post49 // french wine, explained

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hey hey! happy tuesday! the past couple weekends have been a crazy whirlwind of adventures for me sandwiched between days and nights spent cake making and fish gutting during the week. i know it’s only tuesday but i hope you’ll have a glass of wine tonight after hearing my learnings from the most informative wine tour there ever was…

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a significant wine program is offered at Le Cordon Bleu, where students learn about wine and food pairings as well French wine, it’s history, how it’s made, how it tastes. though i’m not enrolled in their wine program, the department offers a wine tour of the loire valley each trimester. they didn’t have to ask me twice to join! along with some friends from my cuisine and pastry program, and my mom who was in paris visiting at the time, we set out at the crack of dawn for the two hour trip south of paris.

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first stop: Vincent Carême Winery in vernou-sur-brenne

if the entrance to this wine cellar wasn’t enchanting enough, margaux, the winery owner’s oversized dachshund was. margaux accompanied us on our morning visit through the Carême vineyards and well into our wine tasting there. the region we visited within the loire valley was known for it’s sparkling white wines, and specifically vouvray at the Carême vineyards. vouvray wine is made from the chenin blanc grape. it can be produced into both sparkling and still wines, my favorite from our tasting being their sparkling vouvray.

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wondering how they get such great sparkling wine? here are some reasons:
  1. fermentation. the actual sparklization (i made up a word today!) of the wine occurs because it has been carbonated — in Carême’s case by an extra fermentation. this fermentation happens as sugar ferments into alcohol. most interesting to the Caréme wines though was that they don’t add additional sugars to their wine. none! instead, the natural sugars from their grapes do the work, leaving a wine that is wholly organic. it’s great for avoiding hangovers too, bye excess sugar!
  2. soil. if i learned one thing on this tour, it was that soil matters. with both vineyard visits, letting the soil do it’s own thing was of the most importance. for the Carême winery, they hand-pick all their grapes, limiting as much machinery as possible used from grape to bottle. this way, they can ensure they snag all their grapes in entirety, and don’t damage the vineyard with machines trudging through.
  3. weather. as the past year has been a cool one, Carême and other vouvray producers in the area will shift to making more dry and sparkling wines for production. if the weather had been hotter and more humid, there would be more sweeter, dessert-type wines. the weather in this region is highly variable so you take great risk being a wine producer here!

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second stop: La Cave restaurant in montlouis-sur-loire

a great place to rest your legs and visit when in the loire valley. the restaurant offers delicious french fare, accompanied of course by wine from the region. make sure you get their meringue for dessert! it’s unmatched in lemony flavor, and size. and fyi, cave doesn’t mean cave in french, it mean’s cellar!

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third stop: Domaine de la Taille aux Loups with Mr. Jacky Blot in montlouis-sur-loire

just a quick drive from la cave sits domaine de la taille aux loups, the vineyards of jacky blot. that’s my mom and i outside his home and tasting room!

jacky took us on a ride through his nearly 5000-acer vineyard property and boy did we learn something. unlike the Carême vineyard, Jacky hadn’t yet picked his grapes. this meant that we actually got to go into his fields and see the grapes just as they were about to be picked (he ended up picking them a week later!).

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jacky explained to us one of the most important stages of the grapes for his production: noble rot. i’d never heard of the stage myself but for this specific vineyard, acheiving noble rot is necessary in producing their wines. to get a grape to noble rot, the grape must be highly ripe and have taken on a grey layer of fungus on the outside skin. yes, fungus sounds gross but i promise it makes a damn good wine!
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here jacky shows the inside of a noble rot — yes, he sacrificed a grape for us! — and you can see it resembles a raisin in the middle. for this reason, the noble rot grapes can produce highly concentrated sweet wines. yum!

there’s a very small time frame between when the grape takes on noble rot and then develops grey rot, a damaging form of the rot that will ruin the grape for production. as you can see in the image of the grape bundle above, some of those grapes have taken on grey rot and shriveled, thus unable to use in production. as we visited, jacky mentioned how he’s been checking the weather like crazy, figuring out which exact day to pick his grapes.

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if you hadn’t deducted already, my title is a bit misleading as i couldn’t possibly explain all of french wine to you. that would take a very long book and decades of research! but, i did learn an enormous amount about wine and grape production and i hope you enjoyed the knowledge bit too. below you can find the two wine producers’ information and their profiles on wine.com. they both have tasting rooms where you can drop in and visit but you might have to do some extra sweet-talking if you want to get into their vineyards 😉

and in this week’s other stuff!!!

  • best. leather bags. ever. get you one! (they ship internationally and through etsy)
  • if you’ve got a knack or interest in politics, sign up for my brother rob’s weekly newsletter! starting five supplies you with all the know-how to keep up with today’s state of politics

that’s all folks! xx


Vincent Carême Winery 1 rue du haut clos 37210 Vernou sur Brenne
Purchase: wine.com
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups  8, rue des Aîtres – Husseau 37 270 Montlouis sur Loire
Purchase: wine.com

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