By CELIA STRONG
One beautiful aspect of French wines is they are unique to the regions in which they grow.
California has varietals that can be grown, from the same grape, throughout the country.
In France, you can only have a Chardonnay from the Loire Valley. It is unique because it can only be produced from a grape grown there and a wine produced there.
But that doesn’t mean the Chardonnay grape cannot be grown outside of that valley.
Chardonnay is a green skinned grape grown in almost every wine producing country in the world. Chardonnay, more than most any other variety, reflects the soils and climates where it is grown – the “terroir.” – and is easily affected by the winemaker’s style – oak aging, stainless steel tanks, malolactic fermentation, etc.
It is the second most widely grown grape in the world and is very malleable. France’s Burgundy region is home to some of the greatest Chardonnay wines ever, because of the soil and climate.
But across France, on the Atlantic coast, a tiny community at the mouth of the Loire River has a unique soil and climate which produces Chardonnay grapes of a unique complexity.
There are 87 different AC wine areas along the 350 miles of the Loire River, which runs from the just outside the Burgundy region out to the Atlantic. Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Muscadet are the primary white varieties.
Muscadet – originally known as Melon de Bourgogne – was originally thought to be the only grape grown at the river delta. But he Couillaud family, owners and producers of Chateau de Ragptière Muscadet, also make a Chardonnay from their Domaine de Bernier estate.
Domaine de Bernier Chardonnay is not an AC level wine. Because the Loire Valley has no sites that are classified for AC Chardonnay.
But this Chardonnay is IGP classified. (Indication Geographique Protegée) IGP was a new classification in the French wine laws in 2010. It replaced both the VDQS and Vins de Pays levels.
IGP wines do control where qualified wines come from. So consumers are protected when they buy. Always important.
The Bernier Chardonnay was a pet project for members of the Couillard family. Because they felt the soil where their Muscadet grew was close in makeup to the soil of Chablis.
One of Burgundy’s great sources for Chardonnay. The birth of unique! This wine is 100 percent Chardonnay, grown on rocky metamorphic and schist soil. Only about 5,000 cases are made each year, from 6,500 vines.
After harvest, the grapes are sorted on vibrating tables and, then, pressing is done with a pneumatic press. Fermentation is done completely in stainless steel tanks with 80 percent of the wine going through a malolactic fermentation.
No oak aging, but the wine is aged on its lees. This adds weight and texture.
The finished Bernier Chardonnay is clean and crisp with fresh apple, pear and lemon aromas and flavors. And an intense minerality on its finish.
A delicious “copy” of what Burgundy can produce, just from a totally unique source. For $11.99 at Bill’s Liquors. Also, totally unique. Enjoy.