Can you say oysters in French?
How about cheese?
On our first morning in the Loire, in the small village of Montreiull- Bellay, we walked to the castle across the river that we could see from our accommodationswhere we were lucky to find an open air market with a number of stalls of our favorite foods: oysters, pate, cheese, and vegetables including already cooked beets!
There was even a gentleman selling paella!
Fortunately the venders’ English was better than our French, and along with pointing to what we wanted, we came away with a nice selection of goodies to supplement our grocery store purchases in Reims which we bought for the drive and to sustain us for the next week while helping us keep on a budget.
In a downpour, we scurried back with our selections, and off we went next to our first appointment in the Loire at Manoir de la Tete Rouge — the house of the red head– located in the nearby village of Le Puy Notre Dame. There we were welcomed with bubbles but not like the bubbles we’d enjoyed in Champagne the days before. Instead these were Pétillant naturel, pét-nat, or Méthode Ancestrale a wine they call “Free Mousse” a play on words because mousse is French for bubbles.
Pétillant naturel, pét-nat, or Méthode Ancestrale is a form of sparkling wine that is low intervention, often using native yeasts, and overall made differently than the traditional method which adds sugar and yeast to dry, still wine to bring about a second fermentation that produces the bubbles. Instead, Pét-nat wines are bottled when they are partially fermented, and as they continue to ferment, the carbon dioxide (CO2) gets trapped inside.
Over time, the wine absorbs the gas providing a bubbly beverage and voilà — the pét-nat is ready to pop the cap and drink!
The resulting wine is less predictable since it was bottled unfinished, it may be more cloudy as it has not been disgorged which captures the sediments, and it has less pressure: Champagne usually measures at 5-6 atmospheres of pressure and pét-nat usually comes in a less than 5 meaning it has more gentle bubbles and when it is opened, it’s not as explosive.
If you prefer your beer to be hazy and not your wine, chill the bottle sitting upright so that the sediments sink to the bottom!
Soon after we toasted our good fortune (read how lucky we were to find this place here!), winemaker Guillame Reynouard took a brief break from his final day of harvest to chat with us (more on our conversation in a post soon!), and later we joined him on the crushpad.
Always committed to sustainability and to providing the fullest expression of the wines, Guillaume began farming organically in 1998 and because certified biodynamic in 2010 on his 18 hectares. This means that “Guillaume doesn’t use any synthetic chemicals and he respects and protects the ecosystems in each of his plots.” While specializing in Cab Franc (read about two of them here), Manoir de la Tete Rouge exports 30% of production to the United States, Canada, Denmark, the UK, Austria and Japan, including the Free Mousse so you can ask your favorite wine store or online purveyor to carry it!
Back in the tasting room, we purchased several bottles including one to have with our paella and we were gifted the open bottle of Free Mousse to celebrate being in the Loire.
NV Manoir de la Tete Rouge Free Mousse Pet Nat SRP 13 euros ($25)
80% Cab Franc, 20% Chenin Blanc
10800 bottles produced
As you can imagine, it was delightful with the oysters! I was so glad I purchased them at the market and that I was able to get them open!
A beautiful coppery rose gold color, it’s yeasty yet subtle, and completely delightful!
We loved our little Montreiull- Bellay Air BnB studio so much we stayed three nights instead of the planned two, but we finally had to head east toward Chateau Chambord and the World Wine Tasting Championship where we would be competing for Team USA.
But we didn’t exactly settle for a Motel 6. We splurged and went for a night’s stay in a troglodyte or cave dwelling — and no it’s not what you might be thinking! Originally quarries for tuffeau, a marine rock that is all over the Loire, the cave dwellings were a low rent alternative to a traditional home. These days, they are as sophisticated as any residence in France– and very special.
We actually slept adjacent to the cave, but we hung out in the kitchen, dining room, and living room of the cave, and we saw our host’s bedroom and bath, plus he pointed out where he was planning on expanding to utilize other abandoned caves on his property. BONUS: just outside the cave’s entrances was a hot tub!
What we decided we need was some bubbles to drink while we soaked. And since we knew we’d be writing about pet-nat for this month’s #WinePW, we strolled down the quaint street along the river to a nearby market and restaurant where we scored ourselves a biodynamic bottle, Bulle Nature from Les Grandes Vignes.
2018 – Bulle Nature – Petillant Naturel – Les Grandes Vignes – 11.5% alcohol – 14 euros
Chenin – Groslot Gris
We purchased this wine at a little market in Rochecarbon.
According to the label, biodynamic and Demeter certified. With our limited understanding of French, the vines look to be influenced by the calcarious soil. The label is very hip and artistic, eye catching and unique; I love the sense of the colorful hands working together. As much as I would have loved to, we didn’t bring the empty bottle back home with us.
Color: Platinum with a touch of gold, platinum rim, delicate persistent mousse
Nose: It smells fresh, minerals, clean minerals, limestone, there is underlying fruit like freshly fermented fruit, fresh ripe pear,
Palate: Loads of minerals, the minerals really stick to the front of the palate, like club soda or sparkling mineral water. Refreshing like a spritzer, lots of interest and excitement on the palate, there is a lemony citrus, as if there is a squeeze of lemon in the mineral water, as if there is a bit of lemon zest. Lemon oil or lemon rind. Eureka lemon over meyer lemon. There is light subtle fruit mid palate, the pear comes through there. At the back of the palate it is all about the lingering minerality, which hangs out for a very nice long time. This really is a lovely wine. Perfect as a starter to cleanse the palate and prepare it for a meal. Light and refreshing pool sipper as well. At 11.5% alcohol it will not weight heavy on the palate and can be enjoyed with or without food.
