Wine tasting in the Loire Valley, France.
My previous post was on French champagne empire. In this post, I’m talking about wine from the Loire Valley in France, because I have just returned from a wine tasting tour. A little tour, but nevertheless a tour out of Paris, for the first time in 18 months.
One of my wine tastings was at the Château de Chenonceau, near the village of Chenonceaux, about a three-and-a-half-hour drive south of Paris.
The Château itself was built from 1513-1517 by Thomas Bohier and his wife Catherine Briçonnet, at a time when Francois I was the King of France.
The Loire Valley is also known as the French Appellation Trail. Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) – formerly the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) – are the rules to protect specific types or tastes of wines and food in France as quality assurance measures. There are 50 different Appellations to distinguish the Wines of the Loire.
The Irish writer James Joyce (1882-1941) lived in Paris and other regions of France in the 1920s and 1930s. He was fond of wine. In his first novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man(1916), his character Stephen Dedalus, said as he remembered his first holy communion in the Catholic church when he tasted wine for the first time:
‘The word was beautiful: wine. It made you think of dark purple because the grapes were dark purple that grew in Greece outside houses like white temples.’
In his novel Ulysses (1922) James Joyce’s character Bloom says ‘Steel wine is said to cure snoring.’ I’m not certain about that!
James Joyce’s long-time friend Arthur Power (1891-1984) wrote in his book From Conversations with James Joyce (1974):
“After returning to his flat in the Square Robiac, Joyce would settle down in a sympathetic and social mood. Here in the evening, with his favourite bottle of white wine, ‘St Patrice’, at his elbow, a wine he discovered while on holiday in the south of France, we used to discuss many things, but the main subject of our conversation was naturally our common interest in literature.”
We do know Joyce travelled to the south of France, but perhaps not to the Château de Chenonceau. Joyce was particularly fond of Swiss white wine, with his favourite being Fendant de Sion. He preferred white, mostly in the evening, and rarely red. Evian spa water eventually replaced the white wine.
In the Château de Chenonceau, I tasted three wines: vin rosé (rose), vin blanc (white), and vin rouge (red) as part of the new Appellation called Touraine Chenonceaux. The local grape growers took about 20 years to obtain their own AOC in 2011. The Château de Chenonceau is built over the River Cher, right in the heart of the Touraine.
As a group of us put our noses in the first glass of wine, a woman called out, ‘Cherries!’ But, it was not cherries. The host said we could expect to smell and taste peach, pear, apricot, citrus, pineapple, and mango. It was peach. The white, most of the group’s favourite, was a Sauvignon Blanc with a distinct pineapple flavour. I preferred the red, and a couple from Florida bought some of that too.