavors from the burgundy were unique.

2013 Mondeuse Blanche, Maison Philippe Grisard, Savoie

After our stay at Domaine Mèjane we continued the journey to Beaufort, famous for its cheese. Here the local cooperative is quite involved in new technology, having installed an automatic cheese vending machine so no one will run out of cheese 24/7. They also convert the whey from the cheese making process to electricity which is more than enough to run the dairy, so the excess is sold. But this is a completely different story.

I definitely wanted to stop at Maison Philippe Grisard in the mountain village of Cruet. The winery sells my favorite Verdesse, a Frühroter Veltliner (called Malvoisie here) and Mondeuse Blanche.

Mondeuse Blanche is one of those ultra rare grape varieties from the Savoy that keep popping up in ampelographic texts. It is not a mutation of the much more common Mondeuse Noire but they are definitely connected. The Blanche’s second of fame came in 2000, when it was shown that Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza (another almost extinct grape variety, this time from the Ardèche Region in France) are parents of the world famous Syrah / Shiraz.

So three wines that would be worth a little detour, I thought, while processing the address into the navigation system. Passing a couple of bikers on the straight road was easy. Once inside the village I had to turn right, straight up the mountain, a steep and narrow road. Any oncoming traffic and I would have been in big trouble. Panicking I turned into the next corner where we met a friendly Savoyard who asked me where I wanted to go. Up to Maison Philippe Grisard was my answer. No Problem, they have a parking space was the answer in perfect German. Back onto the road and going up the steep road under the watchful eyes of some inhabitants I finally found the parking, one space even free to settle the camper van.

Grisard Parking

Just check the relative height compared to the mountains in the distance, and the steep road in the left corner… I had to go back down there without really having ranging space in the back, past the amused onlookers commenting…

Grisard Weinkeller

Well, I didn’t feel like wine tasting at that moment, so I just bought two of each wine and tried the Mondeuse Blanche later back at home.

The bottle has been sealed with white wax, hiding a Noma cork.
Straight from the fridge: Banana, fresh and chewing gum. Quite full for a mountain white, balanced acidity. Cooked banana on the palate and long mineral finish.

Pouring the wine a couple of times from one glass into another (wine glass decanting) introduces fruit: Banana, unripe apricot, jasmine. On the palate cooked banana, apricot and a very interesting bitter sweet salty finish.

The next day surprises with more fruit: Banana peel, apricot, raspberry and cherry jam mixed with oat porridge and honey. One hour later the fruit is gone, leaving dandelion and honey.

The following day: Dandelion and apricot.

A very interesting grape variety on its own but next time I am not taking the camper van up to the winery!

La Vellavia Bière blonde, Polignac, Auvergne

The big summer vacation this year was spent in France, this time with our old camper van. Usually I’m looking for wine but there was one place on my list of places that I really wanted to see. Le Puy en Velay in the Auvergne region. This is where the wolrd famous green lentils are grown and the old town has its owns, mystical charm about it. We decided to go for the Camping de Bouthezard in the Aiguilhe quarter. Yes, it was beautifully located just beneath the famous church St Michel d’Aiguilhe (as seen on the beer label). But what really sparked my interest were WiFi, laundrette and tumble dryer. The simple washrooms didn’t spark anything though…
When asking for a well deserved (changing tyres on a motorway rest stop only to find out that the extra tyre did not have enough air inside and the motor station’s inflator was out of order) welcome beer at the campsite shop the owner apologized for having only local beers on offer, no Kronenbourg or Heineken. Well, he was apologizing to the wrong person, i bought both beers on offer. A lentil beer, Perle Verte and the La Vellavia blonde brewed in the neighbouring Polignac, famous for it’s castle ruin.

Polignac

The Perle Verte or green pearl was easy drinking with the tiniest touch of lentil. Had I not seen the label, I probably would not have noticed.
Perle Verte

The La Vellavia on the other hand was quite impressive. Orange-brown with a fine foamy head.
In the nose dried and frozen mango, dried apple, light cider. On the palate mango and malt caombined with flowery hops and a light bitter finale.
Beside the good water from the Central Massif there is one special ingredient that makes this beer so special. An ancient type of barley called Ponote that has been grown on the high plateau of Le Puy together with the Puy Lentils. The grains are quite big which makes sorting them out easier. This makes sense if you consider the way the barley was used as a ranking help for the lentils, both being grown on the same field at the same time. And both harvested together.

Verdesse, Persan, Étraire de la Dhuy – Cave de Bernin – Côteaux du Grésivaudan

Looking for unknown grape varieties one often has to look to unknown wine growing regions. One of those is set in France between Grenoble and often overlooked Vin de Savioe AOC region. Overlooked at least in Germany. The Côteaux du Grésivaudan is part of IGP Isère (together with the equally unknown Balmes Dauphinoises) and have to battle with low prices for their wines, high labour cost, also due to difficult mechanization and high realty prices.

Only through passion and the wish to preserve its culture by some winemakers some wines still find their way to the world of wine. Especially through the use of autochtonuos grape varieties.

Among those are the white Verdesse and the dark Persan and Étraire de la Dhuy grape varieties. The Verdesse I have tried the one from Domaine des Rutissons before and found it to be quite interesting. With only 2ha grown in 2008 a real rarity. Persan and Etraire were still unknown to me. According to  Wine Grapes Etraire is a natural seedling of Persan. 2008 only 6ha were planted. Slightly more grown is the Persan,  9ha in France and some winemakers in the Piedmont where it is called Becuet. All three grape varieties are grown by the  Wine Cooperative in Bernin , vinified and bottled. This makes them to my knowledge the only winemakers that offer all three grapes as mono varietals. One reason to have a look around!

