Unusual Reds at Loire’s Biodynamic Manoir de la Tête Rouge #Winophiles

 

Tete Rouge

“Tonight?” he asked in accented English. “You want to stay tonight?” 

“Yes,” we assured him, “yes please.” It was about 8pm and we’d be there as soon as we could.

On that gray fall day, our morning began early in Hautvillers, Champagne, with me catching up with work back in California and then getting ready for a ride to the station in Reims where Sue and I took the train into downtown. A few blocks away our rental car wasn’t ready but they stored our suitcases so we could grab pastries and coffee as well as snacks at the grocery store for our drive south to the Loire. And then we were on our way with Sue navigating and me driving. 

We skirted Paris but the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chartres Cathedral called so we stretched our legs, gazed at the stained glass, and circled the grounds. 

Wine Predators and US Wine Tasting Team mates Sue Hill (l) and Gwendolyn Alley (r) at Chartres on their way to compete in the World Championships in the Loire

However, this trip was not about sight seeing but wine tasting, and preparing to compete in the 2019 World Blind Wine Tasting Championship so we moved quickly along our way to Saumur in the Cabernet Franc heartland of the Loire where we also knew we’d find biodynamic and organic wines.

We had a few wineries on our list including Chateau Yvonne, Amirault and Careme, but nothing set up; we didn’t even know where we were staying. We’d left Hautvillers about 12 hours before when we heard that positive response from the surprised Air BnB host in nearby Montreiull- Bellay.

the church of the castle in our backyard at our Air BnB host in Montreiull- Bellay

An even better surprise: our host, hearing we wrote about biodynamic wine, had an open bottle of wine to share with us — a biodynamic wine given to him the night before!

We could not believe our amazingly good fortune! And our host helped us get an appointment to taste at Manoir de la Tête Rouge with a chance meet with the winemaker Guillaume Reynouard if he could get a break from his final day of harvest!

the red head at the manoir

About 25 years ago, in 1995, Guillaume Reynouard decided he wanted to make wine.

He and his wife had purchased a run down mansion, Manoir de la Tête Rouge aka the red headed man, and began renovating it a few years before. In 2019, that’s where we had our tasting. 

Manoir de la Tete Rouge courtyard and tasting room on a rainy fall day

In 1998, he began converting vineyards to organic and his first vintage was in 2001. By 2010, he had his first biodynamic vintage. Using only natural yeast, he finds the wines develop more slowly with less alcohol.

 

This year’s heart breaking frost at bud break is not unusual: winters have been warmer with bud break earlier and then a frost can take out 30% or more. No buds means no fruit. As a biodynamic winemaker who seeks to partner with nature and not rule over it, he struggles with various methods that fall within the biodynamic philosophy and certifications. 

“We consider our 18-hectare area as a living being, the cultivated soil and the surrounding air become the energy base of the vine. Our goal is to provide the plant the best possible environment to grow.”

“The concept behind biodynamics is that everything in the universe is interconnected and gives off a resonance or ‘vibe’. The interconnectivity of everything even includes celestial bodies like the moon, planets and stars. Biodynamic viticulture is the practice of balancing this resonance between vine, man, earth and stars. Essentially, biodynamics is a holistic view of agriculture.” (source)

WINES

  • 2018 Guillaume Reynouard “A Tue Tete” Grolleau Gris, Vin de France
  • NV Manoir de la Tête Rouge “Tetris” Vin de France  
  • 2016 Manoir de la Tête Rouge “Tete de Lard” Saumur, Puy Notre Dame  

Sue at work

LOIRE INSPIRED MENU

Game and goat cheese as well as oysters are famous in the Loire. Mushrooms and chestnuts feature in many recipes. When we visited, we were surprised to find that in the Farmers Market, you can buy beets already cooked! 

2018 Guillaume Reynouard “A Tue Tete” Grolleau Gris, Vin de France
ABV 13.5%
I purchased with an industry discount
 
What in the world is this wine? Orange? Rose? Red? I’ll tell you this: it’s rare! 
 
Usually made into a sparkling wine, the local and very rare Grolleau gris is a pink-skinned mutation of Grolleau noir, a wine grape that is low in alcohol and high in acidity that’s usually made into a rosé wine in the Loire. Twenty years ago, in 2000 only 5,500 acres of Grolleau noir vines were planted in the Loire because it has fallen out of favor with tastemaker like Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker (who said it should all be ripped out!).
But I’d like to see Jancis Robinson turn her nose up at this wine! 
It may be tempting to chill this wine but don’t. The magic is there at cellar temperature, but missing when it is cold. I wish I had the sips that were too cold back!
 
