Open Doors at Christian Venier (Loire)

Open Doors at Christian Venier (Loire)

Feel welcome

As I was parking the motorbike 50 meters away from the wine farm (I had seen while cruising along that there were already a few people in the courtyard), I was greeted by this pleasant scene : a bunch of cute farm animals were looking at this strange horse (me on my machine) from a lot on the other side of the street. Good omen, this place has good vibes, I forgot to ask Christian if these belonged so him or someone of his family but I wouldn't be surprised if they did.


I don't remember what was the cause of these laughs when I shot this scene, but this illustrate well the general mood during this tasting event : gentle, friendly, families with children, and lots of other winemakers 1christian_venier_open_doors_visitorsvisiting as well among the visitors. This was open to everybody, no invitation, just walk in the courtyard and grab a glass. This year 7 artisan vignerons were taking part and pouring their wines : Christian Venier of course, Cédric Bernard whom I visited on his parcel last year, Benoit Courault (here with his son), Laurent Saillard (here with Maylis), Jeff Coutelou, Sébastien Benoit-Poujade & Noëlla Morantin. Que la fête commence, we're spoiled, as I use to say....

Otherwise I think there were a few pros (trade, bars or restaurant owners) but also many locals, some of them wine wise, either coming from the villages around or also from Blois which is just a few minutes from here (by the way many people who work in Blois chose to rather live in the countryside nearby). It's hard to know precisely but you could understand by your neighbors' conversation that they were often familiar with these wines.

Christian Venier & son

Let's begin with the master of the place, who was helped for the matter by his son.
__ Les Carteries, Cheverny 2017, a white blend of 80 % Sauvignon and 20 % Chardonnay. Acidulous on the nose, vividness feel. Super nice mouth, wrapping feel in the palate, 1christian_venier_cuveesa treat when swallowed, nice length. 8,5 € tax included (people were also coming to the event to buy wine, the vignerons had brought van-loads of cases), a super good deal ! Volume for this cuvée : 30 hectoliters (from a one-hectare parcel).
__ Les Hauts de Madon, Cheverny 2017, a red blend, 70 % Gamay and 30 % Pinot Noir. Nice light red color with transparency. Nice nose with dust feel; in the mouth, fruity with some sweetness, may be a bit young at this stage, a couple of years more laying down will do the best I think. Nice wxelcome bitterness at the end. 14 % alcohol but doesn't feel that high. 9 €, also super good deal, keep a while before drinking if you buy some.
__ Le Clos des Carteries, Cheverny 2017, 80 % Gamay, 20 % Pinot Noir; the wine is poured at a rather cold temperature, I warm the glass before drinking. Nice chalky tannin. Sold out now, was priced 9 €.

Benoit Courault

Benoit Courault works now on a surface reaching soon 6 hectares, targeting 7 hectares in the future. He says he and his family don't live in the mobile home anymore, they moved in the old farm nearby but they kept the trailer to accommodate visitors or pickers.
__ Le Petit Chemin, Vin de France (table wine) 2009. Perly wine, this is vintage pet'nat, a natural sparkling that stalled, so it's just a bit fizzy and with sweetness. Color is golden yellow, rather turbid. Acidulous aromas, goes down so 1christian_venier_open_doors_benoit_courault_cuveeseasy (comme du petit lait), nice freshness. He made 600 bottles of this.
__ Gilbourg, Vin de France 2016, Chenin that went through one year of élevage in barrel. 1christian_venier_open_doors_benoit_courault_gouleeGrapes come from the Prieuré de Gastine vineyards, these are old vines (60). You can see the parcel on my visit report at Benoit Courault. Super-generous mouth with smooth feel on the palate and good length. At the time of this event, he just had a few bottles left of this cuvée. Benoit says he didn't suffer from frost losses in 2017, that's thanks to the fact his parcels are on slopes, but it was a close call.
__ Les Guinechiens, Vin de France 2013. Chenin. Color : wheat-yellow with turbidity. Nose : eglantine, elderberry. In the mouth, lightly perly, he added 1 gram SO2 at racking and the wine fermented a bit in the bottle, that's why the light tickling on the tongue. Nice energy, with tension, a real pleasure in the mouth, this wine breathes a quiet harmony, there's a vibrant Umami feel here. Bottled in 2015, he made 2000 bottles of this. Bottle costs 22 €, he's only beginning now to sell this cuvée.
__ La Goulée, Vin de France 2016, it's a try he made with using vat bottoms and blending Cabernet Franc, Grolleau and a good volume of Chenin. Freshness feel with candy aromas, grenadine. Tasted blind, this cuvée could pass for a white, but it's not a rosé, it's a white with reds; nice energy with radiant feel in the throat, that's good ! It's the only time he made this experiment, he worked in the south where this type of blend is more common and he thought it might be good to mix varieties in the parcel, the grapes that are late to ripe bringing acidity in the blend. He thus plans in the future to plant together on the same block some Grolleau Gris, Grolleau Blanc, Pineau d'Aunis, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Blauer Portugieser (he says you can find some in Auvergne, Ardèche and Anjou), he made massal selections for that and still ponders if he plant all these varieties together or not. I hope he does, these old-type white-red blends taste terrific.

