Once known as “poor man’s Sancerre,” the wines of Reuilly deserve a new moniker. “Bargain Sancerre” would be more appropriate, or we could just stop comparing the poor thing to Sancerre in the first place. Denis Jamain’s Pierres Plates is from his best Sauvignon Blanc vineyard, named after all the “flat” fossil-encrusted limestone rocks in its soil—soil he has worked organically for many years. This bottling is consistently one of the Loire’s finest Sauvignon Blancs, showing delicate lime and floral suggestions that sleekly envelop a chalky core. Enjoy it with oysters, with fresh goat cheese, or simply because it provides delightful refreshment at great value.
When tasting the wines of Denis Jamain, it is clear that the appellation of Reuilly is experiencing a renaissance, moving far beyond its former status as the “poor man’s Sancerre.” Phylloxera ravaged the majority of the vineyards in the late 19th century, but Camille Rousseau (Denis’ maternal grandfather) had faith in the future of Reuilly. In 1935, he planted his first vines here, in addition to farming a large oak forest on the outskirts of town. Denis shares his grandfather’s passion. Though he studied in the US and speaks excellent English, he wanted nothing more than to return home to take over the family domaine. In 1990, Denis began adding to the family holdings. Today, he farms 17 hectares in the heart of the appellation.
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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