Thursday, February 24, 2005

terroir - a tasting at chateau rayas

Today is Julian's birthday and also the first day of three glorious months AT HOME!
Because I am a marvellous wife who picks up large hints, I had arranged for a wine tasting at the infamous Chateau Rayas after lunch in the bustling Chateauneuf Brasserie, 'La Mere Germaine'.

We have bought wine for a year or two now from Emanuel Reynaud at Chateau des Tours (the nephew of the Great late Jacques Reynaud of Rayas) and Emanuel had brought his family to a concert I put on at Crillon last christmas. Since then we have been mutual admirers. He, in charge of his uncle's legacy since his death in 1977, agreed to give us a tasting.

The place is the antithesis of the money spinning posh chateau (even though a 1978 bottle will set you back £859.57 at Bury Bros. and Rudd) and more along the lines of the Sicilian couple at the beginning of the film Mondovino - all nature, passion and honesty. Emanuel took three glasses ("Je vous tiens compagnie") from a tacky rack and led us up a crumbling dark staircase to the attic where he keeps the 2004 whites in stainless steel vats. Pouring from a hose, he guided us through the Fonsalett and Rayas made with grenache blanc and clairette, and informed us that the wine would be ready in 20 years, though you could get a sense of it in the 'empty glass' and the 'empty mouth'. Then, clambering in the half light to the reds he took up his mallet and mega-pipette and we entered a musty cellar filled with oak barrels. Each of these held the nectaroid promise of one small parcel of land (one grenache parcel facing the sunrise, one the sunset and one in the middle), which will be artfully constructed together and bottled this spring, and released in 2006/7. Alone with the becapped magician in his alchemical cave, with tobacco and red fruits dancing on our tongues and in between rather a lot of sniffing, slurrpping and guzzly sounds, we discussed a small birthday present for his wife and a few friends of a concert in early June. Now we are talking a possible high quality bartering...

We left, laughing about our paupers' request for an empty bottle for still life purposes, and took his tour into the beloved woods which he says are so much part of the character of the grape, through baby vines with high aspirations and the bonsai intensity of the grandfathers. We were deeply touched by Emanuel and his honest quest for poetry in a glass.


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