Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Chateau de la Presle and Domaine du Boulay, Oisly

The Chateau de la Presle is the family home of winemaker Anne-Sophie Penet. The next door estate, Domaine du Boulay, is owned by handsome Burgundian winemaker Fréderic Meurguy. She took over from her father Jean-Marie in 1998 and very sensibly got married to Fréd , merging the two businesses.

Fréd (left) with Robert Boutflower from the UK wine merchant Tanners.
The estates are situated on the Oisly plateau, between the Loire and the Cher rivers. The soil is sandy on top with clay underneath. They are in the Touraine AOC, part of the  Loire wine growing area, which is 600 km long, with 69 appellations -- some of them large like the Touraine, some of them tiny, like Quincy.

Guinness, the family schauzer.
Fréd showed us around the winemaking facility. He told us that their whites, sauvignon blanc, are destemmed, pressed, the juice left to settle then it is put in tanks and fermented. The reds, pinot noir, are destemmed too. If the grapes are not destemmed the wine will get a stalky flavour, but it will have more body. With destemming you get a more fruity flavour coming through. This is a strictly individual decision for each winemaker to take. For example, sauvignon is often all nose and no body, so some prefer to leave the stems.

Stainless steel vats.
There are a variety of tanks in the chai (pronounced 'shay', where the wine is made). There are red conical ones are used for letting the wine settle, when the winemaker is not so worried about temperature. Their shape means that the fermentation process keeps the wine gently moving naturally but they are more difficult to clean. The stainless steel vats are designed for ease of use, with bases that slope towards the hatch. For the quickly fermented whites and rosés a means of controlling the temperature is required, and the modern stainless steel vats provide this.

The bottle store (empties waiting to be filled).
After the quick winemaking primer, we were taken into the cellar for a tasting session.

The bottling machine.
2014 Sauvignon, €5.70/bottle: drink in 2 years or less, with citrus rather than gooseberry flavours, very typical of the Touraine. Not aggressive but nicely balanced, the aim is to offer an alternative to Sancerre or Quincy. 2014 was a terrible year weatherwise, until September saved the vintage. The first half of August was really bad. They normally harvest from 15 September but they left it until the end of September last year. Normally the winemaker calculates 90 days from flowering to harvest but last year the grapes got an extra 15 days because the summer had been so dismal.

Sparkling wine.
Pineau d'Aunis, €5.70/bottle: Although now a variety very localised in the Touraine, Pineau d'Aunis probably originated in the Charente, to our south west. At Domaine du Boulay it is made by giving the grapes a cold maceration with their skins for 12 hours, then proceeding in the same style as their sauvignon. Their version is very typical of the Touraine rosés made from this variety -- peppery, spicy, pale in colour, a light young wine to be drunk young. The lightness means it is nice just for drinking on its own, with spicy foods such as chilli con carne, or salads and barbecue. 

The cellar door shop.
2013 Pinot Noir, €8.50/bottle: This is made in large wooden barrels. It's given a cold maceration for three days then three weeks fermentation. Fréd wants as much colour as possible from the skins. Then the natural malolactic fermentation is allowed to start. When this fermentation is going on in a winery you walk in and the whole place smells of apples due to the malic acid in the wine at this point. The winemaker can choose to suppress this type of fermentation using lactic bacillus, but on the other hand they sometimes force it because it gives the wines a longer shelf life. It only happens if it gets warm enough and it takes time to properly go through the malolactic cycle. Fréd has harsh words to say about winemakers who don't give their wines enough time, but from talking to others it seems there is more and more pressure from buyers who want to get their hands on a new vintage, earlier and earlier, even at the cost of the wine not being properly ready. Pinot noir goes into malolactic fermentation naturally and very easily in wood. Gamay does too, even more easily, once it reaches 25°C, but is often only given a very quick malolactic cycle because it is meant to be drunk young and fresh. Pinot noir and other reds should be done at a lower temperature and slower. The Domaine does not allow malolactic fermentation in its sauvignon blanc, and stops it with a small dose of sulphites.

Fréd, staggering under the weight of our purchases.
Crémant, €7.50/bottle: The Domaine produces 180 000 bottles in total per year, of which the sauvignon blanc is the most important. They also produce 15 000 bottles of sparkling in the form of crémant, made from 70% chardonnay plus some chenin blanc and pinot noir. The grapes are hand picked into small shallow open boxes and processed using the same method as champagne. The crémant has good depth, with 4g per litre of residual sugar, quite dry, like an extra brut, but it is technically a brut (due to the residual sugar level).
Local History Blog: A member of the Société Archaeologique de Preuilly (SAP) has created a blog to publicise the club's activities and make available online old issues of the Cahiers de la Poterne, the club journal. If you read French and are interested in the Touraine it will be a very useful resource.
Organic Vegetables: Yesterday I went to the Vergers de la Petite Rabaudière for the first time. Tony and Sylvain, who own the place, are organic market gardeners just outside of Preuilly. On Tuesday evenings between 5 and 7 pm they sell direct to the public. Produce is stacked up in their shed and you choose what you want then get it weighed. The prices are posted on a large whiteboard. I bought carrots, two types of tomatoes, a lettuce, aubergines, runner beans, a cucumber, green and purple peppers and potatoes for €14.50. The prices are good, the atmosphere friendly and despite the apparent chaos with people coming and going they are in fact very organised. When I was there a young woman asked a question about beekeeping and was given lots of helpful advice. I'll be a regular from now on.
A la cuisine hier: I gave in to the latest culinary trend and made a whipped coconut cream dessert yesterday. And the coulis / jam that went with it had chia seeds in it...I'll be making coconut yoghurt next thing you know...

