Lionel Messi and Le Coin de Table
First lesson. If you're cashing in your frequent flier miles on 'Business Class' seats to Paris-Charles De Gaulle, don't fly Delta. The stewardesses were perfectly solicitous. The wine wasn't too bad. But the seats and the lighting in the cabin must have been designed by an old writer from The Prisoner. Seven hours after we took off, we felt like we'd been kicked in the tailbone a few dozen times by Lionel Messi. We didn't sleep a wink.
Lesson two. When you check out the train connections for the Loire, a 60-minute layover is fine. Ninety is acceptable. But, after three hours at Gare de l'Est, we were toast -- not that this kept us from prying our eyes open with toothpicks just to have dinner with the most talked about young winegrower in the Loire Valley.
It didn't take long to recognize the freefall of the French economy. Tours, the capital of the central Loire, usually a bustling dining town, was fast asleep. Vincent Ricard shook his head as we pulled into the parking lot at the Le Coin de Table -- improbably located in an industrial strip mall out by the airport. "Almost every French producer who has focused on selling his wines in France is dying a slow death. If I wasn't exporting seventy percent of my production, the bankers would be breathing down my neck!"
As one of Ricard's tasting group buddies owns Le Coin de Table, Vincent brought his own, pulling two bottles out of his leather satchel. Both Sauvignons were just bottled, each from the miracle vintage of 2012.
"Nature did us no favors in 2012," Vincent began. "We had frost in April. In Thésée-la-Romaine, that shrunk production by 30%. Up until mid-July it was cold. We were two weeks behind when the sun finally came out at the end of the month. But, from that moment until harvest, it was unusually warm and dry. Even for the young vines of Potine, the crop size was tiny, a tad over three tons per acre. It was a historic vintage for concentration, but terrible for the balance sheet."
Since 2002, when a 25-year-old Ricard embarrassed producers in the region (drawing the ire of the local cooperative!) with the Didier Dagueneau-inspired mineral complexity of his whites, Ricard has taken the Michelin stars by storm. The sommelier pilgrimage to Thésée-la-Romaine is now well documented, earning Ricard dozens of blue-chip wine list slots previously reserved for Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.
Then came Stephen Tanzer, the stingiest, and most respected, Loire Valley critic on the planet, who subsequently published rave reviews of Ricard's Sauvignons. As Vincent poured his 2012 Potines into Riedel stemware, he beamed with confidence, that familiar devilish smile breaking into a full grin. "Voila, 2012. Le millesime de ma carriere," he announced. ("Voila, 2012. The vintage of my "career.")
If you were lucky enough to have packed your cellar with the 2011 Potine -- the only under-$13 white with the exception of Taillevent's Château Turcaud Entre-Deux-Mers to ever earn an average rating of 4 stars on WineAccess -- you've already hit the BUY BUTTON. If not, it's time to pop a cork and hop that flight and train for Thésée-la-Romaine -- without a single kick in the spine from Lionel Messi.
Brilliant green-gold to the rim, with a luscious nose of ripe pear, anise, and Golden Delicious apple. Due to the unusual concentration of this tiny harvest, there's nothing 'entry level' about the 2012 Potine! Ripe, juicy and lively on the attack with excellent weight and high-toned density, it's the mouthwatering purity of Vincent's 2012s that really sets this vintage apart.