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The Vendée is home to a fine selection of wines, beers, liqueurs & aperitif drinks. This is an introduction.
The wines of the Vendée – both the wines of the Appellation d’Origine Controllée (AOC) Fiefs Vendéens and the local Vins de Pays – are comparatively little known in the world outside of Western France. In some ways this is quite a good thing, because production is not huge and we’d quite like to keep an ample supply here. On the other hand, the wines of the Vendée are of increasingly high quality and reputation and deserve a higher profile and so, faintly grudgingly, we are doing our best to let people know what is out here. Many local producers sell direct to the public and are more than happy to have visitors to their vineyards to taste the product before buying. We’ve listed some of the best producers below.
In the north of the Vendée, a number of producers make wine for the well known AOC
Muscadet. A smaller number make wine for the more obscure AOC muscadet-
The Romans were the first people to recognise the potential for the production of wine in the Vendée and planted vineyards for local consumption. During the middle ages, the monasteries extended and improved production and under their ownership the terms “fiefs” came to describe the various areas of production. White wines made in the Vendée from the Chenin Blanc grape and known as “Franc Blancs” became very popular with sailors working the coast of Western France.
In the 14th century, the then Bishop of Luçon – Cardinal Richelieu – donated the
fiefs to the local peasantry. At this time they became known as the Fiefs du Cardinal,
but from this point until the mid-
In 1953 the first serious attempts were made to improve the wines. The many and curious local strains of vine resulting from centuries of hybridising were grubbed up and recognised high quality vines planted in their place. A decade later, the first official designation of quality was awarded and qualifying wines were labelled as “Anciens Fiefs du Cardinal” Appellation d'Origine Simple.
After a further two decades of improvement, in 1984 the qualification was upped to
Wines from five communes are included within the AOC Fiefs Vendéens: Mareuil, Brem, Chantonnay, Pissotte and Vix.
The grapes that are included in the Fiefs Vendéen either as a blend or (sometimes) as a single variety include:
• Red -
• White -
Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc are also grown by some producers of Vins de Pays.
Although the AOC gives assurance as to quality meaning one won’t be disappointed by the contents of one’s glass, often the most characterful and interesting wines are labelled as vin de pays because they contain grape varieties that are not included in the AOC. Finding a good one of these requires a little more effort. Here, price is a good guide, though the input of a good “caviste” is better.
Where they are known in the wider world, Vendéen wines are most commonly thought
of as being better-
In character, the wines of the Vendée owe more to the South West of France than to the Loire valley, a reflection of the sunny, maritime climate of the locality.
Of course “best” is a rather subjective term: wine is a personal taste. These, however, in our opinion are the vineyards making the best wines in each of the five communes in the AOC. The communes are listed in order of the volume of wine produced.
Although supermarkets in the Vendée all carry a selection of local wines, these are often the products either of the smaller producers or the less prestigious (but still very good) products of the big houses. Quite often the larger producers will buy in wines from smaller growers in the area and bottle these to sell either under their own name or under a different brand. The “Domaine des Loups,” for example, is a Mourat brand that is commonly found in supermarkets but is not one that the house advertises on its website. For the wines made from a growers own grapes, fermented in their own winery and bottled by they themselves it is often necessary to head to the source or to visit a specialist “cave” (there is a list of local ones at the end).
Prices: for the less prestigious AOC and vin de pays it is possible to buy very acceptable wines for as little as €4 per bottle. Some enterprising producers are selling in boxes too. The more prestigious wines will cost from €6 to €20 per bottle and the rarest / very best can cost upwards of €40.
This “Fief” is the biggest producer by far and there are around a dozen vineyards producing AOC wines. The town of Mareuil is a pretty little place on the river Lay between Luçon and La Roche sur Yon. There are, naturally, a number of shops dedicated to the sale of the local product. The vines grow on a variety of terrains but for the most part the soil is volcanic in origin. Some of the lighter reds can be served just a little chilled; heavier reds marry particularly well with goats’ cheese, while the whites and rosés are arguably best as aperitif wines.
Mourat (www.mourat.com) produces an extensive range that includes both AOC and vin
de pays wines. The selection includes AOC“Collection” and AOC “Château Marie du Fou”
both featuring red, white & rosé wines. The vins de pays range includes wines labelled
OVNI, Moulin Blanc and Clos St André and amongst these one can find such curiosities
as a sparkling red wine (“Pétillant Naturel Rouge”) and a red made entirely from
the Négrette grape (“Grenouillère”). Mourat has a shop in Mareuil at 2 Place Circulaire
and at the vineyard itself on the Route de La Roche sur Yon. Opening hours are Monday-
Other Mareuil produces that are well worth seeking out are:
Fabian Murail at the Clos des Chaumes (www.fabienmurail.com ) who produces a small range of highly regarded, medal winning AOC wines (the cave is at La Tudellière, 85320, La Couture)
Château de Rosany AOC and vins de pays, 5 rue du Perrot,Route de Mareuil, 85320, Rosnay, www.chateauderosnay.fr )
The second largest production of wine in the Vendée comes from the commune of Brem-
Two producers of note from Brem are:
Domaine Saint Nicolas -
Domaine La Rose Saint Martin has its cave at La Mignotière -
The nearest vinyards to our gites (about 12 km away) are near the town of Vix to
the south of Fontenay-
Vingnoble Mercier is the larger producer and concentrates on making AOC wines. Always
reliable and priced very keenly, given the consistently good quality of the output,
Mercier has been one of the two suppliers we have habitually used to provide the
wine we leave in the gites for the benefit of arriving guests. They welcome visitors
to their cave at 16 rue de la Chaignée
85770 Vix. Website: www.mercier-
The other wine maker of any size at Vix – and I hope he won’t sue me for deformation
here – is quite probably more than a little crazy. Christian Chabirand and his wife
Estelle established a vineyard in 1997 at the Prieuré La Chaume where there had never
been one previously and then proceeded to make wines outside of the AOC with a character
that shouldn’t really be possible in the South Vendée. Great big Joe Bugner style
bruisers of wines running up alcohol levels of 15%. These are real special occasion
wines that are worth every centime (they are not cheap, but they are excellent value).
