Archive for September 16th, 2018

September 16, 2018

The wines of Muscadet and more!

So, how are you? this is a nice cool sunny Sunday. We had done some cleaning lots of it. All well done. Now we had a good meal with Belgian and American beers and we are wondering, where we were yesterday another world, in wine country of the Loire!

The wines of muscadet are less known me think  unfortunately they deserve more credit. I will do my five cents here. It covers a large area and amazingly, not only are the muscadet grapes allowed but others too.

This area is less than 2 hours drive from my house so I have been a lot ,just hard to pick areas to show you in my belle France we are loaded ::) Here is a bit on the  Muscadet and my latest road warrior trip.

The Muscadet is a dry white wine of AOC (appellation d’Origine Controllée) mainly in the Loire-Atlantique dept 44, south of Nantes, and partially overflowing on the Maine-et-Loire dept 49 and the Vendée dept 85 ,all in Pays de la Loire region. This wine from the Loire Valley vineyards comes from a unique grape variety, the melon of Burgundy (Melon de Bourgogne) . This appellation has been classified AOC since 1936.  The Muscadet vineyards has several appellations: the Muscadet-Sèvre-et-Maine, the Muscadet -côtes-de-Grandlieu, the Muscadet-coteaux-de-la-Loire and the Muscadet without any particular denomination.

A bit of history I like

In the 17C, under pressure from Dutch brokers, looking for small wines for the still wine market .The vineyard will experience a great development: until the French Revolution . Brittany/Bretagne was one of the reputed foreign provinces (with the Guyenne , Saintonge, Languedoc, Provence, Dauphiné, Lyon, Flanders and Artois) so that the trade (taxes on goods) is lifted at its borders, in particular at the Ingrand barrier on the Loire river. Thus, the wines of the wealthy country are mainly converted into spirits, which are exported from the port of Nantes to the countries of northern Europe. Until the French revolution, the majority of the grape varieties of the wealthy country is therefore the Gros Plant, a grape well adapted to this production .

In 1635, the word ,Muscadet is attested in another document from the village of Gorges for the first time. It is claimed that this grape, now known as the Melon of Burgundy because of its origin, would have better resisted the terrible winter of 1709 than the other grape varieties including the Gros Plant and that, as a result, it would then become widespread in the countryside of Nantes

The late 19C saw the affluent vineyard (Muscadet and Gros-Plant) touched by the phylloxera like most of the French vineyards. This aphid accidentally imported from America in 1864 bites the roots of the vine and causes the death of the plant. At this time that the melon of Burgundy (Muscadet) will impose itself as a majority grape in the vineyards of Nantes.  This vineyard in AOC comprises 13 000 hectares, exclusively used in white wine. It is located mainly in the southern part of the Loire-Atlantique, and in some communes of Vendée and Maine-et-Loire. The Muscadet-Sèvre-and-Maine appellation is the most notable and most productive of the Muscadet vineyards, generating just over two-thirds of the total production of Muscadet. It takes its name from the two rivers, the Sèvre Nantes and Maine which water this territory forming essentially the Nantes vineyard.

It is comprise as such with only my favorite towns (highlighted the tops) vineyards (there are a lot more): The Muscadet-Sévre-et-Maine denomination that is.

In the  Loire-Atlantique department 44  are:  Aigrefeuille-sur-Maine, Basse-Goulaine, the Chapelle-Basse-Mer, La Chapelle-Heulin, Chateau-Thébaud, Clisson, Gorges, the L’Haie-Fouassière, Haute-Goulaine, the Landreau, the Loroux-Bottereau, Maisdon-sur-Sèvre, Monnières, Mouzillon, the Pallet, the Regrippière, Saint-Friacre-sur-Maine, Saint-Julien-de-Concelles, Saint-Lumine-de-Clisson, Vallet, and Vertou. As well as two towns in Maine-et-Loire department 49: Saint-Crespin-sur-Monk and Tillières. It is, also, available as the dénomination Clisson  in the towns of the Loire-Atlantique dept 44 in : Aigrefeuille-sur-Maine, Château-Thébaud, Clisson, Gorges, Maisdon- sur-Sèvre, Saint-Lumine-de-Clisson,and one town in Maine-et-Loire dept 49: Saint-Crespin-sur-Moine. Also, as dénomination Gorges  in the Loire-Atlantique dept 44 at   Clisson, Gorges, Monnières, Mouzillon ; and dénomination Le Pallet in two towns of the Loire-Atlantique dept 44 such as La Chapelle-Heulin, and Le Pallet.

The Muscadet-côtes-de-Grandlieu: this vineyard derives its originality from the microclimate of Lake Grandlieu. It is in 17 towns of the Loire-Atlantique dept 44 such as   Bouguenais, La Chevrolière,Legé, La Limouzinière, Pont-Saint-Martin, Port-Saint-Pere, Saint-Aignan-de-Grand-place, Saint-Colomban, Saint-Léger-les-Vignes, Saint-Philbert-de-Grand-Lieu, and Touvois. As well as two towns in the Vendée dept 85 such as Rocheservière ,and Saint-Philbert-de-Bouaine.

The Muscadet-Coteaux-de-la-Loire is in 16 –towns of the Loire-Atlantique dept 44 again my favorites are only in Ancenis, Anetz, lingné, Mauves-sur-Loire, Saint-Sébastien-sur-Loire, Thouaré-sur-Loire and Varades; as well as 8 towns in Maine-et-Loire dept 49 such as my favorites only Bouzillé, Champtoceaux, La Chapelle-Saint-Florent, Liré, Saint-Florent-le-Veil and La Varenne.

The Muscadet without denomination or simply Muscadet on the bottle is in 74 towns of the Loire Atlantique dept 44 ,however, my favorites here are only in Ancenis, Basse-Goulaine, Carquefou, La Chapelle-Heulin, Château-Thebaud, Clisson, Haute-Goulaine, Ligné, Le Loroux-Bottereau, Mauves-sur-Loire, Le Pallet, Saint-Fiacre-sur-Maine, Saint-Aignan-Grandlieu, Saint –Colomban, Saint-Hillaire-de-Clisson, Saint-Léger-les-Vignes, and Saint-Philbert-de-Grand-Lieu. And these towns from Maine-et-Loire dept 49 such as Champtoceaux, La Chapelle-Saint-Florent, Liré, Saint-Florent-le-Veil, and La Varenne. Also, from the Vendée dept 85 we have Saint-Hillaire-de-Loulay.

Some of the other grapes you may find wines here are the Folle Blanche, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris, Grolleau, Negrette. As well as some more genuinely locals such as the Berligou, Egiodola, etc.

Some webpages to help you visit these wonderful denominations and towns are

Assoc Vignobles Nantais wines

Wines of the Loire pdf map see Nantes

I have been coming and going to the Vignobles Marchais lately, this is at La Blandiniére hamlet in the town of Thouare-sur-Loire, and it has been a pleasant find. We first met at the village vignerons of Guérande a couple months back and since been to their property twice.

thouare sur loire

thouare sur loire

This time was to celebrate the harvest for 2018 in which with the heritage days going on in France this weekend, they did a vineyards festival or fête des Vendanges in their property , very nice. We were only a small group of 13 which was ideal. We arrive punctual at 11h while they were getting ready to host a wedding at 15h lol!

Our event started shortly after the owner Philippe Marchais arrived. He is trying to export more and I am helping out with some information on the USA market. First, was a brieg explanation on the terroir, Philippe is a firm believer in this , and so am I. All sort of information on the land and stones on the soil was given in a brief format. The stones here have lots of schist. We went on to the vineyards!

Well it was a harvest time the next day so we were the first one to pick up grapes of the Melon of Burgundy(melon de Bourgogne) great to be able to use our cutter and get the nice chunks of grapes off into a bucket first and then a huge wooden cart!!! Very nice and on a friendly fun group of people. Once we finish , we came in to the chai or cellars to taste the grapes and determine their acidity, taste, and aromas as well as the maturity of them. We try three different plot of land from same grape and all taste and smell different, that is the terroir…

thouare sur loire

After, of course, we taste the real wines from the previous year 2017, and were nicely impressed with the Grand Clos du moulin de Pé muscadet of course. And the refreshing Domaine de Bois Biot white. This was accompagny by salmon and sardines cold meat or paté, terrines, and pork paté from Brittany! Very liberal serving and nice conversation around my favorite subject lifewise!

thouare sur loire

We were ready for the lunch, a bit late as we were surprise by  a visit by radio chain France Bleu and the owner Philippe was interviewed right in front of us. I was one of the ones chosen to be spoken to and hopefully will be on the air soon!!!  radio chain here: France Bleu Océan

All during the interview , we were at the table and then we all join the visitor for a chat on wines and good food of the Loire, and the Nantes vineyards! The food oh my God, well we got a huge chunk of baby milk pork and a large slab of dauphiné potatoes all going down with a nice surprise wine Egiodola red wine a grape originally from the Basque country but now planted here and producing a fruity pleasant red wine with lots of blackberry !! delicious we purchase a carton of  6 bottles! afterward.

