RSJ's 30th anniversary: 1980-2010

2010 was a very special year for us as the RSJ Restaurant celebrated its 30th year. We held a number of special events through the year to mark our 30th birthday.

36th Year: 1980-2016

Another milestone with events happening during our 36th anniversary year.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Report on Saumur tasting: 19th January 2009

The Château de Saumur from the centre of the town

The RSJ’s 2009 events programme started last night with a successful tasting and dinner partnered with nine wines from Saumur.

Régis Neau, Domaine de Nerleux Crémant de Loire

Guests were welcomed with a glass of Régis Neau’s Domaine de Nerleux Crémant de Loire (£9.75 a bottle retail). This creamy and lemony sparkler is an RSJ favourite: we get through about 150 cases a year both in the restaurant and in private sales. Made from 70% Chenin Blanc and 30% Chardonnay, the Crémant de Loire appellation was introduced in 1975 and modelled on the same strict conditions that govern Champagne. Indeed in some respects the conditions for Crémant are stricter, especially in terms of amount of grapes that can be produced.

We then tasted three Saumur Blancs – all made from 100% Chenin Blanc:

2007 Régis Neau, Domaine de Nerleux £7.50
2007 Insolite Thierry Germain, Domaine des Roches Neuves £12.95
2005 Antoine Foucault Domaine du Collier £15.95

Partnered with panfried scallops, cod branade and beurre blanc.

The two 2007s were typical of the vintage with very clean, precise flavours and quite austere; something that makes them attractive to lovers of Loire wines but which others may find too lean. The lemony Régis Neau is probably best as an aperitif. Insolite showed the mineral character that Thierry Germain is now wants, which is a very different style from the much richer style of Insolite that he was making during the 1990s and in the early part of this decade.

2007 Insolite, Thierry Germain, Domaine des Roches Neuves

As the son of Charly and Françoise Foucault, Antoine comes from a famous family. The wines (Saumur and Saumur-Champigny) of Charly and his brother, Nadi, are now much sought after on both sides of the Atlantic. Antoine set up on his own in 1999 with 5.5 hectares of vines on the hill of Bréze, which includes a plot called La Charpentie where the vines are around 100 years old. His wine-making cellar is in a large limestone cave under his parents’ home in Chacé.

Antoine’s 2005 divided opinion – for some it was the best white, others were not impressed citing an earthy flavour. This and Insolite were both a bit cold when they were served and showed better as they warmed up a little. Among the doubters some felt that it showed better with the first course rather than on its own. It is also a white that could benefit from being given time in a decanter or carafe. Equally you should be able to keep this for at least five years and probably longer.

2005 Antoine Foucault's Domaine du Collier

Next we tasted two Saumur-Champignys as an interlude between the first and main course:

2006 Jean-Pierre Chevallier, Château de Villeneuve £9.95
2005 Philippe Vatan, Château de Hureau £10.95

Both wines were true to their respective vintages. With Jean-Pierre’s 2006 showing some of that refreshing edginess that is often typical of Loire reds. Although 2006 is a good vintage, its potential was undermined by wet weather at the end of the harvest that forced producers to pick in great haste to beat widespread outbreaks of rot. It is Jean-Pierre’s policy to only make his top reds in vintages when he is fully satisfied that the quality is good enough. In difficult or average vintages, such as 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2007 he doesn’t make the Vieilles Vignes or Grand Clos and instead everything goes into the ‘domaine’ wine, making them both remarkably good wines for the vintage and great value.

2005 Château de Hureau

2005 was a very good vintage and the Vatan domaine wine is wonderfully seductive with plenty of black fruits and is drinking very well now.

They were followed by three Saumur-Champignys served with the main course:

2005 Clos des Châtains Régis Neau, Domaine de Nerleux £11.95
2005 Vieilles Vignes Jean-Pierre Chevallier, Château de Villeneuve £12.50
2002 Marginale, Thierry Germain, Domaine des Roches Neuves £17.95

Roast guinea fowl breast and confit leg with braised shallots, grapes, new potatoes.

All three showed well with Thierry Germain’s 2002 Marginale the current star showing what a lovely vintage 2002 – not a heavyweight but beautifully and seamlessly balanced. Unfortunately the one of the bottles had a cork problem that became more evident as the wine warmed up and opened up.

2005 Vieilles Vignes Château de Villeneuve

Jean-Pierre Chevallier’s Vieilles Vignes is all delicious, silky fruit at the moment. With more bottle age it is likely to develop more complexity. Régis Neau’s Clos des Châtains comes from a parcel of old vines on the western side of the hillside of Saint-Cyr overlooking the Thouet Valley. Less silky and more edgy than the Villeneuve, this is always very consistent and good value.

2005 Les Châtains Régis Neau, Domaine de Nerleux

Dessert: Apricot tart, rum and raisin parfait, strawberry, kiwi and passion fruit salsa

Sunrise over the Loire@Saumur

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