The Neveu family has deep roots in the Loire Valley; in fact, records trace their lineage back to the 12th century, in the very same village the current generation calls home. The Neveus began estate-bottling in the 1970s, focusing their production on the historically acclaimed Clos des Bouffants: with its southern exposure, this steep, rocky vineyard had long been recognized for giving impeccably ripe Sauvignon Blanc of great finesse. The Sancerre it yields has a wonderful limestone-derived edge that is kept in check by its concentration and rich, satisfying fruit. The lip-smacking lemon and lime, delightful floral notes, and zippy, chalky finish are the perfect introduction to the domaine.
The Neveu family’s roots in the Loire Valley are nothing short of impressive. Local archives show Jean Neveu lived in the village of Verdigny (where the family still resides) as early as the 12th century, and they already ran an agricultural estate in 1641. Grapevines made up part of the property in the 19th century, but were destroyed by phylloxera. It wasn’t until after WWII that winegrowing regained its place at the domaine. It was Roger Neveu, father to current owners, brothers Éric and Jean-Philippe, who during the 1970s brought the domaine into its contemporary incarnation. The family tradition has already added another generation as both Éric and Jean-Philippe’s sons have started helping out in the vineyards and cellar.
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.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
Inspiring Thirst, page 171
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