Italy is likely still the capital of local, obscure wine grape varieties, but neighboring France has more than a few too, and Romorantin (roe-mo-ran-TAHN) is definitely one of them. Found in only one short stretch of earth in the eastern Loire Valley, this once nearly extinct white variety in 1997 was made the sole grape in one single AOC: the rarely seen, but slowly growing Cour-Cheverny. The Romorantin we drank tonight however, though made just down the road from Cour-Cheverny in Les Montils, is compelled to classify itself simply as a “Vin de France” because it is produced outside of Cour-Cheverny’s geographical borders.
The vine’s profoudly “provincial” nature, and the peculiarity of the wine made from it eventually led a few French researchers to explore Romorantin’s family tree, and after some thorough DNA probing it was revealed that Romorantin is the “child” of the “third” Champagne variety, the red-skinned Pinot Meunier, and a fascinating little hyper-stud of a grape called Gouais Blanc whose chromosomes seem to be separated by less than 6 degrees from half of the grapes in northern Europe, and that’s no exaggeration either…
So what makes this grape so odd? That’s a tough question to answer precisely with letters and spaces, but in short, it variety that possesses a great complexity of subtle aromas and flavors, many of which are not overtly “fruity” in character, as well as a fascinating salty, tang and soft, but chewy texture.
I put this Loire rarity together with a Loire-inspired menu of toasts with fresh goat cheese topped with braised leeks in vinaigrette dusted with piment d’Espelette, and then a main course of pork tenderloin medallions in a shallot, wine, and apricot cream sauce with a side of shredded and browned Brussels sprouts.
Le P’tit Blanc du Tue-Boeuf Vin de France 2010
Pale, greenish gold color. Distinctive and oddly complex nose of rosemary, mixed toasted spices and grains, fino sherry, yellow watermelon, papaya, and violet. In the mouth the wine is powerful, cohesive, and assertive, with a round, springy core, and a nervous but smooth tanginess with flavors of sake, stone fruits, duck sauce, clam shells, and chestnut honey. The finish is long, intense, and complex, with defined flavors of quinine and cumin.