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Château de Brézé has a long and storied history, first being mentioned in texts in 1068, lauded by King René of Anjou in the 15th century and served at all the royal courts. In 1957, when the AOC of Saumur Champigny was established, the owner of Château de Brézé refused to be part of the appellation, saying that his estate's vineyards were the best and deserved an appellation all their own. And he was probably right. Unfortunately, the wines from those exceptional vineyards were terrible. Lucky for us, the winery sold in 2009 to Le Comte de Colbert, who recruited Arnaud Lambert from nearby Domaine de Saint Just to make the wine. He changed the vineyards over to organic farming and began producing truly stellar wines worthy of their source. The 2012 Château de Brézé Clos David is all estate-grown Chenin Blanc raised in stainless steel to preserve freshness. It has the slightly-oxidized note of a great White Burgundy and a lovely richness that allows it to pair with a variety of foods.

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Wednesday
Feb282007

Pure Wine: On the Way to Angers

I write this on the eve of a trip to Champagne and the Loire Valley. Here in California it’s easy to take for granted the opportunity to visit wineries and see vineyards. But the value of firsthand contact can’t be understated. The history of France has left the country pock-marked with contradictions, and vignerons straddle the pull of history and the realities of the modern age. At Domaine J.B. Michel in Champagne, the vineyards are farmed using the philosophy of Biodynamics, a way of thinking that ironically harkens back to times before the Great War. From vineyards a couple miles from the Western Front on the Marne River, comes the Bruno Michel Blanche Brut ($29.99). The land speaks to us through the vines, and these fields tell the story of the tumultuous beginning of the modern age, thanks to the “alchemy” of Biodynamic farming. There’s a similar contradiction outside the city of Nantes, occupied by Germany in 1940 and liberated by the U.S. in 1944. Today Nantes is a French tech center; the encroaching sprawl of the city threatens the outlying vineyards of Muscadet, where growers are being paid to rip out their vines in order to make room for new subdivisions. Muscadet is viewed as a simple wine appropriate for oysters and little else, but the 2005 Domaine de la Pépière “Vieilles Vignes” Clos des Briords ($12.99) flies in the face of that thinking. It’s the product of naturally farmed fruit from old vines grown on granite-based soil. The wine is lively and full of intense mineral flavors. One wonders if the encroaching city is really “progress” or a threat to something pure and unique. Both of these wines give us the opportunity to experience the complex blend of the past and the future that make up our present day reality. —Paul Courtright

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