Friday, August 19, 2005

Apologies to Vouvray

I ended my last post looking forward to a 2002 Ch. Gaudrelle, using it as an example of an ordinary wine that could still give a lot of pleasure. What a stupid thing to write! There was nothing even remotely ordinary about this elegant and steely Vouvray, with lively fruit and rich mineral flavors. I have spent some of the intervening time educating myself about this and other wines of the Loire valley. I was helped by a few days at the beach on Lake Michigan, which I began by taking advantage of a special offer from Sam’s in Chicago. Sam’s had assembled fifteen pretty much unknown (to me and most Americans anyway) Loire wines through the services of Tom Calder, a specialized broker in Paris. This was not an expensive venture, at $250 for the fifteen. It has been, in fact, a pretty cheap lesson in the great pleasures of the world of honest wine. The Loire is about as far north as any wine I’d care to drink can be made (excluding, thus, the entire wine production of the United Kingdom, grape, parsnip or rhubarb). This far north, in a chilly year, the vintage can be so acid it hurts but, in a warm year, the results can be lively and stimulating. Luckily, both 2002 and 2003 were warm to heat-wave hot, and the wines are just wonderful. There are two good examples, both white wines from Chenin Blanc grapes, each less than $15, available at Big Red – the Chateau Gaudrelle Vouvray and an Aubert la Chapelle Coteaux du Loir [not a misprint – the Loir, masculine, is a tributary of the Loire, feminine] 2003. The Chapelle comes close to what apple cider would be if it really tasted like fresh tart apples. It was perfect with shrimp cooked with chipotles. The Gaudrelle is a touch richer and could accompany a roast chicken. Either would be just the right thing for a young goat cheese. I recently got my copy of Mondovino from Netflix. This documentary is the controversial indictment of the wine world’s global infatuation with rich, overripe, overpriced and too-similar wines allegedly manipulated to please Robert Parker and his hedonistic supposedly sheep-like followers. I shall have several Loires on hand as antidotes to this trend.