DrinkUp.London, the group behind London Cocktail Week, London Wine Week, and many other wonderfully boozey festivals around the capital, have launched a new series with Loire Valley Wines called Loire Moments Supper Club. The new series will run throughout the year in different locations, pairing wines from the Loire Valley region with dishes from the host restaurant’s kitchen. We were lucky enough to find ourselves at the first installation at Petit Pois Bistro on Hoxton Square, hosted by winemaker Lionel Gosseaume and wine expert Heather Dougherty.
The venue is new to us but we are happy to discover that Petit Pois Bistrot is delightfully situated above the much-loved cocktail den, Happiness Forgets. We shuffle inside and are introduced to Lionel, a winemaker whose family have been growing grapes and making wines for generations. Quietly passionate with a natural amiability, he thanks us for coming down and explains that, whilst the Loire Valley is home to the crisp whites of Muscadet, golden nectar dessert wines from Vouvray, fruity rosés from Anjou and elegant sparkling wines such as Crémant de Loire, this supper club will be celebrating the Sauvignons of Touraine. Lionel goes on to explain that 60% of the appellation wines are white with Heather chiming in to state that Loire is the home of Sauvignon Blanc.
With this quick introduction complete, we take our seat on a long, candlelit table and gaze at the four-course menu along with its selection of Sauvignons.
Our first glass holds 2016 Famille Bougrier Sauvignon Blanc, IGP Val de Loire – an aperitif style wine with a wet, chalky yet fresh nose. The initial sip coats the sides and back of our tongue with a light oiliness. Easy and enjoyable without being overly exciting, this is a good palate cleanser to prep our taste buds with.
Next up is another aperitif with a slightly different style, hailing from Oisly. Lionel explains that there are only 10 villages that are allowed to produce this special appellation of Touraine Oisly, and of the 1,500 hectares that they cover, only 50 are classified as Oisly. The grapes that make up Oisly are taken from vines grown on slopes that get more sun than the rest of the plants and are left to mature for 10-15 days longer than classic Touraine Sauvignons. The result is a riper, more complex fruit. 2016 Domaine de Marcé Coulée Galante Touraine Oisly is the product of a warm year, which has given it a good deal of weight and texture. Ripe melon, pomelo and grapefruit come through on the nose, with grapefruit carried through to the palate, bringing with it a very fruit and bright freshness.
As we polish off the last drops of the Oisly, our first course of Wild Mussels, cabbage, seaweed and Breton cider arrives, shortly followed by a new glass containing 2016 Domaine Joel Delaunay La Voûte Chenonceaux Touraine. As we tuck in, Heather tells us how the Chenonceaux region is made up of 30 villages by the Cher river. Originally proliferated by red grapes, Sauvignon Blanc has started to take over with 40% of the fruit grown there now being white. She goes on to state how the wine in front of us has been created using the skin contact method where the skins of the grapes are not removed before they are crushed, meaning that the juice stays in contact with the skin for a period of hours and more flavour is imparted. The result is what Lionel call a “Bodybuilder style of Sauvignon Blanc”. The nose is exotic and voluminous, throwing hefty tropical fruit onto our palate that is held in check by sharp acidity. Tangy yet quaffable, this wine pairs beautifully with the plump mussels. The fat from the dish coats the tongue, bringing the fruit out more and combining with the texture from the skin contact to create a much fuller mouthfeel. The seaweed adds umami to the palate, which plays with the cider’s sweetness, resulting in a lovely pairing.
As our plates are cleared away, we take the opportunity to have a chat with Lionel, who tells us that he is from Oisly and started making wine around nine years ago with nine hectares. Now he has 30 and is discussing taking on 25 more: “Oisly has a lovely terrior for whites but only a few blocks of red. The best reds in Loire, I think, are by the Cher river so I am looking to buy some land near there also.” He goes on to state that the UK is his biggest foreign market and that his classic Touraine retails for around £9, with his Oisly (only 2,000 available bottles) costing £16. Whilst he sees this as expensive, if the quality of wines we’ve had so far tonight are anything to go by, £16 in the UK is a real bargain.
We hit a change in gear with 2016 Seraph Reserve Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, a leaner style with almost floral notes and a clean, biting citric freshness. As the second biggest producer in the region, they often have to buy in grapes from across Touraine to keep up with demand, however this expression is made purely with their own grapes. The pairing works perfectly; the oysters dressed in rhubarb and vinegar are gorgeous on their own and bring out the citrus in the wine.
Next up is a natural wine with low intervention, natural yeast and very low quantities of sulphur that is to accompany Roast Chicken Breast with Pomme Puree and a morels sauce. Whilst the chicken is faultless, the main point of interest is the 2016 Clos du Tue-Boeuf (Puzelat) Touraine Sauvignon Petit Buisson, which after a while in the glass, reveals itself to be a character in its own right. Perfumed and somewhat intense, it cuts through the light sauce and stands on its for all to see.
We end our tasting with Lionel’s own wine, which the Petit Pois Bistro team have elected to pair with their famous Mousse au Chocolat. Lionel describes this “a very new experiment that we will do together!” The wine he has brought for the occasion is 2016 Lionel Gosseaume Domaine de Pierre Touraine Oisly. At Lionel’s request, we try the wine before the mousse arrives. Deeply interesting and voluminous, it is a truly exquisite example of a Oisly Sauvignon Blanc. However, once the glorious dark chocolate mousse is spooned onto our plates from a large mixing bowl, the wine’s light aroma is drowned out. We take a bite of the dessert and unsuccessfully attempt to restrain ourselves from instantly wolfing down our entire portion. After glancing around reassure ourselves of everyone else’s similar loss of self-control in the face of such chocolatey goodness, we return to the wine. Sadly, yet unsurprisingly, the pairing has not worked. The amount of sugar in the dish drowns out the wine’s nuances, leaving only an acidity. The volume of the wine is also lost in the thickness of the mousse. Orange rind comes through, which compliments the dessert, however this is all that can be taken from the coupling. Lionel just shrugs and with that, we descend into nattering.
Once we have seen off all the mousse in sight, we leave the Loire Moments Supper Club at Petit Pois Bistro, feeling like we have had a brilliant introduction to the region of Touraine and its beautiful wines.
For more information and tickets visit: https://drinkup.london/events/18451/the-loire-moments-supper-club/