Anyway, despite my skepticism, this was delicious and I would make it again. I used sour cherries and raspberries, sweetened a bit more than the recipe suggests, and with regular sugar. Since I can buy coconut cream in tetrapaks at the supermarket I didn't have to faff around skimming it off the top of coconut milk, but I did chill everything as recommended. I also reduced the quantity of vanilla by about half.

The coconut was by no means overpowering and was in fact rather pleasant (Simon said he didn't realise it had coconut in it). It's not a flavour I think to use much, so it was a nice change. I don't know what effect this Western craze for all things coconut the last few years has had on areas that grow coconuts. I hope it's not another palm oil, or even another cacao or coffee. Likewise the chia seeds (although I seem to remember that they are now grown in Australia, well outside their traditional homeland, so perhaps there aren't the problems such as are associated with quinoa).
Archiving the Blog: Days on the Claise has been selected by the National Library of Australia to be archived in their Pandora repository of websites and online publications relating to Australia and Australians. Whilst I've no doubt we are amongst hundreds of others, we are very flattered to have been asked and that our blog is considered worth archiving. It will give our blog a lifespan beyond the current technology and make it available to readers indefinitely.


  1. Huge Congratulations for Pandora. Definite success!

  2. Congratulations guys!!
    "we are very flattered to have been asked and that our blog is considered worth archiving"
    why query that?
    I read your blog every day... not because I know you as a friend, but because of the information in it!!
    You always seem to write about interesting things... to me anyhowz...
    and there is a lot of information in there...
    Your recent wine related postings really could do with a blog of their own... even if it is a "re-blog" site...
    and most of the Natural History postings really ought to be re-blogged or joint blogged into LVN...
    if there is a place that I feel you fall down, it is with a lack of tagging....
    I do find it very difficult to find things I've read about on your blogs in the past and wish to refer to again!!
    And, as the National Library of Australia must have noticed...
    else you wouldn't have been chosen...
    there is an awful lot of well researched reference material here!!
    There is also Simon's "slightly sideways" look at the world...
    also entertaining and enlightening at the same time...
    play host to a Workawayer for a couple of weeks and get them to re-tag all your posts!
    Not all of them are outdoor gardening and/or trained bricolagers...
    some still want to see the world and only have academic skills to offer...
    Well done both of you...
    there are about three good books hidden inside this blog...
    no wonder someone wants to archive you!!

    1. What's wrong with using 'search? That's what I do. You are right that I should cross-ref LVN and DotC though.

    2. Because even when using "search" from inside the blog...
      I get page after page of useless info...
      eg: I know you've blogged about stag beetles on this site and I wanted to cross link...
      could I find them... could I heck!!

    3. I just searched for 'lucanus' and got a total of 3 posts, which I think is all I have ever written which included stag beetles.

  3. I've just looked up chia seeds...
    I'd'never'eard of them...
    they are worth growing for the flowers alone...
    let alone the possible health benefits.
    Very attractive variety of "Saliva"...


    1. You clearly don't read cooking blogs written by young North American or Australian women if you've never heard of chia seeds...They are fairly ubiquitous in Australia these days. My dad has them on his morning muesli.

    2. "You clearly don't read cooking blogs written by young North American or Australian women"....
      I don't follow cooking blogs full-stop!!
      I am quite happy to plagiarise/adopt/adapt or improvise around recipes that you, Walt, Ken and Jean publish... but these are the only blogs I read regularly that have recipes within!!
      If Pauline and I need a recipe for summat... we tend to use AllRecipes or something similar.
      There are only so many hours in the day...
      and most of mine are spent outside...


  4. Pandora has a good eye. Your blog is ideal for their purposes. It's daily, it's informative on a lot of topics that you and we are interested in (often in depth), you get out and about, your readers comment so there's a lot of back and forth, there are photos, and it's about France! All good things.

  5. Well done on achieving pandora status.

    As written above your blog is always interesting, informative and beautifully illustrated with photographs. I appreciate the comment as well as the info. You often have a different view on things which gets me thinking.

    I'll give La Petite Rebaudiere a try when we get back to LPP. I'm slowly (well, maybe not so slowly! ;0) ) working my way through different sparkling wines so no doubt it won't be long before I get round to sampling this one...

  6. A few days ago I deliberately came to your blog to find a small chateau that was not two hours away from my home. But I couldn't find the SEARCH button for your blog. I did go to Chateaux but again I couldn't find the SEARCH box facility. I am in agreements with the previous commentators! And yes ... a book or more could be a way of earning another income from your clients...It doesn't have to be fat! Try looking at Blurb but one has to do something with Blogger first. If you get the right Workawayer, Tim's idea is a good one!

    1. To get the search facility box you have to agree to the cookies in the box right at the top of the page. Once you close the cookies warning the search box appears.

      Not that it works terribly well, you have to give the exact spelling, and it isn't at all forgiving about special characters. I wont find Citroën if we typed it citroen in the blog, for instance.

      If if you have second guessed us on spelling, it still may not find the post.

    2. Did you try using the label aka tag aka index for 'pictures of chateaux' (on the right hand side bar)?

      The sort of thing you and Tim are suggesting requires us to manually maintain an index a mile long and that users have to visually scan through. That's why we have deliberately kept it short and broad scope. For anything very specific search is generally much more efficient.

  7. Blogger ahhhhh. I posted this or something like it yesterday. Great achievement. We agree with the comments of Tim and Gaynor. It will be six/seven years since we started reading your blog and do so daily. Where did that go???. Well done.

  8. Thanks to all for your kind comments and supportive readership. We really value our readers and their input (even when they suggest improvements to the blog that makes us feel tired just thinking about it :-)