A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Romorantin - Cour-Cheverny, Loire Valley, France

One of the landmark papers in the young science of genetic grape analysis was published in the journal Science in 1999 and was titled "Historical genetics: the parentage of Chardonnay, Gamay and other wine grapes of northeastern France."  In that paper, the researchers discovered that two grapes, Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc (also known as Heunisch Weiss), were the parents of 16 other French grapes.  About half of the discovered offspring are of limited importance for wine, but the other half include such well-known grapes as Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, Auxerrois, AligotéMelon (sometimes known as Muscadet), Sacy (sometimes known as Tressallier) and Romorantin.

This paper was extraordinary for several reasons.  The most important finding was the discovery of the parentage of Chardonnay and Gamay, which are obviously two of the most important vines in the world.  Another reason was just the sheer number of grapes whose pedigree was confirmed in the study.  Pedigree analysis is a difficult process (see my post on Ciliegiolo for in-depth info on it), and most studies are only able to confirm the pedigree for single grapes.  Finding a pair of grapes with so many offspring was very unusual and to able to link them to so many important grapes that are still in use today was really amazing.  Finally, many were surprised that Gouais Blanc, a grape which was not known for its quality and which had disappeared completely from French vineyards at the time of the study (existing only in the holding collection of a research institute), could be the progenitor of so many fine grapes.  It was widely thought that great grapes couldn't come from common stock, but this study (and later ones which showed that Gouais Blanc is also a parent to Riesling, among many others) showed that this simply wasn't the case.

Romorantin is listed in the body of the study as an offspring of Pinot and Gouais Blanc, but that's not entirely accurate.  In a footnote, the authors indicate that Romorantin actually didn't match Pinot at one particular site, which is usually enough to indicate that there is no parent match.  There's a red-fleshed mutation of Pinot Noir called "Pinot fin teinturier," though, that, interestingly, also doesn't match Pinot Noir at the same site.  For the most part, berry color and flesh color mutations are indistinguishable from one another in microsatellite DNA tests, so Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc would all look genetically identical using this method, but Pinot fin teinturier has this one microsatellite site (VVS2 for those interested) that's different from the other Pinots.  It turns out that if you run the parentage analysis with Pinot fin teinturier and Gouais Blanc, you get a perfect match for the parents of Romorantin.  For all intents and purposes, though, Romorantin's parents are Pinot and Gouais Blanc and it is a full sibling of Chardonnay and all of the other grapes mentioned in the study.

Romorantin is grown exclusively in the eastern part of the Loire Valley.  There is a legend that it was introduced to this area by King Francis I, who was from the nearby Romorantin commune, in the early 16th Century.  It was once widely grown throughout the Loire Valley, but today is limited to the Cheverny AOC. Chevrny consists of about 450 hectares of various vines, but there is a small region in the southeastern corner of the appellation that consists of about 50 hectares of Romorantin.  Wines from this area have their own AOC called Cour-Chevrny, and they must be made from 100% Romorantin grapes.

I was able to pick up a bottle of the 2008 Domaine de Montcy Cour-Chevrny from my friends at the Wine Bottega for about $25.  In the glass the wine was a medium lemon gold color.  The nose was reserved with subtle pear, lemon peel and pineapple aromas.  On the palate the wine was on the lighter side of medium with fairly high acidity.  There were flavors of lemony citrus, tropical pineapple and pear fruits along with something slightly sweaty and funky which was really only present for a few minutes after pulling the cork before it blew off.  The wine finished with a strong, steely minerality.  The wine was crisp, bright and refreshing which is mostly what I look for in a Loire Valley white. It is a bit on the expensive side for what you're getting, but is interesting and unusual enough to justify the expense.  With enough imagination, you can kind of see how this might be related to Muscadet or to Chardonnay (of the unoaked variety) and fans of those kinds of wines will probably find a lot to like here.


Bowers, J., Boursiquot, J.M., This, P., Chu, K., Johansson, H., & Meredith, C.  1999.  Historical genetics: the parentage of chardonnay, gamay, and other wine grapes of northeastern France.  Science: 285. pp 1562 - 1565.

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