By Francesca Hansen
Tucked away in Thésée, just east of the city of Tours, Simon and Alain have been making stunning, honest, organically-farmed Touraine wines since they joined forces in 2009. Touraine may often be overlooked in the middle Loire, but if only everyone made wine as meticulously as Simon and Alain, Touraine would quickly overtake some of its better-known neighbors.
All of their 16 hectares are farmed organically, everything is hand harvested, and all the wines are produced on site using native yeasts and natural processes. As Rosé season kicks into gear, we always make room for their old-vine Pineau d’Aunis rosé (55 year-old vines pictured below). The Sauvignon Blanc cuvées (Les Parcs and Les Sagères) are hallmark Loire Sauvignon Blancs, and the Red “Tradition” is a perfect weeknight red, which - surprise - ages stupendously.
...and exciting things are afoot at the Domaine: This year they added two new Sauvignon Blanc cuvées from the brand new A.O.C. “Touraine Chenonceaux” which covers just 50 hectares of the Cher river valley, near the Château de Chenonceaux. Alain Courtault was instrumental in the creation of the appellation and the domaine has two new Sauvignon Blanc cuvées that are in the new AOC with label illustrations from Alain’s son, Benjamin Courtault who’s a well-known French illustrator.
Avec vue sur le Cher comes from a parcel planted in 2002 on a steep hill overlooking the Cher river. Clay-limestone soils make for a warm, filtering soil. Expect a richer, aromatic sauvignon, with balanced salinity.
Les Maselles planted in 1996 on a vineyard that been abandoned since 1946 - no chemicals have ever seen this soil! The vines border the Cher river and a gallo-roman archeological site of Tasciaca. Les Maselles is packed with punchy minerality and a back palette spring-loaded with acidity.
By Joshua Adler
The Coteaux Lyonnais is a small sliver of vineyards northwest of Lyon. It’s kind of like the Beaujolais’ cousin from the South - sure, they grow Gamay, but they also have more sunshine. The wines have the soul of the Beaujolais with some of the intensity of the Northern Rhône, and when done right they are flat out delicious. Despite making his first vintage in 2014, Baptiste Nayrand brings Coteaux du Lyonnais to the next level of deliciousness.
After a first career in marketing for a chemical company, Baptiste decided to take a leap and combine his passion of working outdoors with his love for wine. An internship with Julien Guillot at Clos des Vignes du Mayne confirmed his path of organic farming and natural winemaking, and in 2015 he started out with 3.5 hectares of vines and a garage below his home in Millery to produce his own Coteaux du Lyonnais. The domaine has been certified organic since the beginning, and is practising biodynamic. All vineyards are plowed, and then treated with a infusions of horsetail, willow, nettle, and comfrey to reinforce and structure the vines with the goal of reducing the use of copper and sulfur in the vineyard.
Baptiste’s ideal vision of vinification is to create an ‘infusion’ with the grapes, rather than looking to extract anything. There’s zero temperature control, punchdowns and pumpovers are kept to a strict minimum, and the grapes are left intact as long as possible in order to bring out the finesse and complexity in the wine.
Baptise currently produces three or four wines each year. The main cuvée, “Vésanie” comes from Gamay grown on several granite terroir vineyard sites around Millery. The cuvée Astrale is made only in certain vintages from the oldest centennaire Gamay vines. If Vésanie is inspired by the best of the Beaujolais to the North, Astrale is closer kin to the old school whole-cluster Côte Rôtie. The white wine “Puit a Vin” comes from Chardonnay grown in the vineyard of the same name. This vineyard was historically one of the best and most productive in the area, and so locals named it the puit à vin, or the wine well. Baptiste also makes a tiny amount of rosé from an assemblage of whole cluster co-fermented Chardonnay and Gamay.
After our visit in February to taste the 2017 vintage, I asked Baptiste if I could take a few bottles with me to leave in Fleurie with Yann Bertrand. Baptiste joked, “Sure, but the problem is that it will bother him to discover that we can make such good Gamay down South.” The thing is…I’m not sure he was joking. And after having a few more bottles since our visit, I’m totally sure that he was right.
By Ryan Lim
As a harbinger of spring, asparagus shares an unique status as a “ceremonious” vegetable among French chefs, along with first summer tomatoes. It is difficult not to be excited about them when you see childlike-wonder from the eyes of an overworked and underpaid young cook. At the same time, a very vegetal vegetable - with that chlorophyll-driven green flavor - asparagus always comes up when talking about foods that are difficult to match with wine. So this spring, Paris Wine Company conducted an investigative lunch with chef Thomas Guernion to talk about our wine from a different perspective, and to find great pairings.
‘A thin slice of powder-sugared rhubarb wraps around blanched white asparagus, lightly colored with butter and garnished with few herbs. Searing acidity from rhubarbe is balanced with a mousseline of smoked beetroots and shallots, along with hints of bitterness from baby red mustard and a touch of sweetness from timut pepper.
Following the old adage of wine pairing - ‘great with great, humble with humble’ - we’ve decided to go ‘surprising with surprising’. A Clos Signadoré AOC Patrimonio ‘A Mandria’ Blanc 2016, with its bold and round body complemented the dish beautifully. This unusual 100% Vermentino Corsican white had pleasant minerality and citrus note that was persistent yet not overpowering the delicate white asparagus, and its rich saltiness accentuated the sweetness of the beetroot mousseline, giving both the wine and the food a long finish.
Beyond ‘seasonality’ and ‘farm-to-table’, rather trite clichés in modern restauration, when looking at Thomas’ green asparagus dish - simple on techniques, humble in ingredients, carefree in plating, I see his intentions to let the ingredients shine. Sauteed green asparagus, wilted spinach with new garlic, and lemon condiment are adorned with fresh chives, tarragon and thyme-salt.
It’s a privilege to be able to cook with the best vegetables that french terroirs can offer and what better wine to pair such philosophy than with a Valentin Morel’s Les Pieds Sur Terre AOC Côte du Juras ‘Chardonnay Saint-Savin’ 2015. With high minerality and a lively texture that hums spring, in the hands of Valentin, Chardonnay seems to be a vehicle for an expression of the soil. Bathing in first spring sun rays of Paris, these two that share such propensity for both terroir and climate, were the most evident, and the only unanimous pairing that everyone agreed upon.
Imagine peeling the skins off of chicken breasts, soaking them in cold water to wash, boiling them in salted water, putting them back into the iced water to reserve the color, and finally roasting them in the oven… Although we would never cook a piece of meat in such manner, this is how we normally cook vegetables, for convenience and for presentation. In order to seal in all the flavors, spring leek, green asparagus, and wild broccoli were glazed in one pan with a touch of butter and water, while monkfish was slowly roasted with a dab of browned butter and fresh herbs, along with a few drops of lemon juice and olive oil to finish.
To go with a bouquet of spring vegetables and monkfish, we decided on Domaine de la Cras Coteaux de Dijon Blanc 2015 from Marc Soyard. Though restrained, buttery texture of ripe yellow fruits and vibrant minerality complemented gelatinous monkfish. Cleansing acidity functioned as a perfect seesaw, with each sip of Chardonnay leaving us to take a bite of food. It was suggested at this tasting that white Burgundy has become famous because it paris well with everything, but we found that crips white wines with good dosage of mineral and acidity go well with different elements within the dishes we prepared today. Clearly more research is needed !