Pinot Gris is a chameleon of a grape, able to give drastically different styles of wine depending on its region of origin and production methods. In the Upper Loire appellation of Reuilly, the traditional treatment yields a pale vin gris that reflects the grape’s pinkish, grayish tint at ripeness. Vigneron Denis Jamain accomplishes this by letting the fruit sit for a few hours in the press during the slow, gentle pressing cycle, ensuring a wine of the utmost delicacy with just the slightest hint of color from limited contact with the skins. This expression of Pinot Gris features a shimmering freshness, its silky texture punctuated by a saline focal point that makes it especially mouthwatering.
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.
A good doctor prescribed the wine of Nuits-Saint-Georges to the Sun King, Louis XIV, when he suffered an unknown maladie. When the king’s health was restored the tasty remedy enjoyed a vogue at court. Lord, send me a doctor like that!
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