Deep in the Heart of the Loire – tasting a Cour-Cheverny

Whilst in the Napa Valley recently, I was fortunate enough to try a rather unusual wine.

Not long ago in these pages I wrote about a Cheverny wine that I had enjoyed – read about it here. Well, whilst looking at the wine list of a rather swanky Napa eatery I spotted an example of its rare near relative – Cour-Cheverny.

As far as I am aware I have never been in a position to try this before, so I leapt at the opportunity.

Cour-Cheverney is an intriguing wine, the appellation is quite young, only promoted up from VDQS in 1993 and it covers a mere 48 hecatares. However, the most interesting thing about it is the grape variety, this is the only place in the world that grows Romorantin.

This grape was once widely grown in the Loire Valley, but has long been in retreat and today is only cultivated in this one tiny area.

Cour-Cheverny is situated just south-east of Blois and some 30 km south-west of Orleans. It is named for a commune just north-west of Cheverny itself, interestingly 10km south-east of Cheverny is the commune of Romorantin-Lanthenay, long thought to be the Romorantin grape’s traditional home.Loire map 2009

White wines from the surrounding appellation of Cheverny are usually a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, whereas Cour-Cheverny wines can only be made from 100% Romorantin.

One local grower, Domaine Henry Marionnet, claims to have the oldest vines in France, his Romorantin vineyard was planted in 1850 and somehow escaped phylloxerra, I will try this as soon as I can and report back.

Pascal Belliet Cour-Cheverny 2007

A.C. Cour-Cheverny, Pascal Belliet

I had no idea what to expect from this wine, I just wanted to taste it. I sort of imagined that it would be thin and very acidic.

Well, I was very pleasantly surprised indeed, the wine had a fresh and pure nose, slightly floral and slightly appley, but decidedly delicate with the merest hint of attractive creaminess.

The palate was more generous, light to medium-bodied, but quite succulent and textured with a delicate creaminess and an attractive peachy and apricot note. The appley acidity was firm enough to make it crisp without becoming the dominant characteristic, while the minerality kept the palate clean and pure.

Much to my surprise the main sensation was of softness and gentle weight in the mouth, I have read that Romorantin is probably a relative of Chardonnay and the Pinot Blanc-like texture would bear that out. This stuff was really enjoyable and quite delicious – very much its own thing, neither a Chenin look alike nor a Sauvignon wannabe.

On this showing I highly recommend that you try some of the wines from this area.

This is a very attractive wine and I gave it 88 points.

13 thoughts on “Deep in the Heart of the Loire – tasting a Cour-Cheverny

  1. Hi Q
    Have tasted a few Romorantins including Marionnets. It is a real mouthful that needs ageing and has very high acidity and mineral backbone – not quite what I was expecting but v complex and interesting. We’ve put a couple of bottles away to see how they develop. It’s expensive but given the history I guess that’s no surprise. Will try and seek out your one – always interesting to try the lesser known tiny appellations with interesting grape varieties.

    • Hi Cathy

      Nice to hear from you. I am pretty sure that the one I tasted was not a great example, it was really nice to drink, very well made and very enjoyable indeed, but it wasn’t complex – just a nice wine. What’s more it was the cheapest wine on the list at Bouchon in Napa! I have read about a few other Cour-Cheverny and some of those seem to be more complex and with higher acidity than the one I had. Thanks for the comment, let me know anything else I ought to try.
      All the best, Quentin

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  3. Quentin interesting that you have had to go all the way to Napa to taste Romorantin, which appears to be another of the children of Gouais Blanc, whose other offspring include Aligoté, Chardonnay, Melon and Sacy.

    You’ll find here a couple of rather wintry photos of Henry Marionnet’s parcel of 1850 Romorantin vines: http://jimsloire.blogspot.com/

    Best wishes
    Jim

    • Hi Jim, I know its strange isn’t it! I expect I could have tasted it before, but had never really thought about it till recently. I really liked it though.

      Keep up the good work – read Jim’s blog everyone, it is a labour of love!

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