Color: Very difficult to describe! It keeps changing as you look at it!  Blood orange and copper– the wine throws off different colors in different parts of the glass. It is dusty rose, with copper, blood orange, and gold, very unique

 

Nose: River moss, plum, cherry, rhubarb, ceanothus, grassy, like a walk in the springtime out in nature where the grass is fresh and everything is in bloom, springtime meadow, blood orange, carnation as the wine opens in the glass. You smell this wine and know you are in for a treat. It kind of smells like a cocktail, and looks a bit like a cocktail

 

Palate: Cherry, fennel, very dry and crisp, grippy tannins, the mouth feel has the tactile experience of an orange wine. Orange rind, orange pith, lingering minerals at the back of the palate. 

 

Pairing: This wine and a cracker brings out every element of the cracker, the grain, the cheese, the herbs. I want an egg salad sandwich with caviar. I want a chicken salad sandwich with walnuts and cranberry. I want this wine for my Mother’s Day picnic. I cannot think of another wine that we have ever had that is anything like this wine. With the mimolette cheese bringing out crazy herbal elements and fruit in the wine. The two together are like an Amaro or digestive. We found the olives and the wine to be sizzling companions. The pate and truffle brie bring out the sweetness in the wine and there is a wonderful unctuous combination between the two. This was one of my favorite pairings with this wine. Great with the venison sausage. Loves the heat and handles the fat. The acidity in the wine is tamed by the heat, and the heat is tamed by the fruit in the wine. Fantastic with the beets in the salad loving the earthy sweetness, add a bit of bacon and it would be over the top with this wine. Nice with the squash gratin. Loves the earthy elements of our mushroom chestnut dish. 
 

Tetris



NV Manoir de la Tête Rouge “Tetris” Vin de France  
ABV 13.0%
Sue purchased at the winery with an industry discount
 
This wine is a non-vintage blend of… wait for it… 70% Cabernet Franc 30% Chenin Blanc from the Saumur Puy Notre Dame are but he can’t call it that — it’s not allowed. But what an amazing wine!

Color:
Garnet, unfiltered, a bit cloudy, mauve rim

 

Nose: This wine has an absolutely beautiful nose. There is so much going on. Iris, violets, blue fruit, plums, baking spice, chutney, Sue fell in love with the nose on this wine and that’s why she chose it to bring home with us.  Nice musk as the wine opens up. Truffles or??, chocolate??

 

Palate: Light in body, dry, dry earth, clay, bright ripe fruit, rhubarb, on the finish there is the sweetness of a fresh grape off the vine. Pink peppercorn, very nice mouth feel, there is a slickness to it. 

 

Pairing: Fantastic with the boucherin making the wine sweet. It dances with mimolette making the cheese creamy like milk chocolate. With the beet salad, a hot cinnamon candy sweetness and excitement comes to both the meal and the wine. The spicy venison sausage was wonderful as well making me think that a jambalaya would be a perfect match. The earthy richness of the mushrooms and the herbs in the dish reinforce each other in compatibility. The perfect pairing however was the squash gratin and the wine. The rich creamy sweetness was decadent with the wine. It was also nice with the BBQ elk marinated in garlic and rosemary, parsley, and red pepper flakes. 

 

2016 Manoir de la Tête Rouge “Tete de Lard” Saumur Puy Notre Dame  
ABV 13.5% 
8300 bottles 
Sue purchased at the winery with an industry discount
 
Color: Ruby, unfiltered density, fuschia rim

 

Nose: Smells just as a Cab Franc should smell. Nice vegetal characteristics, bell pepper, cherry, cherry tobacco, cherry snuff, massarated cherries. mossy stone, river

 

Palate: This is a very straight forward Cabernet Franc. It announces itself as Cab Franc, tasting just as luscious as a good Cab Franc can taste. Cherry, loamy soil, iris, violets, so clean on the palate, not heavy or cloying. Medium bodied, it tastes so alive. Such a great expression of the earth. All of the aspects of the earth. The soil, sky and water that infuses the grapes. The fruit in the wine is a true expression of the place that it was grown. There are certain flavors in wines and food that define a place, and this wine is it.  This wine clearly defines the Cabernet Franc of Samur Puy Nortre Dame. 

