Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Diving into the Sioule

I like "little" wines. One of which is Saint-Pourçain. This diminutive VDQS appellation, which doesn't even have its own AOC, is situated in the Bourbonnais, around the village of Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule, through which the Sioule river runs, thin.

The wine, too, is off-the-cuff, light gamay stuff. Best known for its "La Ficelle" bottling - an allusion to the old French custom of serving bistro clients a bottle of red wine with a string tied around the neck. You paid for the length of string you drank from the bottle, and the bottle was recorked and put back on the shelf behind the counter for another client.

I've been to Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule three times, and swam in the Sioule, and eaten tripe sausages from the Roi de l'Andouillette, and seen operettas in Vichy, nearby - a thermal resort for the elderly, for two hundred years running.

Last weekend in Normandy, at Marc the banker's country house, we drank Saint-Pourçain on a Sunday with an emmenthal-and-cream dish I made with leftover elbow macaroni and some sautéed mushrooms and bacon we'd bought from the farmer's market in Cabourg. Everyone quaffed it with pleasure, even Zoé, who drinks a sip and usually stops. Saint-Pourçain is not a daunting wine. The 2005 was delicious, far beyond the polished pretentions of its higher "reserve" cuvée we'd tasted with the cheeses the evening before (though I'd wondered if that was just because some error of orchestration had had us serve it after the 2001 Vosne-Romanée 1er cru "Chaumes" from the Domaine Thomas).

Afterward, I dozed in the train back to Paris, my knapsack firmly tucked in next to my legs, where I could feel the pressure of a firm, round bottle of 1999 Cheval Blanc. The countryside rolled on.

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