Showtime! (Part Deux)

Angers' Main Cathedral

Of course, setting aside the piss-poor wines and sad stories at trade shows, there are some good things.  Like getting to see the wineries I work with up close and personal.  Case in point: after the fairs in Montpellier, I made my way north to the city of Angers, in the Loire Valley, a few hours south of Paris.  There, I met up with both Jean-Pascal Aubron (who makes a delicious and best-selling Muscadet – more on him very soon) and Pascal Pibaleau (he of the super-popular fizzy sparkling Grolleau, La Perlette, among other wines).

The Apocalypse Tapestry

Or like getting to explore really pretty parts of France?  How is it no one ever told me how pretty Angers was?  Even enshrouded in a thick veil of cool fog, this city was a treasure trove of medieval architecture.  From the ancient château with its world-famous Apocalypse tapestries to the winding, cobble-stoned streets, I felt like I had been transported back in time.  I half-expected a mounted knight to come around the corner at any moment.  It really is that lovely of a town.

Pascal Pibaleau in his fields in Azay-le-Rideau

But, I was here for work.  So I wandered through the Loire Valley Wine Show, checking things out.  This was a welcome respite after tasting one low-acid, super extracted wine after another in the South: loads of high-acid, bright wines that really cleaned your palate instead of hammering them with their presence.  Of course, we’re talking different grapes, different terroirs, and different ways of doing things.  So some variation is to be expected.  Come on, I mean, vive la diffèrence! And the Loire Valley is somewhat like Burgundy, home to real terroirists, folks who passionately believe in their land and the effect it has on the wine they make.  Which, as a geek, I find super cool.

Now that's some sediment!

Pascal Pibaleau would be one of those terroirists, trying to make balanced wines that speak of their place.  In his case, it’s a small, certified Organic domaine of 15 hectares (approx 37.06 acres) around the town of Azay-le-Rideau, about an hour east of Angers.  Many of his vines were planted in the post-war years, but he does have a few vines of Grolleau planted in 1945 from which he makes the sparkling Grolleau, la Perlette.  FYI, the 2010 Perlette will be a fascinating assemblage of 80% Grolleau and 20% Gamay.  And 20% of that Grolleau underwent 4 days of carbonic maceration, giving the wine a slightly darker look.  The effect is quite delicious.

Pascal hand-riddling his gyropalette

Whether it’s rotating his gyropalettes to do the riddling, or if it’s bottling and labelling, it’s pretty much he and his wife doing all the work.  We tasted through his wines, including older vintages (1989 Moelleux and 1995 Sec that were fantastic) as well as his currently available inventory (including dry Chenin and a red assemblage of Cot (Malbec in the Loire), Cab Franc and Gamay as well as several different and fantastic bubblies).

Still-fermenting Chenin

His modesty and shyness make him and his work even more impressive.  It’s almost as if he doesn’t realize how good his wines are.  But it’s people like this that I’m proud to represent, and they remind me why I’m in the wine business.


PS: More pictures of Pascal Pibaleau and his vineyards and winery can be seen here.

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