In the Loire Valley, the appellations are mostly dispersed along the banks of the Loire River, and some of its tributaries. There are a few curious regions that are generally included under the administrative umbrella of the Loire Valley that have about as much in common with the Loire as a cygnet does with ducklings. In fact, I have heard some Loire Valley producers refer to one of these regions in particular, Châteaumeillant, as the ugly duckling of the Loire.
Châteaumeillant is a young appellation, raised to AOC status in 2007. Only red and rosé wines are permitted under AOC rules, and the two grapes responsible for its wines are Gamay and Pinot Noir. The wines in Châteaumeillant are quite distinctive and have shown consistent and excellent quality in recent years, so some of them are now showing up on shelves in the United States. I recently bought a bottle each of two '07s from the same estate--Geoffrenet-Morval's Version Originale, and Extra-Version. Calling them fascinating is an understatement. I wonder how well they will sell? They are not geared toward what is often perceived as an "American" palate, but neither are they difficult to appreciate. Is this the kind of wine that retailers will balk at because they'll have to hand sell it? Well, we'll see.
The Wines--With & Without Food
The Version Originale is 100% Gamay, and was delicious and vibrant--heady blue fruit aroma and a light body with a lovely black currant tint to the flavor. Beautiful color--dark heliotrope, catches the light like crystal. Wow. A tricky wine for usage, because tannins are initially sleek but build steadily. It's great depth of flavor and slight salinity steered me toward tuna tartare, and that worked beautifully. Had a small plate of charcuterie to start, and the combination was dynamite with it (except for the chicken liver mousse, but that's no surprise). Spanks every other Loire Valley Gamay I've ever had (and that's actually saying something).
The Extra-Version, a name no doubt filled with double meaning [it both capitalizes on the French word for extroversion (extraversion) and because it is another version of Châteaumeillant, because it is atypical], is 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Gamay, an unusual blend, as Châteaumeillant is generally Gamay-based with no more than 40% Pinot Noir. Soaring, edgy aroma that is full of rhubarb, blackberry, and lavender. Lithe but not flexible, this might be controversial for someone expecting it to be more "Pinot Noir"--the vivacity is quite rotund, but it comes through a fairly light-body. I loved it with a napoleon of capicola, frisée, Cherokee Purple tomato, and classic southern mustard sauce between flats of jicama. I imagine it would also be quite delicious with trout.
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