Laurent Saillard

I went to Laurent's table but he had only 2 cuvées to offer for tasting, for the other wines (two reds) he had brought he has no bottle left here, all has been sold the previous day (this Open-Doors event lasts 3 days with monday a public holiday) 1christian_venier_open_doors_laurent_saillard_cuveesand he doesn't even have any bottles left at his cellar. He was there with Maylis who also poured when Laurent chatted at the other stands.

__ Lucky 1christian_venier_open_doors_laurent_saillard_corkYou 2017 white (Chardonnay and Sauvignon), bottled 2 weeks earlier. Laurent says in 2017 he picked less than half of the usual volume of grapes as a result of the frost. He didn't buy grapes to compensate meaning his wine volume is down for a while; 2018 sounds good at this stage, no frost and the vines will compensate for last year as a revenge. Pretty sure I liked the wine but no notes.
__ Blank 2016, his new Sauvignon cuvée (this is its first vintage) made from old vines of Sauvignon (50) with élevage in a tronconic wooden vat. This parcel is part of the surface he bought from Clos Roche Blanche. he works differently compared to CRB, he leaves the wine on its own without intervention, the wine was entonné in the wooden vat after the pressing and he didn't touch it until october 2017, it stayed quiet on its lees. Here there's no added SO2 at all. Tastes good. He made about 1500 bottles (11 hectoliters).

Jeff Coutelou

Jeff Coutelou had made the journey from his domaine Mas Coutelou in the Languedoc which is farmed organic since 1987. I met him last time at the iconic Villebarou wine fair earlier this year and loved what I tasted there.
__ Castets 2014 - I saw Jeff at one point pouring a mysterious wine from a huge bottle the size of a 1christian_venier_jeff_coutelou_mosesdemijohn (a 27-liter Primat also called Goliath), this was his small producion made from a variety almost extinct, Castets, he says there is only one hectare planted altogether in France, or a couple of rows here and there, and it's only registered as a variety in the Aveyron département [thanks again to our wine bureaucracy that brushes away the old varieties].The variety was also discarded because it gets easily disease like oïdium for example, and also the vine splits its grapes in many micro bunches with tiny, packed berries which makes the picking longer and more tricky. This variety could still be interesting to replant nowadays because the resulting wine stands out but again the EU's twisted subsidy-policy gets in the way as there's no subsidy planned for replanting Castets, so the growers balk at doing it on their own.

The wine he says has a big substance with a good fluidity, it was vinified with a 4-month maceration (pressed end of january 2015) without big extraction as he didn't look for big tannins. This wine is not for sale he says it's PMG (pour ma gueule). It's an incredible wine there's such a fruit in there it's like it's just been pressed, and the tannin texture is gorgeously thin and gentle. There's a good concentration but nothing excessive, very natural and harmonious, plus it's smooth & unctuous.
to get the wood to have this Castets was ardous, I learn that the chambre d'Agriculture de l'Aude which manages the grape variety conservatory had discovered that Chateau Simone was the only domaine where you could still find a parcel of Castets, so they contacted the domaine to ask them for wood so that they could keep some vines (60 or 80 vines) in their vine conservatory orchard (which was of prime importance if something happened to their own parcel), but the domaine said no, intent of remaining the only domaine to have Castets. To counter this blocus the people in charge of the vine conservation contacted the agricultural advisors all over South-Western France and ask them to check in the old parcels and look for isolated vines of Castets. This worked, someone found in an old parcel 5 isolated vines of Castets, they did the regular checkings for the wood, 3 among the 5 were healthy and from these only 3 vines they could make a massal selection of 80 vines to keep in the vine conservatory... That's how he got access to his Castets, he ovegrafted a few rows of 25-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon.

