In The Cellar With Nady Foucault
So there we were, in the center of Chace, looking for Clos Rougeard. We had an address that we were pretty sure was right, but there was no sign that the address in fact existed. There were no signs on any of the houses to indicate that there was a winery anywhere around. We wandered down the street a bit more. There was gap in the numbers, 20-22-26 (not real addresses) but still nothing to tell us that this was actually the place. No mailbox with a name. No numbers. No doorbell. So we decided to try the mystery door, which was either Clos Rougeard, or someone’s yard.
We were immediately greeted by an intense mustachioed gentleman. He was, as we were relieved to find out, Nady Foucault the winemaker for the legendary Clos Rougeard in Saumur-Champigny. Now if you don’t know Clos Rougeard you should fix that as quickly as possible. These are wines that are mentioned in the same breath as the other grand-vins of France, the Chateau-Rayas, the Clos-St.Hunes, the lots of Burgundies, the Anselme Selosses. the thing that sets these wines apart from those wines, however, is that they are still affordable (i fear this will change in the coming years).
We descend into Nady’s cellar, an underground maze unperturbed by whatever weather is going on outside. Nady tells us that his grandfather used the cellar and his to travel 3.5 kilometers to the next town during rain storms, but unfortunately we didn’t go that deep. The cellar is immaculately maintained which strikes me as remarkable because of the effort undertaken to keep casual tourists away (our visit was graciously arranged by the fine folks over at Louis/Dressner, thanks Denyse, Joe, and Kevin). Nady takes us through a barrel tasting of the latest wines. We taste the same wines from several barrels in order to get a sense of what he’s going for. here is a winemaker who, far from avoiding wood on general principal, embraces its uses and puts a great deal of effort in using the wood to best compliment his wine (the reds never taste “woody” to me, something that other wines with less wood will do). He uses several types of barrels of differing ages to achieve a balance so lacking in other oaked wines. These include barrels from a local tonnelerie and used barrels from various Bordeaux estates (when asked why he didn’t use Burgundy barrels his answer was a direct “because Bordeaux is closer”).
The tasting goes through all the cabernet franc based wines, from the basic clos bottling to the Poyeux vineyard to the heavyweight Bourg over the last three vintages. We discuss the theory popular on the internet and elsewhere that the extremely cold temperature and longer elevage are one of the reasons that Clos Rougeard is such a special wine. Nady dismisses this immediately, telling us that the reason for the long elevage is the cold, nothing else. The vineyard sites are what makes the wine. the wines are stunning, singular examples of this site specificity. They are similiar and unique at the same time.
We then move onto the white, Breze, made from 100% chenin blanc. This is a wine that, i’m told, needs time and i can’t as of yet wrap my head around it. When i do try an older bottle i’ll let you know what i think.
Tasting through the current releases was a fantastic treat, with the 2005 Poyeux being the standout. Nady’s friends showed up for an apero and he started to really let loose. “I work with cavistes” he tells us loudly, heaping scorn on anyone who would dare sell his wines to a supermarket. he then tells a story about forcing an Army general to pick up all the shells left in his vineyard after he discovered them doing target practice (no vines were harmed). At one point he tells a friend who used the vous form of address that “this a working cellar. We say tu. i’ve warned you before.” i think this sums up the ethos at Clos Rougeard. Here is a vigneron working at one of the great wineries in France with some of the greta terroirs of France making sure that his cellar emphasized work first. It shows in the wine.
Nady is a fellow who is able to tease great wine from so-called bad vintages, like this and 2003. i threw a good roast in the oven, opened this, and had one of the best meals in a long time. Isn’t simplicity a great thing?
Of all the four things i will miss about San Jose, Ramen Halu is right at the top.
i found this blog yesterday and i think it’s the only wine/caftan mashup blog worth reading:
i’m going to live blog my first attempt at Pain Au levain on Tuesday. Wish me luck.