The first thing we consider when describing a wine is its fruit. We decide whether the fruits are light or dark, cooked or fresh, sweet or dry, and so on. An astounding range of scents can emerge from a glass of wine despite their common source, Vitis vinifera.
On Saturday night, for our final meal in Paris, we sat outdoors at a charming restaurant in the Latin Quarter. We didn’t recognize any producers on the their small but thoughtful wine list, and ordered a bottle of red from Pic-St-Loup in the Languedoc. It was fresh, very well-balanced, and delicious.
We’ve tasted a lot of wine over the past few weeks: 40 winemakers, three regions, and several hundred wines in all. Friday night, over Breton oysters and Muscadet in a Nantes brasserie, we made the “Best Of” list — “most memorable meal,” “most exciting new producer,” and “wine of the trip.”
We spend the morning putting finishing touches on three weeks of tasting notes. Over coffee we discuss the final lineup for next week’s Futures Issue, and catch the noon TGV from Nantes to Paris. At Montparnasse we take a cab to the Latin Quarter, where our rental host is waiting.
A morning drive through the Vallée de la Loire — sprawling fields of wheat and corn dotted with grain elevators and crumbling churches. Our first tasting is with a familiar Muscadet producer — pure and expressive wines showing far more complexity than most expect from the grape.
Sometimes we wonder why Michel Gros makes any white wine at all. The Gros family has lived for generations in Vosne-Romanée, a town that produces some of the finest red wines in the world; and his red Burgundies have won him acclaim for decades.
Coffee, toast, and a collection of homemade jams for breakfast this morning — back for a third time at the utterly pleasant Hotel Diderot in Chinon. Our first appointment is out in the fields east of Chinon; a young producer we discovered a few years ago when he had just started to bottle his own wines. This year’s crop is dense and lovely — pure, unoaked cabernet franc showing dark cherries and graphite.
We take our coffee in Amboise, near a bridge over the river Loire. Our first appointment is at 9am — a young energetic vigneron with only 3 hectares of vines, which he tends on the weekends. His wines are clear and crisp, all Chenin Blanc, both sec and demi-sec; we sample his pétillant-naturale (single fermentation sparkling wine).
Our 9am appointment this morning is in a sleepy town west of Pouilly-sur-Loire, still in the appellation of Pouilly-Fumé. The vingeron is absent, and his quiet, charming mother shows us his two wines. Both are excellent — round and rich and full of life. The first shows excellent weight and length; the second, an old vine cuvée made from vines planted “juste aprés la guerre,” is exceptional.
We spend our day off with a bit of sightseeing, and some catching up on email. A short trip north to the Reims Cathedral is well worth the drive. The massive gothic masterpiece, built in stages over thousands of years and carefully restored (with, of all things, Rockefeller funding) post WWI, is magnificent; as the French say, impressionant.
Wine writer Rajat Parr describes St. Aubin as the “insider’s white Burgundy.” Wedged in a valley between Chassagne and Puligny, this town produces white Burgundy with hints of Montrachet’s golden richness, but a less stratospheric price tag.
We leave Beaune this morning under cloudy skies. As the fog lifts and the drizzle clears, we drive northwest to Chablis, Burgundy’s satellite region. Our first appointment is en centre ville — a family producer of classic, mineral Chablis. The 2013s are perhaps the best they’ve made in recent memory, full of life and energy, and in perfect balance.
Last day in Burgundy. We head south on the highway towards Macon, back to the region where we once spent a year living. The softly rolling hills are covered in wheat, forests, and vines, and our car dips gently as we rise and fall with the rhythm of the countryside.
With a morning off from tastings, I take the car for a stretch up the Côte d’Or for photo collection. The soft morning sun quickly rises past the haze and clouds to paint a picture perfect blue sky above the shimmering green rows of vines. Many vignerons are in the fields this week — treating with insect deterrents, pruning the top canopies of the vines, and checking on the floraison.