A Ton of Memories in a Bottle of Vouvray

Normally, on Fridays, I publish a host of tasting notes of the samples I have received. Usually, they are a random assortment of wines, with no apparent connection (other than someone thought it a good idea to send them to me). Today, I realized that I am not only woefully behind in tasting and writing about the samples that have been sent, but I have been traveling so much recently that I have not had much time at all to pop any corks that have been accumulating in my office.

While I would like to confess that all of the travel has been wine-related, that is, regrettably, far from the truth. As I have mentioned in this space a few times, a good friend of mine passed away at the end of November and, while in Pris for his funeral, my father’s wife of 33 years (I never really got around to calling her my “step-mother”) also died rather suddenly.

Thus, this Spring has involved a few trips to both Paris and Detroit (how often does one see those two cities mentioned in the same sentence) to help both my friend and my father sort through the morass left by their respective spouses.

I managed to sneak in some wine in Detroit, albeit in not ideal stemware.

On my trip to Paris, my friend insisted that I bring back a few wines from her husband’s cellar which was populated by interesting wines that he had accumulated from decades of running bike trips in Europe. Each of the bottles has a story behind it, some of which I was there to share and others that will be left untold.

At some point, in between the cascade of flights, I managed to pull this bottle. I figured that after nearly 35 years in the bottle, the wine was anxious to get out.

1988 Marc Brédif Vouvray Grande Année, Loire Valley, France: Retail $30? 100% Chenin Blanc. It is not all that often that you get to drink a wine that is about to have its 34th birthday but when my dear friend suggested I bring back some bottles from her recently deceased husband’s cellar in Paris, I knew this would be the first one that I would open. I knew Nicolas for nearly thirty years, but this wine still predates that by a half-dozen years. I had just graduated from college when the grapes for this wine had been harvested and I had no idea what I was going to do with my life (a double-major in French and Political Science is not exactly a formidable résumé builder). Little did I know that many years later, I would be riding my bike through Vouvray, leading bike tours for Nicolas’ company, and even stopping by this winery on at least a couple of occasions.

I could not hazard a guess as to how many bottles of Vouvray (both still and sparkling) we shared over the years, but I wish, as I sip this golden elixir, that this bottle would have been added to that list. Sure, he was a complicated person who left behind a bit of a troubled legacy for his wife and two daughters, but he was a boss, a mentor, a friend, and even a brother of sorts. Sipping this lovely wine, I regret that I never got the opportunity to thank him for all the shared moments, the gleaned knowledge, and the friendship that he so willfully provided. Yes, we had our arguments and there were times that I might have cursed his name, but in the end, we always forgave one another since that is what brothers do.

My friend and his family lived near la rue Montorgueil, in the 2nd, one of the coolest (and now trendiest) neighborhoods in Paris. We consider it our home as well, too.

Not that it matters all that much, but I prefer to think that he’d be happy knowing that I was the one that pulled the cork on this memorable bottle, all the while thinking of the town of Vouvray, along the Loire River, lined with its ancient troglodyte homes, and how Chenin Blanc, in my opinion (one I know that was shared by him) reaches its apogee in the Loire Valley. But mostly I thought about what it would be like to share one last bottle with him, have one last conversation (or argument) about politics, the French rail system, why he should wear a helmet while riding a bike (he never did), or how Texas (he never visited me here) was perhaps the worst manifestation of the American psyche. No. None of that transpired tonight. Instead, I made a simple yet tasty meal that would enable me to focus on the wine, which he taught me was paramount when opening a special bottle. The wine? While it might not be the “best” Chenin I have had in my life, it was still fantastic and doing quite well 34 years in. Golden color revealing its age, plenty of tartness, and just a hint of sweetness. Yes, a bit like our relationship. And I loved every drop of it. Outstanding. 93 Points.

About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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