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Excellent Dinner and Wines in the French Countryside

Not only has the Mayenne region an incredibly beautiful landscape of green pasture and small hills, its people also know what true hospitality is and they make their guests wish they would stay longer.
How lucky did we feel on the first stop of our road trip through Europe when our friend Antoine and his wife Azuka received us with a delicious dinner and lots of good wines. Among those was also a really incredible sweet wine discovery for me. Luckily I didn’t lose the notes I’ve taken that night and am now able to report a bit. But first of all, thank you for the warm welcome and copious dinner.

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After we quenched our thirst with excellent Champagne (Pol Roger was it?) – which also reinvigorated us after 2 hours of traffic jam around Paris – we were amazed to find out we would have freshly seared Foie Gras as a starter, plus an incredibly perfect wine match .

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Quarts de Chaume is a small Loire appellation for sweet wines made of the Chenin Blanc variety (actually a tiny vineyard with steep slopes within the Côteaux du Layon appellation). Antoine served us 2 vintages of Domaine des Baumard with the 1997 being a blast! Perfect balance between fruit and acidity, nice nose with nut aromatics and freshness, full flavor and very dense on the palate, there also superb freshness, incredible length and not the hint of an age note. Great stuff!!! The 1993 we had in comparison from a less good vintage appeared totally different with darker colour and a slight age note similar to aged Riesling.

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Isn’t this colour perfect?

Everybody’s darling Robert Parker describes it as follows in 2005 (in: The World’s Greatest Wine Estates Année 2005):

Baumard’s 1997 Quarts de Chaume was tasted five times over a six-month period and it is a remarkably consistent wine. With extended aeration it appears to gain in focus and fresness, a trait that is surprising in the generally heavy and superripe 1997 vintage. This dense, oily, jammy wine exudes caramelized minerals and honeyed aromas. On the palate, marzipan, candied grapefruit, and tropical fruits can be detected within its viscous, yet fresh, core. This massive offering will require some cellaring before reaching its peak. Drink it between now and 2020. 94 points.
I guess I can agree with him!

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Then, we were served a perfectly grilled Côte à l’os: juicy and tender inside while being crispy outside. And what would match it better than some nice Bordeaux?

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1999 Château Haut-Carles from Fronsac had nice red and black fruit both in the nose and on the palate. The barrel ageing left a slight impression of wax. The texture was silky and some powerful tannins were still there but afterwards the body seemed a bit thin and the finish also showed quite short. But the wine managed to improve a lot with a bit of airing; it both appeared fuller and showed a more satisfying length then. Maybe the red wine of the evening in the end.

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A 1999 Château Duhart-Milon from Pauillac had a dark and brilliant colour. It showed a beautiful nose mixing floral notes with coconut and chocolate, the exotic touch probably emanating from the barrel. On the palate it showed quite ripe with medium body. Finish and length were quite satisfying, but compared to the first wine it would be the one with less ageing potential considering the thinner structure.

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Finally a 1999 Château Lafon-Rochet from St-Estèphe was awaiting us. But unfortunately at that point my note-taking became less frequent. I can only impart my description as: red fruit- exotic start- sauvage nose… that is not a thin wine of course but a truly thin description! It was probably time to go to bed before driving to Bordeaux the next morning!

So thanks again for your hospitality Antoine! This was really a highlight at the beginning of our trip!

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