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Touraine

Touraine has been on my mind this summer… but not for reasons that other attractive, cultured New Yorkers might imagine. Nevermind the numerous Renaissance châteaux dotting the landscape, once ancient strongholds of Angevin kings. Forget the fabled meeting place of Joan of Arc and Charles VII. Shove off, Descartes; run away, Rabelais. Nope, for me Touraine is the place to go for great values in wine made from Gamay. Why? Because Gamay is sexy.


Some of the great stars in winemaking, vignerons extraordinaire, do their good work in Touraine. Chief among these is Thierry Puzelat, who parties hard, dresses well, and rigidly adheres to natural vinification practices. His wines are a solid reason to stick with reds on even the hottest summer nights. I personally experienced a brief out-of-body experience, became delusional with joy, after a glass of the subject of this post. So, that’s not true. But everything that follows is totally factual, almost.

The 2009 Clos du Tue-Boeuf “La Butte,” made entirely from Gamay, is the kind of wine you’d want to order on your third date, preferably one of those cultured New Yorkers mentioned previously. It isn’t expensive, and it doesn’t have the cachet of big-name Burgundies made from the ever-sensual and potently loamy-luxurious Pinot Noir. Swirl the glass, however, and you will stop everything else you are doing. You will cease to pay attention; you will risk your rapport with the new girl/boy, and you will sniff. Plump berries, cherries and raspberries with a nice tangy snap, will waft upwards. Swirl, sip, and the acidity comes into play, rocketing you to the wine’s next dimension. By now your date is either going very well, as your girl/boy gets into the action in his/her glass, or you have been dumped. Who cares? Beautiful balance, quenching finish. Goddamn.

Put a chill on it. Day or night, open this and say something romantic. It’ll work. $13.
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Sometimes, I want to let loose and try wines based purely on the recommendations of strangers. On those rare days, I imagine strolling into a shop and ambling along until some helpful salesperson catches sight of me. “Oh,” I would respond offhandedly do their polite offer of assistance, “I was looking for a wine that smells vaguely of rose petals, cherries, and ferret.” A truly courageous connoisseur would look me dead in the eye and ask me: “Ferret, or weasel?” That, or they’d slowly back away and leave me to my browsing. More productive sessions of this sort would almost always land me with an interesting bottle for the weekend.

While this has never once in fact happened, I would like to try it. If I did ask for wine showing berries, roses, and faint notes of animal, it might well net me a bottle of the 2008 Rouge Madon, from genius natural winemaker Christian Venier; Madon is the hamlet in Touraine where he produces his wines. On pouring this wine into a glass, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful color, a pale garnet: perfect for a wine made entirely from Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais. Delicious aromas of, yes, cherries, cranberries, gamy musk, and slight floral notes dance a little dance. Then you find out, on tasting, that this is simply an ethereally beautiful woman cleverly disguised as a bottle of wine. Bright, excellent acidity zings like juicy lightning, red fruits, tender finish. Unbelievably tasty, and affordable: $16. Drink this with a slight chill, pair with thinly sliced salami, or prosciutto.