07 September 2013

Tasting Touraine-Mesland and Touraine-Amboise wines

We had our picnic with friends J. and N. after all yesterday, and we didn't exactly have it indoors. We set ourselves up out on the front deck, where if rain fell we would be sheltered. The rain didn't fall, but the sun hardly peeped out from behind dark clouds all afternoon.

We needed the predicted rain but will have to do without. According to one local source, we're not supposed to get any rain for the next two weeks. Everybody is talking about how dry the weather and the ground is, apparently. It's true that our grass and the neighbors' is completely brown, parched by the sun.

After our semi-indoor picnic, we set off to accomplish a mission we had planned about two years ago. It had never worked out before, but yesterday it did. We went wine-tasting. What a surprise, eh? Our destination was the village of Limeray, on the north side of the Loire River, about 45 minutes from Saint-Aignan by car. Limeray (pop. 1,100) is near the big and famous town of Amboise and within the Touraine-Amboise wine-production area.

Actually, our first stop was in Mesland, closer to Blois. Mesland is a wine village that has its own appellation — namely, Touraine-Mesland. We stopped in at the Château Gaillard winery, which practices bio-dynamic, organic grape-growing.

We tasted several wines — one white, one rosé, and two or three reds. I thought the white was interesting and I learned something about the appellation that I hadn't known before: the Touraine-Mesland white are made from an assemblage of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay grape juices. I had always assumed that they were Sauvignon Blanc wines, as are the whites produced in the part of Touraine appellation where we live.

I liked the white and the rosé we tasted at Château Gaillard but I didn't find the reds to my taste at all. One was dry and metallic, one had only a slightly more palatable fruitiness, and the third, aged in oak barrels, tasted almost of kerosene on my palate. I passed on buying any of those.

I don't think there is an actual château at Château Gaillard — maybe there used to be one. We had friends in the village of Mesland seven or eight years ago and went there fairly often, but the people we knew moved to Nice and we've lost touch with them. Actually, they lived right across the little road from the Château Gaillard tasting room. There's no château in view.

Next, we drove not on the main highway but on along the narrow, curvy road that parallels the Loire farther north, passing through Monteaux and Cangey, before arriving at Limeray. The villages are pretty, with their old churches and a mix of old and new houses in the typical Loire Valley style. Arriving at Limeray, we stopped at the first winery we noticed, the Domaine des Bessons. It's owned by a couple named Péquin (Brigitte and François), and it was Madame Péquin who hosted a tasting for us. She said that she and her husband bought the winery, which includes their home, the tasting room, and a cave or cellar carved into the limestone bluff that rises up above the northern edge of the Loire river valley, in 1987. It was nearly a ruin and they have restored it nicely.

We tasted six wines, all of which were excellent. The Touraine-Amboise whites are made with 100% Chenin Blanc grapes, as in Vouvray, but have their own special character because the soil and climate are different from Vouvray's. The reds in Touraine-Amboise are based mostly on the grape known locally as Côt and internationally now as Malbec. Blending grapes are Gamay and Cabernet Franc, as in much of Touraine. We ended up buying a selection of all the six wines we tasted because they were all excellent.

Finally, we stopped in at Limeray's cave coopérative — the local wine co-op. That's where I took the pictures in this post. It's a pretty kitschy place and it was full of local people buying wines pumped directly from huge stainless steel vats into jugs and jerrycans that the customers brought with them. We bought some wines — a rosé and a red — in the packaging that's called a "bag-in-box" or fontaine à vin. That's wine for everyday consumption. We only buy bottles when we are going to serve the wine on special occasions

Walt took more photos than I did during the afternoon and he'll no doubt be posting some of them over the next few weeks. I might post more about the Domain des Bessons and its wines over the next few days because I really enjoyed the tasting there.


  1. I like Côt/Malbec reds...
    they usually have a really nice feel in the mouth, as well as the fruitiness.

    The different grapes... and the wines that are made from them... are, to me, part of the joy of tasting.

    It is the same for beer... the blend of malts, hops, water and the type[s] of yeast used can all create a brew that you can either cuddle by the winter fire like a rich, fruity red wine... or can quench your thirst with like a spritzer.

    Côt is a cuddle flavour!

  2. Wine labels can be so beautiful and so unusual. I've been known to buy wines just because I liked the labels. (I won't get any awards for selecting fine wines.)

  3. do u make appointments for the tastings or can you just show up? I remember having difficulty trying to find places to taste where you could just walk in.

  4. Trader Joe's has a good Shiraz boxed wine. The label says it's still drinkable 6 weeks after opening, but no box has lasted more than a few days around here.

  5. Wasn't a Mesland wine we had at the Relais d'Artémis?

  6. CHM, yes, it was a Mesland rosé that we had at the Relais d'Artémis.

    Melinda, we just stopped in at the two wineries where we had tastings, unannounced. No problem.

  7. Starman, I liked the bottles and labels too.

  8. I love the wine labels with all the pretty pictures. I may have ended up buying quite a few bottles just for the labels alone.
    I especially liked the one with the lady relaxing outside with her tv and a book while the husband does the yard work.

  9. I am one of those terrible people who buy wines for the label, and I would certainly have bought up big.

  10. I, too, have to join the crowd who has been tempted to purchase because of the artistic labels!!!


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