For this Monday’s EU AUSTERITY DRINKING TOUR, we trade a château for a maison.
Underwhelmed and starving, we leave the lofty Château Moncontour of last week’s post. Our rent-o-bikes take us to a lunch of quiches, bread, and fabulous pastries. We eat on a cliff square. Mossy shingles span below us, Vouvray‘s crumbling, cream church looms above us.
Full, we follow signs up a tortuous slope. We pass a villa hewn into Vouvray’s famed tuffeau cliffs:
Just beyond we discover Maison Darragon in all its magnificence:
Château this ain’t. Bikes propped, we poke our heads into their damp, cool caves… No one. We wander around… No one.
Then, like a monarch from its chrysalis, emerges Simone, from, well, her house:
Up to the tasting room we fly! The wood-paneled room is dark and cold. She opens a window to not waste electricity.
Her wines follow suit. Wild yeasts ferment everything. Barrels in those caves age most of it. They twist one grape, Chenin Blanc, into countless forms. While most regions grow every varietal to please every palate, Vouvray’s obstinance forces creativity.
Festi’Bulles is their cheapest bubbly at 4.50 EU. And it tastes it.
It mildly smells of lime and chalk. Light sugar calms its racy acidity, creating a soft, fine-fizzed, neutral, appetizer of acceptable quality (2 of 5).
At 5.50, Darragon’s Méthode Traditionnelle Brut turns up the game:
Bigger, vibrant bubbles race through its pale gold color. Powerfully fresh aromas of lime margarita rise. This is drier, brighter, edgier, medium bodied, and notably flavorful with lime, prickly salt, and a hint of clay, that last for medium length. Well done (3 of 5).
7.90 will buy you Cuvée Antique Méthod Traditionnelle
Bubbly and pale gold. Bold flavors of yeast, lemon, honey and beeswax fill our noses and palates. As highly acidic as Darragon’s Brut, Antique feels a touch rounder, fuller, softer, and longer than it. Very good (4 of 5).
2011’s simply titled Sec costs 5.50 EU
It looks nearly colorless.
It barely smells of honey, pear, and a slight savory brett.
It is dry, tart, and light.
Moderate, mellow flavors of soft melon, and lean acacia walk a medium length, thanks to two year-old oak aging.
2011’s Sec was good quality (3 of 5) in 2012. But give it a year (i.e. now), and it will make a great everyday white.
Again hardly a hint of yellow colors it. Medium intensity lime, calcium, and light honey comprise Sec’s bouquet.
A touch of sugar, chunks of acid, more body and more flavors reach the palate: with white melon, followed by citrus, cut wonderfully by minerals on the longer finish. Very good (4 of 5). A better wine to drink now than 2011’s. Even though 2011 has better fruit and label.
Time in barrel has rendered this Chenin Blanc gold in color. Aromas smell strongly of light honey, beeswax, that botrytis marmalade from intentional rot, and pure, ripe apricot.
Both sweetness and acidity sing high but in harmony against a medium body.
Drinking is like biting into juicy chunks of apricot, with wax, honey, citrus, and a bit of woody savoriness from oak.
Florilège is complex wine with lots of length. It’s so very good (4 of 5), that we buy one.
In Tours it tastes similar, brilliant, but with more intensity against our fresh palates.
But wait! We’re still in that dark tasting room with Simone. We try Haut Des Ruettes 2010 (the 2011 was brutally young).
It is lightly sweet, tart again, but flavor-rich with honey, fresh mint, acacia flowers, and wax that last a long while. At only 5.50 EU. We buy it.
Back in our Tours apartment, this manifestation of Vouvray smells more of fresh lime peel, bready yeasty Brett, but the mint and acacia flowers remain.
Balanced, unnoticed sugars, lead to supple, silky, ripe pear, light golden honey and a prickly lemon mint finish of extra length. Wow. Very good (4 of 5). At 5.50 any buyer’s remorse evaporates.
Simone ends us with something sweet: 2011’s Cuvée Simone Mignot for 11 EU. Pale yellow color rolls around with thick legs. Loads of sweetness and loads of acidity make for a medium bodied, cloying but lovely apricot, herbaceous, lengthy white of very good quality (4 of 5).
Maison Darragon reveals Vouvray’s down-to-earth charm. The village and vineyards look tidy but not manicured. Their wine is real. Marc Brédif is all class. Château Moncontour is all hype. Maison Darragon is home.
Warmed, we cycle eight miles back to Tours. Along our way, winemakers grimace. Pickers hunch. Most grapes still hang on vines. Massive presses look empty:
Don’t expect much from 2012. Its season-long rain and cold will make for austere, acidic whites. But definitely dive into earlier vintages: Darragon’s 2010, 2011, and 2009 tasted lovely and have great futures. Chenin Blanc and this chill terroir provide the DNA. But each wine tastes manifestly different.
Today, at least, the sun smiled through gray on our day, cycling the Loire River.
- Marc Brédif Vouvray (alohavino.com)
- Velo Vouvray 2: Chateau Moncontour and Chenin Blanc (homeiswheretherootslead.wordpress.com)
- Velo Vouvray 2: Chateau Moncontour and Chenin Blanc (waywardwine.com)
- Velo Vouvray: Cycling the Loire Valley to Marc Bredif Winery (waywardwine.com)