Loire Valley Part Deux: Our Queasy Quarts de Chaume Drive-By
As only I am capable of, on our second day of of touring the Loire Valley, I managed to score some sort of first-class stomach funk.
After the Joly winery tour on day one, we drove into Rochefort to find the hotel that Virginie booked for us. Driving through the town square, my eyes immediately spotted a sign that read "Chaume." Jeremy and I had already decided to visit one more town/winery on the way back to Paris the next day--we were thinking more along the lines of Chinon. But seeing Chaume, as in !!OMG-Quarts-du-Chaume!!, changed my mind.
Quarts de Chaume AOC, if you don't know, is one of those revelatory dessert wine appellations. Esoteric and obscure though it may be, it is definitely worth the hunt. Let me take you back in time...
August 2008: Jeremy came to Austin to visit me for the first time. On his second and last day, I cooked dinner. He had never tasted a Quarts de Chaume before. I bought a half-bottle of Baumard from Austin Wine Merchant. It was incredibly memorable and now sentimental.
**Cue back to present-day LOIRE and my excessive rambling.**
So, Quarts de Chaume is produced entirely with botrytized Chenin Blanc grapes. It has that characteristic botrytis nose, but the chosen varietal lends such an incredible minerality and nervous acidity that its perfect balance of sugar and acid with that salty sprinkle of terroir-driven mineral will make you FORGET about ever wanting a Sauternes. Semillion just can't deliver what Chenin can. We had the '05, so I can only imagine how wonderfully this wine would age.
The land area for this AOC is roughly 70 acres, and the maximum yields are appropriately low.
After all of this raving about QdC, I have to say that it was the very last thing I could stomach under the relentless wave of nausea that hit me on day 2. I asked Jeremy to very gently drive me through the undulating vineyards on curvy roads so that I could at least see what I was missing while trying not to leave a bit of myself in the terroir.
The village of Chaume consists of exactly 3 adjacent houses, a man with dark hair, and a horse. Driving through the vineyards, it was clear that the vines were all quite old (40-50 years, at least), many of them head-trained. These kinds of vines were a pleasantly ubiquitous site that may lose something in the transition from reality to digital image. I trust that some of you out there may appreciate it, nonetheless.
It was quite the dream fulfilled being able to poke around this favored corner of the Loire Valley. The air was clean and crisp, much like the wines, and the villages were absolutely charming.
I love good values from regions overshadowed by flashier, more expensive wines from regions famous for being famous. While a good Quarts de Chaume may not be what most consider cheap at $35ish per half-bottle, it offers a product that has more soul and class in its recently-released-375 mLs than an average Sauternes could ever hope to offer, even after 10 years in the bottle. Not that the latter has no merit--we all know that a great Sauternes can be quite thrilling--but a truly great one is simply cost-prohibitive for most of us.
Locally, Baumard Quarts de Chaume, 2005 is available at Austin Wine Merchant. Run, don't walk!