 

Pairing: The rind of the boucherin cheese was fabulous with the wine. Lovely with the Brilliant Saverin cheese on the plate. Makes our organic truffle pate sweet. The pate has many spices and herbal elements that match the wine nicely. The combination of a truffle brie, truffle pate and sue’s savory cracker are out  the world making the wine fruity, bright, the wine refreshes the palate so nicely. Fantastic with the beet salad, so much so that Sue did not want to move on from this pairing. It was so sweet earthy and wonderful. While the chestnuts were a nice texture and flavor in the salad, we thought that a nicely spiced pecan would be better. The wine and the mushroom dish was also quite nice, it loved the herbs in the dish even more. Great with the grilled meats loving the venison sausage and the BBQ elk ribs. 

 

We also wrote about Manoir de la Tête Rouge pet nat “Free Mousse” here and the Manoir de la Tete Rouge “Bagatelle” and “Tete de Lard” here for Cabernet Franc Day.
 

We get great wines all of the time to sample. These wines from Loire we experienced were so much more than great wines. They were contemplative, complex, unusual, and in every way they push the envelope.  

All of these wines are for wine geeks. They are so interesting. Wines that you cannot really put your finger on. Wines that you want to sip, discuss, and enjoy.

In addition, tasting these wines this past month as we hosted the Winophiles theme of Organic Loire brought back such wonderful memories about how we stumbled upon this winemaker and others as well as our experience during harvest in  October 2019. 

We often compare bottles at the end of the evening to judge what wine was most enjoyed. This evening all of the bottle levels were pretty much equal. We loved and enjoyed all of the wines this evening. Not only are they fantastic wines, but they brought back the wonderful memories we experienced while we were in France and happened to accidentally stumble upon this winery and wine maker. 
 
Join us in the Winophiles exploration of organic Loire wines for Earth Month:

All are welcome to participate in our #Winophiles Organic Loire twitter chat. All times Pacific. Remember to include the hashtag #Winophiles. 

  1. 8am Welcome to the #EarthMonth #Winophiles chat on #Organic @LoireValleyWine! Introduce yourself please! Where are your tweeting from? Share a link to your website! 
  2. 805a Over the years the #Winophiles have written about the wines of the Loire. Is this region of France familiar or new to you? Share a link if you’ve written about it before or tell us about a favorite wine or place in the Garden of France.
  3. 810a The Loire Valley is known as a hot bed of #organic #biodynamic #naturalwinemaking but not all who practice are certified! Was it hard finding wine to fit our #EarthMonth theme? How did you get your wine? Is it certified? Did you go by the winery’s reputation? #Winophiles
  4. 815a At 625 miles, the Loire River is the longest in France, and so the wine region is divided into 3 parts: upper, middle, lower which are further defined by the wines grown there. What grapes are in your wine and where did they grow? #Winophiles 
  5. 820a April is #EarthMonth and #EarthDay April 22 is coming up soon! Over 25% of wine in the Loire is organic. Tell us more about the #organic @LoireValleyWine you are featuring this month. Pictures? Link? #Winophiles 
  6. 825a How did your pair your #organic @LoireValleyWine? Did you go traditional to the region or inspired by it? Was your food organic also?  Link? Pictures? #Winophiles 
  7. 830a According to UCLA’s recent research, #organic and #biodynamic certified wines score higher. Is buying organic food and wine important to you? Why? #Winophiles https://winepredator.com/2021/02/09/ucla-research-organic-biodynamic-wines-score-higher/
  8. 835a The soils in the Loire include a remarkable limestone called tuffeau that has been used for caves and dwellings. Is tuffeau or another element of the geology or geography important for the wine you are sharing today? #Winophiles 
  9. 840a Did you know the Loire has over 325 castles? And that you can visit, taste wine, eat, and even stay in many of them? Have you been to the Loire? Visited a castle? Tell us more! #Winophiles
  10.  845a Did you know why the Loire is known as the Garden of France? Do you know why? Did you make any discoveries about the Loire that you want to share? 
  11. 850a Do you have a favorite region, wine, grape, or winery in the Loire? Please share a link!  #Winophiles 
  12. 855a The Loire produces the most white wine in France, almost all of the Chenin Blanc, lots of Sauvignon Blanc, and in styles from sparkling to sweet. Will you celebrate #SauvBlancDay May 7 or #CheninBlancDay June 18 with one from the Loire? #Winophiles

    Thank you for joining the #Winophiles chat on #organic @LoireValleyWine for #EarthMonth! On the third Saturday in May, join host @jillbarth for #Chablis. 

 
 

10 thoughts on “Unusual Reds at Loire’s Biodynamic Manoir de la Tête Rouge #Winophiles

  1. It’s so great when fortune plays out in this wonderful way. The tasting note descriptions in this post are particularly captivating. Thanks for hosting!

    Liked by 1 person

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