Noëlla Morantin with Philippe

Noëlla Morantin says that in 2017 she had smaller volumes with the frost and she bought fruit, thanks to Mikael Bouges who willingly gave them access to his grapes. In 2018 they had some frost alert albeit less severe and they had placed in advance (at midnight) antifreeze candles on the parcel Chez Charles which is at risk, the candle buckets were lit at 4 am (200 candles to light on a one-hectare block) and this worked well to protect the buds in the wee hours of the morning. Among the grapes they bought to Mikael there's Cabernet Franc and Côt and they'll delay the releasing of this wine to spread the sales and compensate for the meager volumes.
__ Les 1christian_venier_noella_tango_atlanticoPichiaux 2017, Sauvignon. Bottled a few days before this event. Empyreumatic notes on the nose. Very aromatic with freshness. Unfiltered, easy, pretty rich also. Got less than 10 mg SO2 per liter.
__LBL 2015 old vines (60 years) of Sauvignon, the ones that were originally part of Le Bois Lucas. Nice energy in the mouth, nice tension.
__ La Boudinerie, Gamay 2016. I remember this cuvée, Noëlla gave me a bottle of it last autumn, was terrific (although it had just been bottled). Still gorgeous, love this wine, beginning with this appealing nose. Swallowed : as terrific as ever, really a nice cuvée. For the 2017 vintage this cuvée is not yet finalized, they had very little volume because almost all grapes froze, they'll see if they still bottle separately the small volume they have or if they blend it with something else.
__ Tango Atlantico, Vin de France 2015. This is a new cuvée of theirs, Philippe explains that they wanted to see the result of this blend of two rustic varieties like Cabernet (60 %) and Côt (40 %) vinified separately part whole-custered, part destemmed (alternate layers). They made a two-year élevage (separate as well), blended the whole last summer, bottled before the harvest and they began to sell the wine this last winter. There's chance they keep making this blend because it yields a complex wine that goes well with food. They may do this again with the 2017 which will be available in late 2019. They chose this name which happens to be also a song by Joe Jackson (written to protest the Falkland Islands war in the early 80s') because they wanted a name that call to mind the warmful side of red wine and reflects (with the atlantic) to the region of origin of Noella (she was raised on the Atlantic coast).
The wine has this appealing meat juice feel I love with a nice tension. Costs 15 €, good deal.

Cedric Bernard

It's just been a year since I visited Cédric Bernard, actually just a short time spent with him while he was doing walk plow behind his draft horse, but I remember having loved their wines I tasted over there along the parcel. 1christian_venier_open_doors_cedric_bernard_jm_puzelatHe was there with Roxane pouring his wine. He also farms and vinifies very close from 1christian_venier_open_doors_cedric_bernard_touche_nouehere in Monthou-sur-Bièvre just south of Blois and Les Montils (where Puzelat has his facility). Cédric works on a 1,5-hectare surface.
__ Brin de Chèvre, Vin de France 2017, Chenin. Nose : candy, berlingot. Appealing mouth with energy and vividness, illuminates your esophagus down to the stomach, love it ! He sprayed a 501 last year but he says he's not fully on biodynamy.
__ la Biquette Dorée, Vin de France 2015, Romorantin. From a magnum because he sold all his 75-cl bottles (not clear if he still has some at the cellar). 8 months in barrels then he racked the wine. Super aromatic for a Romorantin, with a nice uintensity in the mouth, precision. Not the austere, mineral cut you usually find in a Romorantin. Very expressive. 13 €.
__ Touche Noue, Vin de France 2015, a blend of Gamay/Pinot Noir. The color is deliciously light, with turbidity, the nose is wild, I love that already. Super good indeed, with silky tannin touch. No oak here. He made 500 bottles and sells for 5 €. Can't believe it, I took a case although I came on motorbike. Cédric says he lost 90 % of the grapes in 2016 & 2017 with the frost. If I can read correctly my notes he put the whole-clustered grapes together and the bottling took place in march 2016.
Pic on left : Cédric chatting with Jean-Marie Puzelat

Eugène Venier

The tables were set up ready for the coming lunch, here on the left Eugène, Christian Venier's father, this wine event is taking place in his farm and courtyard actually. He's the one thanks to whom all this magic happens, this philosophy shared by all these vintners was his before many were born. I like to remind he's also the uncle of the Puzelats and has also a family connection (don't remember which) with Hervé Villemade.

