If I had £1 for everyone who told me that they enjoy using our wine list as a handy shopping guide when touring in France I’d be a tax exile in Monaco lamenting how hard it is to find a good mooring for my yacht. Still, if you can’t beat them join them, so as we were going to be traversing France en route south for our summer holiday, in a car replete with terrors and terriers, I decided to call upon the well tried and tested hospitality of our old friends Fredrik and Laurence Filliatreau to break our journey near Saumur. Happily on the appointed date the Filliatreaus were chez eux at Château Fouquet, their reassuringly lived-in and welcoming residence (depicted rather formally on the label of the eponymous wine) that overlooks their 6.5 hectare, organic vineyard.
At the crack of dawn on an August Saturday morning we loaded up the Peugot 3008 estate with assorted bikes and beach wear, not forgetting some invaluable spoken word CD’s (GK Chesterton’s Father Brown & John Steinbeck’s (unabridged) Of Mice and Men masterly narrated by Andrew Sachs and Clarke Peters respectively - if you are looking for recommendations) and set off on the 550 mile schlep to Saumur via the Channel Tunnel, the Somme and Rouen – avoiding at all costs the dreaded Paris Périférique however much ‘Jane’, the siren voice of our Sat Nav, implored us to do otherwise!
After a long day driving, and losing an hour due to the time difference, we arrived at Château Fouquet in the evening sunshine just before 7pm. Fred had already lit the vine prunings in his barbeque and he greeted us with a reviving glass of his delicious, new sparkling rosé called ‘Fillibulle’. Only 1000 bottles were produced in the inaugural vintage but we will certainly strive for an allocation of this year’s production.
The family then introduced us to the delights of ‘Mülky’ – a complex Scandinavian game of skill somewhere between boules and skittles, that proved an instant hit with our road-weary boys, before serving up a delicious supper of rare onglet steak, salad and vapeur potatoes. We caught up on each other news and put the world to rights over a bottle or two of Fred’s signature Château Fouquet 2011 that is showing wonderfully well on its youthful fruit. I can vouch to that with certainty as the following morning I filled every spare crevice of our car with more of the same (in bottles and magnums) that furnished us with some delightful holiday drinking. While 2011 is by no means a classic year Fred has certainly hit the spot with this effort as testified recently by acclaimed wine journalist Matthew Jukes in MoneyWeek: ‘As I write this piece the weather is still grim outside – damp, humid and depressing. The hosepipe bans have been lifted and it’s hardly surprising given the incessant rain. I am hoping that by alerting you to the most summery red wine I have tasted this year that by the day of publication the sun will finally have emerged from behind the heavy clouds. If not, then fire up your central heating, pull on some shorts, slide a bottle of this awesome Cabernet Franc out of the fridge and slake your thirst. Château Fouquet is owned by the Filliatreaus (of Saumur-Champigny fame). I think so highly of this family and their wines that they have made it into the new wine book that I am currently writing featuring the one hundred most iconic estates in the world. This inexpensive, stunningly aromatic red is a joy. This is not a serious navel-gazing wine but a hilarious, cocktail of summer pudding notes cut with a razor sharp acidic finish. It is genuinely mouth-watering and perfectly suited to a vast range of dishes so don’t worry about what you’re cooking, just slosh this chilled wine into your glass and get the party started whether you’re in the garden or stuck indoors.’
I can’t guarantee that you will be able to persuade Fred to fire up the barbecue but any wine lovers looking for a charming spot to stay in the middle of the Loire valley should be alerted to the fact that Fred and Laurence do have a gîte at Château Fouquet that would make a great base for exploring the local vineyards – not least their own: