Ask me and I'll be the first to tell you that if I have a blind spot in wine, it's situated somewhere in the gaping hole a map would show to bear the Gironde and Dordogne rivers. I.e. Bordeaux.
Yet this week, intrepidly out on the Atlantic coast to visit Arnaud's parents in their new home near Fouras, we just as intrepidly embarked on a journey to none other than the Missing Region. Swing out of the autoroute at Saint-André-de-Cubzac and sidle along through Libourne until all signs point to Saint-Émilion.
What a charm of a town! We wandered, we admired, we strode on cobblestones, we gaped at overpriced wine stores with the Right Bank's finest, the kings of Merlot - then Arnaud's stomach grumbles got too loud and we sat down to lunch.
A thin, green 2004 Saint-Émilion was not the meal's highlight, but we were happy. Tasty homemade foie gras and some of the juiciest and best french fries imaginable alongside my duck breast consoled me.
We wandered around and bought macarons. Then we drove out, ignorantly, past vineyards (still full of plump, dark grapes) marked with the name of Ausone and arrows pointing down roads toward Pavie and Canon la Gaffelière. We didn't know where to go, so we went to the Union des Producteurs de Saint-Emilion.
Aha, the happiness was not in this large warehouse of a building, either. The reception was nice, and at a modern bar we were served tastes of any and every cru we could ask for. But they were all wan, lackluster and very short on the palate, even their luxury cuvées. I was reminded a little of a trip to Chablis on a Sunday, where out of desperation we went to La Chablisienne. Committees (i.e. some 60 producers) tend not to make the best wines, in fine.
So we got back in the car and were going to leave. I'm stubborn, but one ox does not drive the cart.
Until we passed by a small sign. Château Petit-Gravet. Hey, wait, that name rang a bell. Oh, yes, I tasted their 1929 at François Audouze's Académie des Vins Anciens dinner.
I pleaded with my companions to make another stop. And so we did, despite dubious sentences, such as, "It might have changed in the past 80 years..."
A small cabin of a tasting room, and just one cru to taste: 2005. And damn us all if we weren't smiiling in the sunshine a half hour later when we walked out again, with bottles to put in the trunk. The best experience of Saint-Émilion we'd had, and a rich, generous wine. Thank god for Petit-Gravets!