I was delighted and flattered by the response to last week’s article about our holiday celebration and the wine we shared. One comment in particular could not be ignored:
Emily, that’s perfect! I have always found that it’s the interesting tidbits, like “lip stinger” or the detail of your driving time, that people remember the most when trying to recall a wine. When you can put the wines together with interesting food for friends and family, then people have a story to share days, weeks, and months later. At some future dinner, your friend will be pouring a Vouvray for someone and the wine will transport her back (like the food critic tasting ratatouille) and she will tell them about YOUR dinner. When I drink Vouvray, I am always reminded of meeting Phillipe Foreau and, if the audience allows, I tell of my stumbling attempt to ask for a ‘degustation’. -Dave
I don’t know about you, but that last sentence made me want to hear about longtime reader Dave Navarre’s meeting with the Monsieur Philippe Foreau. The Loire Valley winemaker is reputed for the great care he takes in producing fine Vouvray wines, using as little interference with the natural process as possible.
I asked Dave if he would mind sharing his story with this audience and he enthusiastically accepted. (Thanks, Dave!) Cheers!
One of the first trips my wife and I took when we were dating was to the Sonoma Valley, so wine tourism has always been at the top of our lists. She was able to go to France in 2005, but since it was on business, without me. So, we decided to go to France for our honeymoon.
I plotted our trip, and as a lover of history, included Normandy and the Loire Valley. Since it was my first experience, I chose the wrong order for the trip, finishing in the wine region instead of starting there. Now we start our trips in a wine region and enjoy the fruits of that labor in Normandy.
We discussed our trip in advance with a friend in the wine business, and knew that we wanted to meet with and taste the wines of Philippe Foreau. Having only experienced wine-tasting in the US, we went without prior introductions or appointments.
As we pulled into the beautiful commune of Vouvray, we squinted at the signs indicating the locations of the various vignerons. As we snaked through the twisty lanes of the small town, we could find no mention of Clos Naudin or of Philippe Foreau. Nearly dejected, our hearts leapt when we found the tourist office. Malheureusement, the tourist office is closed for 2 hours in the middle of the day. So, my lovely bride and I decided to break out our baguettes, pâté and wine for a picnic lunch in the back of the hatchback. It was a rainy day in Vouvray and the garbage men were collecting. We were thrilled to realize that even the garbage men in France dress stylishly!
After the tourist office re-opened, we drove off, directions clutched in my hands. As we pulled up to the address, I couldn’t believe my eyes. On one side of the road was a nice little house, with the correct number, and on the other was what seemed like a nondescript little warehouse. Assuredly, the maker of the best wines in Vouvray couldn’t live or work in such a simple setting.
Nonetheless, we got out of the car and wandered over. Looking inside, we could tell that it must be the right place, but no one seemed to be there. After a plaintive bonjour, and no sign of any stirring, we again lost hope. No sooner had we put our seat belts back on in the rental car than a Frenchman emerged from the doorway. I stepped out of the car and tried my tourist French. Je voudrais une degustation. Monsieur Foreau asked a question. I had no idea what he said and only replied Je ne comprends pas. He turned and my heart sank as he walked across the road to house. We’d come so far, and on our honeymoon; we’d found the great winemaker and now we would go away because I could not speak French. Then, he looked over his shoulder and waved for us to follow.
He took us inside and his assistant explained that Monsieur Foreau was very busy, but if we were interested in buying some wines, he would allow her to have us taste them. This must have been what he asked me. We were again at a loss. We would be getting on a train for Paris and flying home soon. She asked, “Not even one bottle?” Of course, we would buy one! So, the great man headed into the interior of the house, his assistant poured us tastes of several of his wines and we purchased a bottle.
We marveled, as we sat on our hotel room’s balcony in Paris enjoying his handiwork, that a man so accomplished, whose reputation was intimidating and whose wines were so elegant and expressive was still a simple, nondescript Frenchman in a small town.
Photo Credits: Photo 1: Pinterest; Photo 3: Google
To read the French translation: Continue reading