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Four Cases of 35-Year-Old Dessert Wine Bliss

Four Cases of 35-Year-Old Dessert Wine Bliss

by Tom Wolf by Tom Wolf

1989 Vouvray “Bois Guyon”

1989 Vouvray “Bois Guyon”

Catherine & Pierre Breton   

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Catherine and Pierre Breton are such Loire Valley legends that the region’s famed wines practically run through their veins. Bons vivants and natural wine pioneers who produce benchmark Bourgueil, Chinon, and Vouvray, Catherine and Pierre—now joined by their children France and Paul—are genuine heroes of French wine, filled with a seemingly inexhaustible spirit and joie de vivre that courses through all of their endeavors.
      But while Catherine is widely respected, her parents Nicole and Pierre Mabille were trailblazers in their own right, deserving of their own praise, too. Following professional careers in Paris, Pierre and Nicole returned to Vouvray in the 1980s to take over several hectares of family vines. They were set on farming this land organically, but because doing so was slower and more meticulous than the increasingly common industrial practices, they quickly realized they had too much land for two retirees to cultivate and decided to sell some of their holdings to neighboring domaines. Prospective buyers lined up to acquire some of their prized vineyards—until they realized that the Mabilles would require whoever bought the land to continue farming it organically. When no one would commit to this stewardship, Pierre and Nicole made a decision that shocked the local community: they would rip out the vines in their Bois Guyon parcel and re-wild the land.
      In 2016, Catherine and her son Paul, the family’s Vouvray specialists, decided to replant Bois Guyon and the first vintage, 2019, will feature in our March newsletter. In the meantime, we were able to convince the Bretons to part with four cases of Pierre and Nicole’s penultimate vintage—the 1989—which turned out to be a warm and glorious year in the Loire Valley and ideally suited to Vouvray moelleux. Thirty-five years later, this bottling is utterly mesmerizing, saturated with notes of orchard fruit and honey. Sublime as a standalone apéritif and naturally well-suited to an assortment of goat cheeses to end a meal, this Vouvray also works surprisingly well with certain savory dishes, like rillettes or a seared pork chop accompanied by caramelized apples.
      France Breton recently told me that its grandeur and romance that make her feel like she’s capable of writing the next great French novel when she takes a sip. It reminds me of the pitch-perfect opulence of Paolo Sorrentino’s films. The ultimate feast for the senses, the 1989 Vouvray “Bois Guyon” delivers all the warmth and radiance you might crave on a cold February night.

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About The Region

Loire

map of Loire

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.

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Inspiring Thirst

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!

Inspiring Thirst, page 117