Lisanne Van Son with Laurent

Happy to have also met Lisanne Van Son here, she was working at Lise & Bertrand Jousset's wine bar in Montlouis. She's into some wine project and I'll keep you informed in time about it.

Babass (right)

A few wine people from Angers and its region had come for the event including Babass (here on right), probably sharing cars and sleeping here in one of the outbuildings.

The repas de vignerons

Here is the lunch, I wanted to be with them for this meal because that's always a great experience to eat with winemakers and 1christian_venier_open_doors_lunch1as soon as I arrived I asked Laurent where I could 1christian_venier_open_doors_lunch2pay for my part and to whom I should ask, he told me to just notice Christian but that there was no fee, there'd be food for everyone who could seat. That's the way they do here, I'd have been happy to pay something but no way. Here at the end of the table you can see Emily Dilling the Californian expat and now craftbrewer who came with her baby, Ben taking part with Julien Pineau to a wine event in Angers.

Timothé Toïgo

This lunch was great, nice people, vignerons and others; on the other side of the table was Timothé Toïgo who from Canon Canon, a wine shop in Rochefort-sur-Loire a few kilometers south-west of Angers along the Loire. Their Facebook page gives you an insight of the vibrant vibe at this wine venue, they even had Mr Ito the Japanese importer drop there (pictured there with Babass).

Beloved chef

I don't remember precisely what brought this fervent expression of love for Laurent Saillard but he was the chef for the cuisine that day and like always it was terrific and she couldn't let him go...

Olivier Soulas (left)

For me the tasting wasn't finished yet and after this great lunch I went to the barrel of Olivier Soulas, pictured here with Jeff Coutelou and Pascal Simonutti who also showed up. Olivier Soulas works near Béziers in the south of France with 2,5 hectares since 2014. He's been working on the side to make a living and since recently (january 2018) he works for Jeff Coutelou. He brought here several cuvées.
__ Un Je Ne Sais Quoi, Vin de France 2017. White blend, 1christian_venier_PO_olivier_soulas_cuveesGrenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Terret Bourret, the latter being a late-ripening variety local to the Languedoc. It exists in different colors. Olivier picked it early october. He farms on permaculture, cuts weeds under the vines with a sickle and a friend of his uses his draft horse to plow on his parcel of Cinsault. He has 3600 vines of Grenache, all old vines. He is presently in organic conversion and will get the Ecocert certification in 2019.
The wine is lightly perly with a sweetness that is well balanced by acidity & minerality, whatever it is. Nice mouth feel of white tannins also, I like that. Interesting wine, costs 14 € public price.
__ In Media Res, Vin de France (2017 I think). Blend of Cinsault (old vines, 82 years old), Aramon (he has 34 ares of it, 40 years old), Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris. For the two Grenaches he used only the early-press part. All is grown on goblet (he has also some 60-year-old Carignan). His rootstocks are usually planted first and the grafting takes place one year later, which helps the vines be stronger and healthier.
Nice light redish color, turbidity. Pepper notes on the nose. The mouth is very vivid, I understand that's because of the Grenache Blanc. 2nd mouth shows a nice sweet feel that has a good length. Regarding his sales he sells to 2 or 3 cavistes near Béziers plus he takes part to a few wine events like this one, where he can sell his bottles. In all as cuvées he makes a white, a red, a sweet red (Cinsault, I understant sugar transformation stopped because of the drought) and a long-keep red.

Jeff's Solera

Lastly Jeff Coutelou poured me some of his divine Solera (from a 50cl bottle), that's as you know a multiple-vintage wine getting every year a bit of the last vintage, usually in a large barrel with the appropriate exposure to oxygen, except that here the base vintage (the first) is estimated to be 200 years old.... Look at this color, it can't lie ! The nose reminds the one of a Vin Jaune, with oxidative notes, terrific nose already ! In the mouth and swallowed, it's just magnificent, superb gem of a wine. Such a classy wine.
The glass at this event were a casual patchwork of all the tastings thz Veniers had taken part to and my glass was obviously coming from Surk-Ki's Wein Salon Naturel in Cologne...

Daniel on the quad bike

Christian's brother Daniel was offering a quad-bike tour (mostly to young women it seems...) in the area and certainly in the vineyards, this didn't seem to be a quiet ride and the passageng better hold firmly to the rails or to the driver... For my part it was time to ride back myself to the other side of the Cher river some 35 kilometers away and happily this was not a time window for breath checks, that would have been another story if I had stayed until the evening, I'd have had to find a crash pad in the attic of the farm...

The affiche for the event


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