Cour-Cheverny is a little known appellation in the Loire Valley, whose wines are made exclusively from Romorantin*. The very original grape variety is only found in this AOC, although my favorite example remains Henri Marrionet’s “Provignage” Romorantin, grown outside of Cour-Cheverny as a Vin de Pays, sourced from original pre-phylloxera* vines planted in the mid 1800s! I was truly impressed, intrigued even, when I tasted this wine last year, and to this day, it remains one of my benchmarks for crystal clear whites. But back to this evening’s bottle: a 2007 by François Cazin, the principal grower from the tiny Cour-Cheverny appellation.
I picked this wine up at a random merchant on my way to the French supermarket -yes, I drove almost an hour to the border to shop for groceries- and decided to open it that same evening to drink with all the shellfish we brought back. I had recently read an old manga called Oishimbou -the gourmet- from the 80s, in which a character claimed that sake would always work better than white wine for strong flavored seafood such as oysters and uni -sea urchin-, because of some compound in wine which supposedly brings out the fishiness.
I must admit that I have on occasion found this to be true, such as when I recently paired a Jo Landron Muscadet with smoked salmon. It was as if I had been knocked over by a wave and gotten a mouthful of sea water! Not so pleasant, despite quite enjoying his wines in other contexts. The Cour-Cheverny on the other hand was impeccable with my oysters, complementing the sea flavors rather than exaggerating them. I pictured myself exploring a water cavern, clinging to the wine’s wet stone walls as the seawater remained perfectly still on my palate, the two elements echoing off of each other in the dark, empty space.
The sea urchin brought another dimension to the experience, its buttery texture like a smooth clay at the bottom of the water as I jumped in. Yet underneath, the wine’s rocky bottom again kept my head above the water level to marvel at my solemn surroundings. Halfway into the bottle however, I got a little cold and had to climb back out. Cour-Cheverny wines are really quite fresh, with a high acidity, and can be a bit much at the end of a long day!
*Romorantin is a very local grape variety, and was once widely planted in the Loire Valley. Over time it was replaced by the more popular Chenin and Sauvignon Blanc for which the Loire is now famous for. It appears to be some distant relative of Chardonnay, though the wines tend to be much lighter.
**Phylloxera is a small insect which destroyed most of Europe’s vineyards in the late 1800s. As a result, practically all new vines since that time are grafted onto resistant roots which were brought over from America. Some vineyards however, managed to survive the infestation, for various reasons such as very sandy soils, cold temperatures at high altitudes, or simply the fact that the insect hasn’t made it to those parts (yet?) such as in Chile.