Tasting at La Table, 2012: Château Pierre-Bise

The afternoon was slowly giving way to early evening; outside the shadows were lengthening, and the temperature was on its way down once again. It would soon be well below 0ºC, and – although I didn’t know it at the time – there was a night of heavy snow ahead (see my Pierre Luneau-Papin update for more on that). We had just finished two detailed tastings of the wines first of Yves Guégniard, then of Vincent Ogereau, who was now just in the process of packing away his recently opened bottles. There was only one more tasting to go before we would have earned a rest, and who knows….maybe something to eat as well? Perhaps Vincent and the others were thinking the same thing, four minds lost in a moment of gustatory anticipation; a silence had descended over the room, a silence into which the crashing opening of the door intruded very suddenly. As if to add insult to injury, the open door also allowed in a sudden, jarring rush of near-Arctic air. A face wearing a cheeky grin appeared around the door-jam.

Coucou! Il y a quelqu’un?” cried the intruder, despite the fact we were in full view.

Claude Papin was in cheeky-schoolboy mode and it was clear we were in for some fun.

Claude Papin

Search for articles about Claude Papin and Château Pierre-Bise, either in print or online, and I can almost guarantee what you will find; in one form or another, you will end up reading a treatise on viticulture, terroir, botrytis and wine from this most intelligent and active of vignerons. And no small wonder. A past president of the Loire office of the Centre Technique Interprofessionnel de la Vigne et du Vin, current president of the Syndicat des Producteurs des Quarts de Chaume and a driving force behind that appellation’s hoped-for promotion to grand cru status, Claude has no shortage of authority, nor of responsibility.

Stars of the Layon at RSJ, 2010

Those that have tasted with Claude (pictured above) may well focus more on the thoughtful and cerebral aspects of his character rather than his vino-political activities. I’m guilty of this myself, having already referred to Claude in my introduction to this series of tastings as a geologist-vigneron, a reference to the strong association between wine and terroir which he expounds. When a portfolio of wines express their minerally origins so clearly, it is perhaps no surprise that their maker should be blessed with such a title. And when his tasting room is adorned with samples of schist, carboniferous rocks and similar, it is perhaps inevitable. There is no denying that Claude has an unparalleled insight when it comes to the work of a vigneron. But having become acquainted with Claude a little better over the years it is clear that there is another side to him, one perhaps less readily shown. The man has a very ready sense of humour, which only makes me like him – and his wines perhaps – all the more.

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