 

Cave de Bernin

The cooperative was easy to find using the navigation sytem and also easy to reach with our camper van, something that is not a given in the little mountain villages with their steep and narrow roads. A big parking space, a small shop with their wines and local specialities like walnuts and fruit jams and a free, fabulous view. What more can one ask for? And all very reasonably priced. Bottles range from 2.90€ to 5€. Bag in Boxes are even cheaper. All wines are made without vintage. Unfortunately I did not have time to do some tastings at the cooperative because we were pressed to reach our next destination, the Domaine de Méjane with its camper van space.

Verdesse Cave de Bernin

The first wine, Verdesse was light in colour. Granny Smith, lemon and lemonade, light soap followed by cooked apple with lavender honey and overripe pineapple but also unfortunately a touch of volatile acidity. Light on the palate as well with a long mineral finish and dried apple peel aftertaste. Slightly watery, lacking concentration.

The second day the volatile acidity has dispersed, Granny-Smith, iced pineapple, banana chewing gum, lavender honey, raspberry soda and chalk. Overripe pineapple and oyster mushroom aftertaste.

Etraire de la Dhuy Cave de Bernin

The second wine, the Etraire de la Dhuy, was lightly coloured as well. On the nose cloves, vanilla, cherries (combination of cherry jam and ripe, juicy fruit). On the palate light as well, light tannins and refreshing acidity. This wine too makes me wonder what could be made from these grapes if the yield was kept low.

The second day the wine changed only slightly: Cassis, cherry, lightly smoked ham mit cloves. Cherry and cloves aftertaste with light bitter note.

Persan Cave de Bernin

The third and with 5€ the most expensive of the cooperative is the Persan.

The colour shows more intensity than the Etraire, which is no big feat.

The nose is attacked my a blast of Brett (Brettanomyces) which reminded me of cow manure. Luckily the stink is quickly gone only to be replaced by raspberry jam, hibiscus flowers and orange marmalede with saffron. Fuller than the Etraire with a balanced Acidity and plum finish.

The second day the Brett influence has diminished. Now it gives the wine a foxy note, reminding me of concorde jam. On the palate I head the impression of a nice country bread spread with concorde jam without the sweetness, obviously. Acidity seems to have gained in strength. Despite all, this is one is my favourite of the three.

All in all a couple of interesting wines. Complex aromas, unfortunately lacking concentration. So there is still some space to improve. And dirt cheap.

Domaine Méjane, Saint Jean de la Porte, Savoie

The next stop after Cave de Bernin was at Domaine Méjane, another France Passion participant. Latest arrival time was set at 18:00 to get a last chance of a wine tasting. Unfortunately the given GPS-data was not accurate, we were led on a small street behind the house. The givenj description in the book was a bigger help so we were able to make it in time.
Domaine Méjane Wohnmobil unter den Bäumen

The camper van site lies in the Domaine’s park, a huge lawn with big trees and not straight at all places. The whole park is enclosed by a high wall and a gate that is closed at night. Next to the tasting room is a rest room which can be used by the campers at all times. In front of the house is a fountain with refreshingly cold and fresh spring water.
Domaine Méjane Brunnen
Nachdem wir das Wohnmobil abgestellt hatten, gingen wir direkt zur Probierstube, um die Weine der Domaine kennenzulernen. Die Weinprobe kostet normalerweise 5€, wird aber bei einem Einkauf ab 30€ erlassen. Dafür werden die Gläser aber auch gut gefüllt. Geschätzte 0.05 Liter. Ein Spucknapf war nicht zu sehen…
Domaine Méjane Tasting

White wines, the Domaine offers Jacquere, Chardonnay, Roussanne and Altesse mono varietals, of which I tasted the latter two.

 

Domaine Méjane Roussette de Savoie 2013
The simple 2013 Altesse, or Roussette as it is called in the region was a nice introduction. Limeflowers, pear, honey and porridge. Lively acidity with a soft finish. All this for only €5.50.

Domaine Méjane Altesse fût de Chêne

The same grape variety, 2012 vintage and oaked. This one astonishes with orange, vanilla and light oak. Appetizing acidity and some oak on the palate with long dried apple and peach aftertaste. For €6.60 a steal.Red mono varietals are made from Gamay, Pinot Noir, Mondeuse and the rare Persan. I left out Gamay and Pinot Noir.

Domaine Méjane Mondeuse St Jean de la Porte 2012
The Mondeuse 2012 priced at  €6.10 offered low to med tannins and a nice acidity. Woodland and beet root.

Domaine Méjane Mondeuse Fût de Chêne
The Cru St Jean de la Porte was where the next Mondeuse was grown, vintage 2010, oaked. Soft with red fruit, cocoa, cherries. Tannins nicely matured. Oak in the aftertaste.  This oaked version was again slightly more expensive: €6.70.

Domaine Méjane Persan
Highlight was the  Persan 2012:  violets, dark red fruit, Plums. Still young with balanced acidity and tannins. This wine as well was more than reasonably priced at €6.70. One might recognize the house fountain on the label.

Blick von Domaine Méjane
Good, dirt cheap wines, a nice camper van site with an astonishing view. I’ll be back!