Wine Wanderings: Loire Valley Day 3 (Continued) (Again)
It was a great appointment with Philippe Foreau – 90 minutes longer than he had slotted us in for – and so we were late to an embarrassing degree for our next appointment, with Pierre Breton.
Many of you will know Pierre’s story. Married to Catherine, with whom he shares the domaine, Pierre is a fourth generation vigneron who deserves much of the credit for reviving the Bourgeuil appellation. With 35 hectares, tremendous and precise wine-making skills and a deep focus on quality viniculture, he is easily the most important producer in Bourgeuil. He is also a leader in the natural wine movement, not only practicing biodynamics and natural wine-making at home, but tirelessly promoting the movement through events and at a couple of wine shops he owns himself.
He is also a charming, charismatic character, and I hope that many of you got to meet him went he conducted a tasting at the shop in September. It is even better to meet him in his home, as it is a perfectly restored home in the traditional Bourgeuil style and lovingly adorned with modern sculptures.
We piled into his tiny 1970-era car for a drive through vineyards to his cellar about a mile away where his wines undergo their elevage in barrels, most of them old. This was truly a hobbit cellar (see the photo), dug out of a tuffeaux cave in the side of a hill, filled with a myriad barrels of different sizes and ages . After a trip to Manhattan (he pulled a couple of all-nighters when he was here last), he loves nothing more than to relax in this cellar, tasting barrel samples, being one with his wine. There really are no other distractions in that cellar, no sounds, not much light – just the barrels and the smell of wine.
After tasting a few barrel samples he drove us around the country side showing us some of the Chateaux for which the Loire Valley is famous, and then it was to his tasting room at his house – again, a nice dark room deep below the surface, but this time with a long wooden table where we sat and tasted wine. Many of you have tasted his recent releases as he poured them all at our store last month, so you know how good these wines are. He also generously opened up a 1994 Bourgeuil “Perrieres” to share with our customers, so many of you know how beautifully they age!
After we finished the tasting with a bottle of 1983 Chinon (not one made by Pierre), Pierre selected a couple of bottles from his collection (Larmandier Bernier “Vertus” and a magnum of Nuits d’Ivresses 2009) and we all headed back to the Café de la Promenade for drinks and food. We were joined by Pierre’s wife, Catherine, and son, who is now studying oenology and was selling apple juice to raise money for a trip to wine country in Canada! The proprietors and staff at the Café also all joined us (with no one remaining to take care of the other customers in the restaurants, complaints were frequent!). As you can imagine, it was yet another nuit d’ivresse (pictured), with bottle after bottle emerging from the Café’s wonderful cave (always served blind), accompanied by delicious Alsatian pizzas (Dorothee is from Alsace) and steaks that were, on Pierre’s insistence, adorned with foie gras!