Drinking in Different Places

I like wine enough now to plan around it. Apparently just drinking it, reading and writing about it ogling it online and on the shelves are no longer enough – wine has now earned a spot in my vacation planning. A few weeks removed from our last vacation, I have been thinking a little bit more about the places we went, the wines we tasted, and what worked (and didn’t).

I think the first point is that tasting at the vineyard is king. We did it in Oregon last summer, and there is something about being surrounded by the vines, at the heart of it all where the wine just seems to make more sense. We got to see that at one of our tastings in Panzano, at the Fonti winery pictured below. It was a small shop, and we were the only people there, drinking in the cave where the temperature was starting to slowly increase as the refrigeration unit had gone out (not to worry, the repairman was on his way).

The view from the tasting room, perched above the hills of grapes and nestled into a hillside was beautiful. The wine was good too, although we realized that Chianti wasn’t necessarily our favorite. We did very much enjoy a Sangiovese rossato – totally different from the Provencal style we usually have, rich and interesting while still super dry and refreshing.

It didn’t seem like as much of an option for us in the Loire in France, where all three of the tastings we had were at the winery. Not that we can complain of course – in two of the three we were at the place where the wine was made, and there is something undeniably cool about wandering through the soft stone caves, dark, damp, and chilly with barrels and bottles as far as the eye can see. Especially cool was Chateau Gaudrelle in Vouvray, where our energetic guide showed us the facility then led us through a tasting of all their wines, a dramatic showing of how many different (and exceptionally tasty) wines you can make with the chenin blanc grape.

While the range of wines made from the same grape was fascinating, I did miss the verticals that we saw more of in Oregon. As a relative novice, I love getting the chance to taste different years and to learn what went on – the cold snap, the late summer, the heavy rain. As a consumer, it also helps me to pick vintages that fit my tastes (though there is still considerable variation between wineries), while highlighting what a difficult job winemaking is.

I was also reminded how much the people make a difference. As someone who speaks neither French nor Italian, I was struck in all cases by the flexibility of our hosts to pivot effortlessly to English. Even better were the conversations that came out of those encounters – wine of course, but also travel, politics, and from our host at Domaine Huet some impeccable recommendations for where to find the best croissant in Vouvray. And it’s an experience that carries on into the future – the wines we tasted, brought back, and have shared with friends, coupled invariably with the obnoxious comments I can’t help making as I try to parrot something I heard a wine expert in the tasting room say – bastardized by the telephone game of time and distance, but forgiven by good friends who understand, and whose leniency is helped by some good wine.
Drinking in Different Places

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