Dining out one evening at Le Relais, surely one of Angers’ best known restaurants, I was offered a glass of wine with a bright, shimmering, mid-gold hue. It’s not uncommon to be challenged in this way when dining with wine-interested friends and colleagues, the glass of wine pushed your way with hardly a word – and certainly with no clue as to its origin or identity – for a blind assessment. The gauntlet had been thrown down, although perhaps as a gesture of goodwill one clue as to the wine’s identity was provided. This was a wine of the Loire.
There were six of us gathered around the table, and five immediately rose to the challenge laid down by the sixth. Our heads dipped to inhale the aromas from our respective glasses, and within seconds the names of all the common Loire varieties were whizzing about the table like miniature varietal missiles. Chenin Blanc? No. Romorantin? No. Chardonnay? Said with a slightly incredulous tone, admittedly. No. Sauvignon Blanc? Less incredulous, but still rather unlikely. No again. It wasn’t long before we thought we had exhausted all the likely possibilities. Whatever variety this was, it was surely something obscure. As I sensed a break in the varietal barrage I ventured what was little more than a guess, with Verdelho. I don’t think I have tasted any Loire Verdelhos other than the dry and sweet cuvées from Domaine de Baumard, but the variety is certainly planted around Savennières and it seemed worth a punt. I’m sure you can imagine the response though. Once again, no. All options seemingly exhausted, the identity of the wine in question was revealed.
It was Melon de Bourgogne. From Bruno Cormerais.