Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tour de France - Along the Kimmeridgian Trail

Today the Tour is close to the halfway point and continues its meander through the French countryside starting in Vatan and heading northeast to St. Fargeau. A fairly flat stage and a day for the sprinters, the route winds just north of some of the best places in the world for the Sauvignon Blanc grape in the villages of Quincy, Reuilly, Sancerre and Pouilly sur Loire. Tomorrow, it drives on, starting just east of the village of Chablis, where the Chardonnay grape morphs into one of its most mineral, racy and intense expressions anywhere.

During this swing it follows a narrow vein of ancient fossilized seafloor that pokes up in England and then again here in France to create well drained marly limestone soils and some spectacular conditions for grape growing. Like all hallowed wine grounds, the wines of this area are the synthesis of millions of years of geological evolution, a specific climate, and the perfect match of grape varieties and wine making tradition. The soils impart their own signature to the wines, amplified and focused like a laser by the cool continental climate to create wines of unique character, quality and inimitable style: some of the classic of the wine world.

While Sancerre and its neighboring villages are technically part of the Loire Valley, it is closer not only physically to Chablis (110k) than it is to Vouvray (188k), but also geologically. Chablis, in a similar manner, is closer to Sancerre (110k) than it is to Puligny Montrachet (145k), and the argument can be made that these two villages, along with those surrounding them, share a common bond that runs deep. To see the route click Google Maps. For a few recommendations of wines along the route, read on! For more information on the wines visit us online at 56 Degree Wine.

Bring on the oysters! The lemony acidity and crisp clean nature of these wines make them the penultimate companions to chilled seafood, and in particular oysters and clams on the half shell, an experience perhaps best captured in Hemingway's' "A Movable Feast", where he describes the sensual joy of this combination and its effect on the soul:

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.” Ernest Hemingway, A Movable Feast

Wednesday: The Loire Valley and Sauvignon Blanc

2008 Domaine Adele Rouze Quincy Sauvignon Blanc, ORGANIC - The wines of Quincy have never been looked upon with the same amount of cache as those from its northeast neighbor, Sancerre. That may change as this offering from Adele Rouze is exacting and pure Sauvignon Blanc from organically farmed vines with perfumed aromatics, zippy pink grapefruit and citrus notes. Fresh and ready to drink now.$20

2008 Florian Mollet Pouilly Fume "Tradition", Loire - The entry level Pouilly Fume from Mollet trumps most vineyard designates from other producers. 100% Sauvignon Blanc, it is light and crisp with fresh grapefruit notes, hints of gooseberry and stony resolve, this is seafood-perfect wine with wonderful acidity. $19

Thursday: Chablis

Chablis is home to some of the greatest Chardonnay in the world. Crisp, mineral, flinty and focused, the wines here are the result of perfect synergy between the mineral soils, focused into laser precision by the cool northern continental climate. Its vineyards follow the Burgundian quality chain from Bourgone Blanc, up through Village level, Premier Cru and on to the sublime Grand Crus. Nearby there are some lesser known regions making great wines like Saint Bris and Chitry, offering exceptional value in not only Chablis-like Chardonnay, but Sancerre-like Sauvignon and some lovely racy fresh Pinot Noir as well. Look for Olivier Morin and Domain Groissot and you won't be disappointed. A couple of Chablis that I love not only for sheer quality, but for their value as well:

2007 Gilbert Picq Chablis "Vaucoupin" 1er Cru - On my last visit to the cellars of Gilbert Picq I was absolutely stunned by the brilliant quality of these small production, handcraft wines that truly capture to cool, mineral, focused intense. The other mind blowing thing (aside from the numbing cold in the cellars in February) where we tasted village level wine all the way back to the 80's that were delicious like only fine old Chablis can be. Lovely stony white fruits, sea shells, citrus and minerals on a big boned frame resolves with superb acid balance. $31

2008 Chablis Gilbert Picq - In another terrific vintage for the region the 2008's I have tasted seem to have the minerality and racy acids of the 2007, plus a little more heft and concentration that makes them very appealing! The '08 Picq is another in a great series of wines I have loved from the grower. Delicious now, if you have the patience this wine will age and improve over the next decade and more if properly stored. Amazingly only about $20, making all the better!

Next stop: Alsace!

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