by Fred McMillin
for November 11, 1998

 

On the Loire, It's St. Martin's Feast Day


Prologue

St. Martin is regarded as the patron saint of wine-growers on the Loire. In medieval times the wine-growing abbey Saint-Martin-de-Tours employed 20,000 people. The Chenin Blanc, that makes the wines of Vouvray is said to have been originated with St. Martin. Also, legend says he discovered the benefits of pruning vines to improve wine quality. In any case, in the Middle Ages his feast day—Martinmas—was appropriately celebrated by payment of tithes in barrels of wine.

...from A History of Food by M. Toussaint-Samat

A tasting of 18 Vouvray vintages by the famous house of Marc Bredif demonstrated their striking quality.

...from The Vintner's Art by Johnson & Halliday


The Rest of the Story

So, for your toast to Europe's first great winemaking monk, nothing could be more suitable than a Bredif Vouvray. Fortunately, you don't have to visit France to obtain it. Maison Marques & Domaines imports the wine.


The Wine

Marc Bredif 1996 Vouvray, Loire Valley
By Marc Bredif
Composition—100% Chenin Blanc
Winemaking—"In the great cellars of the Loire Valley, winemaking is exceedingly simple...no oak...a limited degree of lees-contact...an assortment of stainless steel and ancient wooden vessels for fermentation. The magic lies in the climate and the soil." (J. & H.)
Tasting Notes—Vouvray is noted for its crisp acids, in this case balanced by a touch of residual sugar. The New York Times' Frank Prial rates Loire Chenins far above those of California, "which, with few exceptions, are semisweet and undistinguished."
Contact—Michelle Armour, Oakland, CA, (510) 286-2000
Price -$16 range
Food—For your St. Martin's mini-feast, I turn to the Parisian "Prince of Gastronomes," Curnonsky, who was born on the Loire over a century ago. The recipe for his boned Duckling Saint-Matin starts with a 24-hour marinade that includes what else?...1/4 cup of Vouvray.


Postscript

Who planted the first vineyard in Vouvray? Piece of cake. It was St. Martin.

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 

 

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