This was our last day of the ‘Death March with Foie Gras’ and most of the group was looking forward to it being over.
Strangely, I felt newly revived and was eager to visit Sancerre and Calvados, our last two stops before going to Paris that evening.
Our first stop was about an hour and a half from Amboise, and not far from our last tasting/visit in Vouvray.
Jean Reverdy et Fils Sancerre has been in the shop on and off since we opened, and I’ve always appreciated how the wine functions as both a great introduction to the AOC and how it far exceeds expectations for the price, and after tasting the 2011 vintage and tank samples from 2012. Be looking for it to reappear on the shelves before too long.
But the surprise of the visit was their 2012 Rosé – Sancerre Rosés are typically so high in acid and low in fruit that drinking them – while certainly a bracing experience – doesn’t deliver the drinking pleasure that many folks expect from a rosé. I’d been hearing that 2012 was a disaster in the north of France, wine-wise, but this ’12 rosé was the bomb – great acidity to be sure, but with a nice core of raspberry granita fruit and white strawberries!
We tasted through the Sancerre Blanc, Rosé and Rouge – the whole lineup was fantastic. I am generally not a fan of Sancerre Rouge, finding that the Pinot Noir flavors to be too muted and overwhelmed by the minerality, but the 2010 was balanced and had a lot going on.
After that tasting, there was a small lunch – Christophe and his new bride were gracious hosts, and prepared a thoughtful meal for us- green salad, a beet and ham salad, a potato gratin, and some really great Jambon de Sancerre – a locally made ham that is lightly smoked over grapevine cuttings!
Then we took a short tour of Sancerre and its vineyards, stopping to walk through Reverdy’s Reine Blanche vineyard and to a beautiful overlook of the entire region from the town center.
We bid Christophe adieu, and piled in the vans for the drive to Calvados Morin, at the eastern edge of the appellation, about an hour and a half outside of Paris.
Calvados Morin is a Veilleur of Calvados – they don’t grow the fruit nor do they distill the product – their expertise is in aging the Brandy, and at that they are experts!
Prior to the visit, I knew very little about Calvados, except that it was made from apples, and I was even wrong about that! Most if not all Calvados is distilled from a combination of apples and pears – sometimes up to 35% pear eaux de vie!
In the lesser aged ‘Calva’ (3-7 years), the pear adds a bright, fruity component; and in the more aged brandies, the pear flavors drop out and add a caramel base to the complex apple flavors.
So here’s how it works – the recently distilled brandy comes in from the six or seven distillers that work with Morin, and the juice is transferred – separated by each distiller – to very large oak tanks – fifteen feet tall ovals that hold thousands of gallons
These are holding vessels that will allow the young Calvados to settle and rest for a month or two. Then each tank is tasted by the Master Blender, and the juice is transferred to either 350 liter Taransaud barrels or larger foudres for up to two years, depending upon the quality of the brandy.
The Calvados spends time in various vessels, being racked somewhat frequently – every six months or so – as unlike wine – the more the stuff is manipulated – racked and transferred, the more refined and complex the flavors become.
Morin bottles a young Calva – 3-4 years of age that is their most popular, then a 5-7 year version, then stepping up to 10-12 years, 15-18 years, a 20 years pays d’Auge, 22-25 years, and a very special bottling – Age Incconnu – which is bottle aged in their damp and moldy cellars for an additional 10-20 years!
We tasted through the line – with the excpetion of the Age Inconnu of course (it costs about $270/bottle) – each new level brought more depth and complexity!
What a valuable and educational time!
Then we piled back into the van for the drive to Paris – through a mild but wild looking snow storm! We arrived at the Hotel de la Bordonnais in the 7th nearby to the Eiffel Tower.
Thirteen Days, thousands of miles and calories traveled to and stuffed in, and nearly 400 wines and spirits tasted, studied and drunk!
Most of our crew had fallen ill at sometime during the trip – I had a mild foot injury that hampered me for the first few days and a bout of some mild gastro distress for an additional few days – but I feel lucky that I wasn’t felled as badly as were my other travelling companions!
All in all a fabulous, educational, grueling, interesting, amazing, frustrating, fun trip!