Pairing: When in France, what is better than the local cheese and charqueterrie? We were ready for the hot tub after driving all day to tour the countryside and find our accommodations in Rochecarbon. This was a perfect accompaniment to our hot tub and cheese plate. So fabulous with the fresh oysters we found at the local farmers market in Montreiull- Bellay. We also found fresh cheeses while there that pair beautifully with this wine. There was a goat cheese with thyme that was fantastic with the wine, bringing out the herbasiousness of the cheese and the minerality in the wine. We had another goat cheese that had a charcoal color rind on it. It was also delicious with the wine, bringing out a yummy fruit. We also had this wonderful cheese called Langres, it was aged and we are guessing had a washed rind. It brought out some fun fruity notes in the wine, and funky notes in the cheese. It worked really well with the rind. The brie was a bit too heavy with the wine until Sue put a raspberry on top. Fine with our smoked pork tenderloin, however the smoke overpowers the wine a bit too much. Sue did not like it with our pate at all and wanted to get the taste out of her mouth. Wines with tannins go so much better with pate. Our favorite was the goat cheeses. I liked the charcoal rind and Sue loved the thyme cheese. The story is that the goats graze on the thyme of the hillsides giving the cheese a lovely soft herb flavor. Oh so good.
Learn more about Pét-Nat wines from around the world from the Wine pairing Weekend group of wine writers with host Cindy of the blog Grape Experiences where you can find background on Pét-Nat in her invitation post. Meet the group on Twitter at 11am Eastern/10am Central/8am Pacific on Saturday, December 14 with the hashtag #WinePW; our discussion questions follow the list of participants with links to their blogs.
Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen explores “Pet Nat Food Pairings Made Easy with Gilbert Wines”
Linda from My Full Wine Glass shares “A Fresh, Fruity Zweigelt Pet-Nat Perfect for Fish”
Jane of Always Ravenous discovers that she enjoys “Tasting and Pairing Pet-Nat Sparkling Wine”
Susannah at Avvinare shares “Blanquette de Limoux Paired with Salmon over Orzo”
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Unexpected Pairings for a Pet-Nat Duo from Donkey & Goat: Coconut Beef Curry and Holiday Cookies”
Here on from Wine Predator we pair “2 Biodynamic Loire Pet Nats: Free Mousse and Bulle Nature #WinePW”
Nicole from Somm’s Table has an “Around the World Pet Nat Party”
Lauren from The Swirling Dervish explains “Pairings for Pet-Nat from Near (NY) and Far (Czech Republic)”
Host Cindy from Grape Experiences share “Soalheiro Espumante Bruto Nature 2016: A Versatile, Complex Pét-Nat of Alvarinho”
Join us on our twitter chat Sat. Dec. 14 at 8am Pacific time! Here are the topics we will be discussing:
- :00 – Welcome to #WinePW and our chat about # Pét-Nat wines! Please share a link to your blog and mention from where you’re tweeting.
- :06 – What did you learn about #petnat wines in your research? Some ah-ha moments perhaps? #winePW
- :12 – Have you tasted #petnat wines prior to this opportunity? If so, where? #winePW
- :18 – Share the varietal, region and country where your #petnat wine was produced plus a link to your article. Any interesting backstory to share on twitter? #winePW
- :24 – How about the foods for pairing? What did you choose and why? Please share a photo! #WinePW #petnat
- :30 – Was this pairing a success? Or not?? Why? #winePW #petnat
- :36 – Would you have paired the #petnat with something different? Share your ideas. #WinePW
- :42 – Did you share the #petnat and food with others? What were their thoughts? #WinePW
- :48 – Would you purchase this wine again? Why or why not? #petnat #WinePW
- :54 – Any last thoughts? Are you a fan of #petnat?
- :00 – Thank you for joining this conversation about #petnat with the #WinePW crew! On January 11, 2020, Camilla Mann will host our chat about “Godforsaken Grapes.” Stay tuned for more info and join us!
Drinking French pet nats in Loire with local oysters and cheese sounds just like the type of holiday I would go on. Love the pics of your accommodation too!
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It was an amazing trip! I look forward to returning!
I love your posts because I always feel as if I’m right beside you as you travel, cook, and sip. Thanks for this lovely look into the Loire Valley. Now I need to find a plate of fresh oysters and some more Pet-Nat!
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Thanks Lauren! I’m wanting oysters, more pet nat and to get back to France ASAP!
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I’m in heaven with all of this! The pét-nats, the oysters, the cheese, the amazing places you found to stay! What an amazing trip.
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It’s easier in many ways to be on a press trip where you get shuttled around and it’s all mapped out for you but this way, being independent, we were able to focus on what interested and excited us most!
What an incredible experience, Gwen! Thank you for sharing all of this incredible information with us – the foods, wines, destination. Priceless!!!
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Thanks Cindy — yes it was a priceless experience! I certainly never expected to be on the USA Wine tasting Team — and visit the Loire!