Domaine du Clos Naudin
Standing partway up the Rue de la Croix Buisée, the mid-morning sun was already beating down with what seemed like a Saharan intensity. It was late July, and the Loire Valley was in the midst of a spell of warm and sunny weather. Of course there was always the odd wisp of cool cloud, especially in the morning, and the occasional shower of rain – after all this is the Loire Valley, not Death Valley – but on the whole it was warm and dry. It seemed especially so to me, used to the sub-Arctic summer temperatures regularly encountered at home in Scotland.
I kicked my heels outside the cellars of Domaine du Clos Naudin, opposite the Foreau residence (pictured below), as I waited for Philippe Foreau and my other companions to appear. I was here to taste through some of Philippe’s wines, recent releases and hopefully a few older ones too, and joining me would be a couple of the appellation’s leading vignerons, Vincent Carême and Michel Autran, as well as Yaïr Tabor of Le Rouge & Le Blanc, a popular French language periodical, and one of his colleagues. Yaïr and his colleague were next to arrive; emerging from their car they each began to don a woolly sweaters followed by a warm, fleecy jacket. I looked on with amusement as I felt the warmth of the sun’s rays on the back of my neck. The cool of the cellars was exactly where I wanted to be, to get out of this sweltering heat, and I felt no need to wrap myself up against the cold air.
Twenty minutes later I was standing in the main gallery of the cellars, and as Philippe Foreau pulled yet another cork I enjoyed the coolness of the air, the cellars sitting at a very constant 12ºC all year round. As we tasted our way through the latest vintages I joked that the cool cellars were at exactly the temperature that sees me lighting up the barbecue in Scotland. An hour later the tasting was in full swing and I felt the same, smugly comfortable in the cold chill. Philippe continued to pull corks, and every time he disappeared to fetch the next bottle he delved deeper into his cellar, each time returning with another bottle seemingly more coated with black mould and dust than the previous. But the cold had no effect; indeed, it is a scientific fact that it is impossible to feel cold with a glass of Philippe Foreau’s Goutte d’Or swimming in your stomach. At least that’s what I told myself.
Two hours later I felt my first shiver running up my spine. Note to self – next time, bring a woolly sweater and a fleecy jacket.