Simon Woods

The VENDÉE : Domaine Saint Nicolas - Al Fresco Holidays

Our local wine expert, Simon Woods, has found the best wines to savour, maybe while enjoying the Tour de France, actually watching the race, or exchanging your experiences with your neighbours after the event. Or maybe purely relaxing, while the children play. Or better still, why not visit one of his suggested “tasting rooms”, and enjoy a “dégustation” before deciding your preference. Our campsites, Sol a Gogo, Le Clarys Plage and La Garangeoire are all within easy reach of these.

“When it comes to wine, the Vendée is something of a minnow compared with the Loire Valley to the north and Bordeaux to the south, But while it’s not a typical place to grow vines, with sea, marshland and forests in close proximity, this didn’t stop Patrice Michon from seeing the potential of the Ile d’Olonne as a place to make decent wine. In 1960, he inherited a small plot here from his father, and then spent the next few years expanding his estate and building a new winery. He was joined in the 80s by his sons Thierry and Eric, and it has been under their guidance that Domaine Saint Nicolas has grown from being something of a novelty into a wine producer that deserves serious attention. The 37 hectares of vines are now farmed biodynamically (organic farming with a cosmic twist, read more about it here), with a herd of cows close at hand to provide, er, fertiliser…

As for the wines, they’re made from a mix of familiar grapes – Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Gamay (of Beaujolais fame) – and more obscure varieties such as Negrette and Grolleau Gris. Is it the proximity of the sea that gives a briny tang to the white wines? Certainly they have a bracing Atlantic feel to their honeyed flavours. The reds are light to medium bodied – give them 20 minutes in the fridge on hot summer days – and offer refreshing, vibrant berry flavours, with the pick of a fascinating range being the 100% Pinot Noir Cuvée Grande Pièce.”

Domaine St Nicolas/Cave Michon, www.domainesaintnicolas.com, contact@domainesaintnicolas.com

There are two tasting rooms in the Vendée

Brem-sur- Mer, 11 rue des vallées, 85470 Brem-sur-Mer Tel: 02 51 90 55 74

L’Ile d’Olonne, La Croix Bégaud, 85340 L’Ile d’Olonne, Tel: 02 51 33 13 04

See map below for the cycle route, and the locations of the tasting rooms.

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