Friday, December 22, 2006

A Hidden Gem

I hesitate to do this, because right now it's still basically a secret. Wine Spadvocator and other such publications are not touting this wine. I can go to either of my favorite wine stores, Chambers Street Wines in Manhattan or Prospect Wine Shop in Brooklyn and they both have bottles in stock. This is in spite of the fact that wine gurus at both stores highly recommend this wine. And at less than $20 a bottle, it's not like the price tag is scaring people away.

Maybe it's because the Loire Valley doesn't excite people the way Bordeaux or the Napa Valley excite people. Maybe it's because this wine is obscure even within the Loire Valley. Whatever the reason, anyone can buy Cour-Cheverny wines as long as you have a decent wine store near you and a twenty dollar bill. You should try them, honestly.

Cheverny wines are a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, with the Sauvignon Blanc the primary grape at about 70%. These are pleasant and food friendly wines, but they are not the inspiration for this post. Cour-Cheverny wines are made from 100% Romorantin, an old grape that's unused elsewhere, as far as I know. Romorantin produces dry wine with pronounced minerality and sharp lemony acidity. An inexpensive and fun wine to enjoy with fresh shellfish, for example. Typically costing about $12-14, these are affordable wines. These, while delish, are also not the real inspiration for this post (but getting closer).

Francois Cazin is one of the only producers of Cour-Cheverny wines. There are some vintages, though, when weather permits, and noble rot sets in, that allow Cazin to wait longer before harvesting some of the Romorantin grapes, resulting in higher sugar levels and additional flavor characteristics. Like the great Chenin Blanc grape, also a daughter of the Loire Valley, Romorantin might show best in its demi-sec (off-dry) form. Francois Cazin's version is called Cuvee Renaissance and it is superb wine. At $18 a bottle in NY, maybe less elsewhere, I think it represents one of the best values in wine. QPR people should go nuts over this wine.

Approachable when young, Cuvee Renaissance has fresh floral and fruit aromas, with citrus oils too. The flavors are vibrant and pure, with a harmonious balance of acidity, honeyed sweetness, and minerality. I have never tasted an aged version of this wine, but I hear that it has something in common with Riesling, in that the aromas and flavors can take on a petrol quality, and the delineation of flavors and aromas becomes quite thrilling. I will certainly age some of the current crop.

The 2oo2 Cuvee Renaissance is surely gone by now, but if you ever stumble across it you should pounce like a jungle cat! Eric Asimov mentioned this wine in his Thanksgiving Wines column a few months ago, but he didn't identify the wine as Cuvee Renaissance (the $18 price he quoted gave it away). I had a few bottles and was unable to exercise patience - I drank them all, foolishly. None was produced in balmy 2003, but my heart is gladdened to see the 2004 Francois Cazin Cour-Cheverny Cuvee Renaissance, $18 in stores.

This wine is beautiful: fresh and pure tasting, with floral, fruit, and honeyed character. It's not at all a dessert wine (they never are), but the honeyed character does add noticeable sweetness. I drank the bottle over 3 days and the wine was at its best near the end, suggesting to me that it will reward cellaring.

So that's it - my formerly secret amazing wine value recommendation. I warn you though, don't make me push past you on my way to the rack, because I will do whatever it takes to get my share of this wine!

1 comment:

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks, Neil. Love Wine Spadvocator! You should trademark that.