Thursday, August 14, 2008
When we started seeing troglodyte homes lining the side of the street, tucked into the greenery-covered stone hills, we knew we were in the land of plenty that is the region around Chinon. Tuffeau walls and homes abound. There is an amazing clarity to the villages, with their luminous castles and churches and houses.
It was late morning and we had an 11am appointment with Bernard Baudry, a maker of remarkably pure Chinon wines. Each time I taste his wines, I marvel at their simplicity and purity; nothing is out of place.
Baudry himself is of that same kind of perfect simplicity, with a dash of humor. He was there with a group of young blond men and women from Normandy (I picked out the 14 on their license plate: the Calvados region), going through the tasting of his current lineup. He came over and greeted us, let the youngsters consult with his wife and make their purchases, and what ensued was a three-hour marathon of talk, barrel-sample tastings, bottle tastings, and a visit to the cellars up the street.
When we tipsily said goodbye at 2pm - we had stopped spitting at some point along the line - I felt a pang as I closed the car door. Baudry was opening the metal gate for us (visits had officially stopped some time earlier), and I nodded as I thought back to something he'd said a half-hour earlier. He had once been a wine consultant and had traveled around different regions visiting different vineyards. Now, he said, "Chinon is special. It really is all about Rabelaisian delight, shared pleasure and conviviality. You can see that right away by the way different winemakers greet you. In Bourgueil, the wines are similar, the same grapes, similar terroir - but there isn't the same feel. Vouvray is completely different, very businesslike." Then he smiled. "And don't get me started on Montlouis..."
I have to agree about Chinon; there is something in the wine that incites to excess, generosity and gluttonous pleasure. Accordingly, Arnaud and I drove back into the town proper from Cravant-les-Coteaux and found a wine bar at which to eat a late, lush lunch. Damn if that wasn't some of the best charcuterie I've had - washed down with some Pascal & Béatrice Lambert Chinon, of course.