Yields from their organically managed vines are kept deliberately low to maintain
the high quality of the four reds, two rosés and one white they produce. Website:
Just a few km to the north of Fontenay lies the village of Pissotte. The sole producer
marketing the wine produced in the commune – Domaine Coirier -
Domaine Coirier produces both AOC and vins de pays. Website: www.pissotte.com/index.html. Coirier’s “standard” range, Origine, is excellent but the other red and white produced – respectively “Melusine” and “La Petite Grole” – are exceptional and can take some years of aging. The vin de pays range “Zen” is far from traditional and are particularly good summer wines. Like other houses, Coirier also bottles and markets under its brand other wine produced in the commune for sale via supermarkets and other local retailers and these are amongst the best of the genre.
This commune was admitted to the “Fiefs Vendéen” only in 2011 when the AOC was granted. Notwithstanding, it didn’t take long for the only producer in the commune to really make a mark.
Domaine de la Bobinière produces a range of AOC wines (the “Silex” red, white and
rosé) and a selection of vin de pays that are arguably their best output; the red
Le Bois Bouquet and the sweet white La Douée are particularly well regarded. The
cave is at La Barbinière, St-
Other Wines of the Vendée
It comes as a surprise to many (not least people who live in the Vendée) that, presumably
for obscure historical reasons, two communes in the north of the département (Rocheservière
and St Philbert de Bouaine) are included in the AOC Muscadet de Côtes Grandlieu and
the AOC Gros Plants. These are crisp, bone-
As far as can be devined, most of the wine made in these communes is sold on to other vignobles for bottling. Indeed, I have found only one single producer marketing their own wines (though I would be very happy to hear of more).
Domaine de la Pierre Blanche is located in St Philbert de Bouaine (Website : www.vignoble-
There is an ever-
Brasserie Mélusine (www.brasserie-
There are a number of other microbreweries in the nearby Deux-
Troussepinette is an aperitif that has been made in the Vendée for a very long time. The origins of the name are somewhat obscure, but it is thought to have been coined around 1910 as an early attempt to bring traditional but anonymous “aperitifs maison” under a portmanteau name, all the better to market them to a wider audience of more discerning drinkers.
So what is troussepinette? It is a marriage between wine, eau de vie (50% plus alcohol
spirit distilled from fermented fruits), sugar and various hedgerow products. Again,
the exact original recipe is not known, but it is thought most probably to be a combination
of red wine and eau de vie de marc (a kind of grape spirit) in which spring-
These days red white or rosé wines are used and the various recipes available in the shops include peach blossoms, apple blossom and assorted berry fruits. My home made version (concocted after a fair amount of frankly lethal experimentation) uses dry white wine, a firewater distilled from pears and either blackberries or black currents.
Expect to pay something between €8 and €15 for a bottle Drink well chilled with melon or salted snacks.
The distillery of H.Vrignaud (www.liqueur-
Vrignaud produces a formidable range, some of which appear to be prepared from some faintly bizarre ingredients. For example, their “Liqueur à la Mogette” is made by macerating locally grown white beans called mogettes (and for which the Vendée is justly famous), in an alcoholic liquor before sweetening and putting an rather fetchingly labelled tall bottled. I’ve not tried this one and may never be quite prepared to do so.
Happily, Vrignaud also produces some excellent, more conventional, liqueurs. Their “Délice de Caramel” is made with cream and salted caramel is particularly appreciated as a topping to icecream (think Bailey’s only with more oomph); they make a drink from the kernels of apricot stones (tastes very similar to almonds, apparently) and an elixir made from an infusion of a dozen herbs that is said by some to cure pretty much every dietary ill.
However, the drink that really made Vrignaud’s name in the second half of the 19th
century and for which they are still famous 150-
H.Vrignaud’s products can be found in local shops and supermarkets and also directly from their premises at Place de Richelieu, Luçon.
While the supermarkets do a fair job in marketing local Vendéen products, and as an alternative to visiting the producers directly, a far wider selection of the better wines can be found at certain specialist “caves.” These also stock liqueurs and local beers.
Fontenay le Comte
If anyone feels inclined to order a selection of the Vendée’s finest in advance of
their holiday, then this organisation will package and dispatch (free of charge to
addresses in the Vendée itself for orders of 12 or more bottles, no less) your vacation
wines, Mélusine beers, troussepinettes and the liqueurs of H. Vrignaud direct to
the gite : www.vin-
For a wider choice of beers not only from the Vendée but also from micro breweries in neighbouring départements, the following is a good bet:
|Things to Do in the Vendee|
|Beaches of the South Vendee|
|Food in the Vendee|
|Restaurants in the Vendee|
|Wines of the Vendee|