The ending was an apple tart homemade with grape fermented juice done on premises! Which we got 4 bottles for free!!! We indeed continue chatting with the owner and his wife Violette that joined us at the table sitting next to me so lots of conversation.  At the end we did something nice.

They have a very nice building; the basement is the production site for bottling about 200K bottles of their own production. The street level is the cellar, tastings and boutique, and the first floor (2nd US) is a reception area (where the wedding was held) also good for business meetings and other events, all hook up with video equipment and large screens. The have about 9 persons working mostly family members. What they do is they have other families cousins etc who are also winemakers in other regions of France. They bring their wines to the cellar boutique and sells them ,so therefore we purchase a Morgon from the Beaujolais, and two Margaux from Bordeaux region from 2011 at good prices,not a good vintage year but the producers are guaranteed good and that is the main point here.

Thouare sur loire

In all, it was a wonderful experience. Next month they are hooking up on a project with a local brewery to do a beer with wine grapes that we will be tasting in October !!! Stay tune.

The property webpage in English is here: Vignobles Marchais

Enjoy it nothing better than a good wine and if French much better, simply the best! Remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

Ps wait!!! as we are multi talented, on our way back in full control, we found a memorable hypermarket from our times in the Versailles, The Auchan hypermarket of Saint Sebastian sur Loire was on our way on the N844 so we stopped and did our groceries!!! Cheers ::) Oh webpage of store is here: Auchan at St Sebastian sur Loire

St Sebastian sur Loire

September 16, 2018

The Somport tunnel, port, and peak!!!

I like to tell you about a wonderful spot that bring lots of good memories to me and my family involved mostly a road warrior experiences. This story started in 1990 and continues today… I like to tell you about the Somport.

A bit of wonderful souvenirs; as back in 1990, I came down from Meaux in Seine-et-Marne dept 77 east of Paris to Madrid , and Toledo Spain. I came with my girlfriend then and later my dear wife Martine, which life has it our time together was cut short due to the lousy cancer. I wanted to impress her and show my roots right away.

We took off on her VW Golf car (she love her little car a lot) and off we went without GPS just old paper maps. Little did I know that were going to face the mighty Somport just south of Oloron -Sainte-Marie on the road N134, climbing this mountain pass of the Pyrénées mountain mostly on second gear as it was and is very hilly around here lol! The return trip was done by the same Somport mountain pass and all the sights were awesome, and the customs border police at Urdos was very nice (yes before the UE took off the borders and the French Franc was still king as well as the Spanish Pesetas).

Afterward, there were several repeat visits, and many lifelong memories of good cheers on the road, happy moments for all. We eventually got to the much improved Somport tunnel that is awesome as well and ease of driving par excellence. The memories were just as recently as August 2017. I did not have the will to travel long this year so Spain was spare, maybe next year , I will have the strenght to make the journey again with the boys. As for now….

Let me tell you a bit about the peak or col of Somport.

The Col du Somport is a mountain pass located on the border between Spain and France at 1 632 meters (5,354 ft) above sea level. It was one of the most borrowed passages in the crossing of the Pyrenees, by soldiers, merchants and pilgrims on Via Tolosane from Oloron-Sainte-Marie (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) and towards Aragon (Camino Aragones). The Col du Somport is the only passage of the central Pyrenees which is, except for exceptional snow conditions, accessible in any season.

At the beginning of the 5C at the time of the barbaric invasions that ravaged the Western Roman Empire, the Vandals, the Alains and the Suevi, soon followed by the Visigoths, coming from France, used this relatively easy route to enter Spain. The Roman road that leads to it, known as Via Tolosane, was also borrowed by the Muslims at the beginning of the 8C in their failed attempt to conquer France. The col was the subject of a division between France and Aragon, within the framework of the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659), (current borders of Spain and France) incorporating the terms of the Vesiau Treaty (12C).  The pass was fortified in the 16C  by the Habsburgs to protect itself from an invasion of the French, which did not occur until the Spanish War of Independence and the arrival of Napoleon’s general Louis-Gabriel Suchet in 1808. The French left Spain by the same route after the defeat against General Francisco Espoz y Mina in 1814.

And now a bit about the Somport Tunnel!

The Somport Tunnel is a road tunnel linking Spain and France to the west of the Pyrenean chain. It is traversed by the Spanish national road N-330 and the French national Road N-134, elements of the European route E7 Pau-Zaragoza. The N 134 crosses the Pyrenees at the Col du Somport at 1 632 meters above sea level. Opened on February 7, 2003. Since the construction of the tunnel, the Col has a much smaller traffic. Its access to the French side is located in the town of Urdos (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), at the place of the forges of Abel (1 116 meters above sea level) in the Valley of Aspe; The exit to the Spanish side is located south of the town of Canfranc (1 180 meters above sea level). Its path runs along the existing rail tunnel. The Pau-Canfranc railway line is no longer in operation since the collapse of a bridge on its route in 1970, its reopening being planned for 2020.




Its length is 8 602 meters, of which 5 754 in Spain and 2 848 in France. The border is marked by a logo of Europe painted on the walls of the tunnel. Its width of 9 meters comprises two tracks of 3.50 meters separated by a band of 1 meter, and 2 lateral strips of 0.50 meter. On the Spanish side, it is planned that the A-23 highway arrives to the tunnel, I saw the works in progress as an extention of the Autovia Mudejar (A23) from Sagunto to the French border by  Somport.

And a bit on the Port or Puerto of Somport.

Port of Somport. In the surrounding area are the towns of Candanchú, Astún and Le Somport. It is border between the Valley of Aragon, in Spain, and the Valley of Aspe, in France. Also, according to some sources it is considered the boundary between the western Pyrenees and the Central Pyrenees.

A 34-km cross-country ski slope on both sides of the French Spanish border runs in the vicinity of the port. Part of the itinerary belongs to the skiable domain of Candanchú in Spain, and the other to the cross-country ski resort of Le Somport, in France. More here:

A site I use in France to help guide my boys who does some skiing is this one on Candanchu (skiinfo): On the Snow or skiinfo

Some public transport information, never use just for reference are

You can get a bus from Jaca up to Somport but never done as always by car there. There is a train from Zaragoza or Jaca to Canfranc and then hook up with the bus. From France there are buses from Pau. Here is more:

To get to the Alto de Somport you have to take a bus at the station of Jaca, located on Avenida La Jacetania, S/N. Even Jaca can be reached by bus from Zaragoza, Huesca and Pamplona with the company Alosa:, email: Tel +34 902 210 700.

For the followers and walkers with faith, this is a must as well.

In Spain, the Camino Francés (The French Way) starts in Roncesvalles, you leave from Navarra, or in Somport if you depart from Aragón. This is the most well-known and traditional steeped route to Santiago de Compostela to the point that it has become a cultural, artistic and sociological landmark . Those coming from Somport through the provinces of Zaragoza and Huesca, the French Way passes through such significant towns as Estella, Logroño, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Burgos, León, Astorga, Ponferrada or Villafranca del Bierzo. The county of El Bierzo opens the gateway to Galicia through the inspiring mountain hamlet of O Cebreiro. From this point, a week of walking though enchanted greenery will lead pilgrims to the Praza do Obradoiro and the attainment of the Compostela Certificate.

A webpage to help you plan your trip here is the area covering Jaca or Jacetania ;more in English here: The Jacetania on Somport

Valley of Aspe tourist office: Tourism of Aspe and Somport too

The parks of the Pyrénées and their welcome centers, see Laruns, : Parc national du Pyrénées

And this is a town I posted in my blog before and we stayed there on that wonderful September of 1990 with my dear Martine ,the hotel change name from Faus Hutte to Lacasas, but can’t find activity on the web so as not passed by this year do not know if still there but if it is take it!! address is Avenida Francia Km. 658.5, 22870 Villanua. The town of Villanua, province of Huesca: Tourist office of Villanua

The tourist office of the region of Jacetania on the Somport tunnel, first the Spanish side entrance and then the French side entrance

Tourism Jacetania on Somport Spanish side

Tourism Jacetania Somport French side

There you go, a nice place up in the Pyrénées of my beloved duo of France and Spain; a solid one two punch for tourism. Hope you enjoy it.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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