Based in Restigné, in the heart of the Bourgueil AOC, Catherine and Pierre Breton always dabbled in Vouvray, since Catherine's family is based within the Chenin Blanc appellation about an hour’s drive upriver. Now the next generation of Bretons has come of age, and while daughter France holds down the fort in Cabernet Franc country, her brother Paul has chosen to focus entirely on white wines. He even set up his own little cellar in Vouvray, and has taken on new vineyards to increase the family's production of blanc. Pierres Rousses is a new bottling he launched from a parcel of old vines on flinty soil. He ages it in used barrels, giving it a much different character than the “Dilettante” Vouvray bottling the family has long produced. Paul’s wine is deep and textural, with serious presence on the palate and a dry, flinty finish—decidedly old-school Vouvray from a budding young talent!
Catherine and Pierre Breton are real life bon vivants vignerons of lore. They are passionate about what they do, enjoy sharing it with others, and entertain with a generosity and charm. That they make great wine with such integrity makes our appreciation of them complete. The Bretons farm 11 hectares just east of Bourgueil in the village of Restigné. They produce Chinon, Bourgueil, and a bit of Vouvray, creating honest wines for both early consumption and aging. The Bretons received organic certification in 1991 and recently began the three-year process of seeking biodynamic certification. They’ve become international icons for the natural wine movement in an area where the climate and soil can make organic viticulture difficult.
The defining feature of the Loire Valley, not surprisingly, is the Loire River. As the longest river in France, spanning more than 600 miles, this river connects seemingly disparate wine regions. Why else would Sancerre, with its Kimmeridgian limestone terroir be connected to Muscadet, an appellation that is 250 miles away?
Secondary in relevance to the historical, climatic, environmental, and cultural importance of the river are the wines and châteaux of the Jardin de la France. The kings and nobility of France built many hundreds of châteaux in the Loire but wine preceded the arrival of the noblesse and has since out-lived them as well.
Diversity abounds in the Loire. The aforementioned Kimmderidgian limestone of Sancerre is also found in Chablis. Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur boast the presence of tuffeau, a type of limestone unique to the Loire that has a yellowish tinge and a chalky texture. Savennières has schist, while Muscadet has volcanic, granite, and serpentinite based soils. In addition to geologic diversity, many, grape varieties are grown there too: Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Melon de Bourgogne are most prevalent, but (to name a few) Pinot Gris, Grolleau, Pinot Noir, Pineau d’Aunis, and Folle Blanche are also planted. These myriad of viticultural influences leads to the high quality production of every type of wine: red, white, rosé, sparkling, and dessert.
Like the Rhône and Provence, some of Kermit’s first imports came from the Loire, most notably the wines of Charles Joguet and Château d’Epiré—two producers who are featured in Kermit’s book Adventures on the Wine Route and with whom we still work today.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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