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VENDEEN WINE Article by Tate

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Vendéen Wine - A Personal View

Our family have had a holiday home in the Vendée since 1991, that’s enough wine tasting you might think to make me an expert on the local brew, but in my opinion wine is as much about personal taste as music, there’s no good or bad there’s just whether you like it or not.

I’ve always preferred reds to whites. I’m old enough to remember when you could afford to drink Nuit St. Georges and Chambolle Musigny and I’ve occasionally let the quality suffer in the name of quantity, working on the theory that after the first bottle we all suffer from the law of diminishing returns, in terms of taste and often in terms of consciousness. I’ve also drunk some of the world’s finest wines, so my spectrum is broad and I’m not interested in all the nonsensical self ingratiating wine speak that I’ve so often heard from the so called wine experts. So whether you agree with me or not at least you’ll know that what I say comes from the heart.

When I first came to the Vendée I had never heard of “Fiefs Vendéen”, that’s not surprising as the wine is not an Appellation Controlle but ranges from Vins de pays to VDQS, it is normally drunk young and rarely leaves the region. There are 4 main wine areas of production, and I use the term loosely, Vix in the South surrounded by the Marais Poitevins, Pissotte a little further north, Brem-sur-Mer on the coast just above Les Sables d’Olonne and Mareuil-sur-Lay in the heart of the Vendée, which is without doubt its principal wine growing area. Of course it doesn’t stop there, after all this is France and wine we’re talking about. Every farmer has his own plot of vines and grows enough to keep himself and his family in wine for the year. Some farmers grow far more than they can consume and the excess occasionally sneaks its way illicitly into the public domain.

To get a true flavour of the Fiefs Vendéen you could do worse than take a trip through the Mareuil-sur-Lay wine region. A few years ago we had some friends over to stay, they were regular visitors and we thought that as a change we would investigate the Lay Valley and the wine route to Mareuil-sur-Lay and Rosnay. We already drank a Mareuil wine which was we thought OK but we thought why not find the Domain and buy it direct. It was one of the best decisions we would ever take. A pleasant drive through the beautiful Lay Valley was punctuated with a lovely lunch in La Petite Taverna in Moutiers-sur-Lay, which we stumbled across quite by chance. We then drove on through Mareuil-sur-Lay and followed one of the wine routes which criss crossed the road to Rosnay.

Try as we might we never found the Domain we were searching for but we did stumble across the Domain de L’Auderie. Greeted by Jackie Galerneau and later joined by her husband Claude who had been toiling amongst the vines, we were invited into their cave to taste their wares. I’m reminded of the Hot Chocolate classic “It Started With A Kiss” but on this occasion it started with a white, it was full of flavour yet not too sweet and fruity (I’m not keen on sweet and fruity) it was crisp it was dry it was perfect for me. Then came the Rosé. Vendéen Rosé seems to be the most popular locally produced wine drunk by the tourist, perhaps it’s the first week colour co-ordinating with the pink skin, or perhaps it’s just particularly good after drinking Claude’s Rosé I was beginning to think the latter. It was again full flavoured and reached my pallet with much the same result as the white, namely pure delight. Now at this stage you may think that this is just a cheap commercial for a local pal, but I can assure you that even the French friends that I’ve taken to Claude’s have been knocked out by the quality of his wine and even those who would previously not have given Vendéen wine house or maybe cellar room, have been converted.

Next out of the magician’s hat was a red which was a mixture of a couple of grape varieties, we were now in my real comfort zone, and though it was OK it didn’t grab me leaving me completely unprepared for the next offering. His penultimate wine was named Saveur D’Antan, it was a single grape variety that I’d never heard of called Negrette, I later spent some considerable time with a very large French dictionary, trying to fathom out the meaning and the closest I could come to it was “little black girl”. The wine was dark, no, it was very dark and when I asked Claude if it was a pre phylloxera grape variety he seemed impressed by my knowledge, but not as impressed as I was, this was a different taste. The wine was full bodied, smooth and very dry it immediately struck me that this was a sophisticated wine escaping from an ancient grape variety that you’re just never likely to find anywhere else. Claude’s final offering was a beautifully rounded red raised in oak, but not cloying like so many highly oak flavoured wines (more often than not from the antipodes). It was a delight to drink and I could understand that it was his most stylish, complicated and consequently most expensive wine.

As I write this in 2008 it comes in at just over 4 euros a bottle so for me in terms of quality, variety and value for money his wine was hard to beat. Claude is just one of many Vendéen producers for whom wine is there life. Maybe if you take the wine route and search out a little cave somewhere along the way you may just find something better. Good Luck.


About the author: Tate spends the summers in the Vendee and is passionate about good wine and good food, he writes exclusively for the
The coping of this article is permitted as long as the complete article along with these credits are published.
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