Women in Castles Down by the (Loire) River

What is the difference between castle and a château? What is the difference between a woman and a warrior? I’d like to think that all could fluidly embody all things. If they have good bones, they are built for the long run. Use what you have and go from there. What I’m saying is: The Loire Valley has some amazing castles-cum-châteaux. And some of these triple-C threats have interesting histories of both the women they housed and the wines they make. Women and wine (and history!)…what more do you want? Besides like pizza. I always want pizza. I digress, let’s clarify the castle/château conundrum: castles technically are more for defensive purposes. Châteaux are technically more residential. In the Loire, the common denominator for the two we are speaking of is that they have housed women, and warriors, and woman-warriors. And one of them became a saint. Women fighting the good fight—may we all be recognized as saints. We’ll start with women at Château de Chenonceau, which housed not religious saints but artistic saints perhaps? CHÂTEAU DE CHENONCEAU This is known as the “ladies’ castle”, for the history of the women who were involved in its construction, use, and winemaking. It is rather spectacular. And rather appropriately situated on the river Cher. And I do mean on. It spans the river like a woman’s thighs astride of their vehicle of choice, sidesaddle be damned. The first woman to hold sway over the property was Henry II’s mistress Diane de Poitiers—it was she that asked that the castle be extended over the river, as well as having gardens of flowers, vegetables, and fruit trees (a very thorough mistress) planted. Alas (for her), when Henry passed, his widow Catherine de Medici was technically the owner and moved the hell in. Don’t worry about Diane. She still got a château (Château Chaumont). YOU get a chateau! And YOU get a chateau! As it should be. Catherine de Medici was a party ARTISTE. Although the parties were political too—she strove to emulate Roman emperors, distracting folks from stirring up trouble by keeping them amused. Her theme parties lasted days. One fêtes was a feast served by topless women. Being on team Free the Nipple, I rather approve. Except like the serving dinner part—I just want my nipples to have liberty in general. Sans serving duties. After Catherine, there was the influence of Louise de Lorraine who, after her hubs passed away, goth-ily wandered the estate wearing all black amidst the walls adorned with (goth or pirate—you make the call) tapestries of skulls and crossbones. Dark! I know. But the wine? What about the wine? I want to write a book about the influence of the women behind Chenonceau, so consider this a teaser. Let’s get to the dranks. The castle in the Touraine but in addition to the Touraine-centric wine, I am throwing in some options from that region-next-door Saumur. For the art of wine by women. 2018 Domaine des Mazelles, Touraine-Chenonceaux Appropriately voluptuous. Not that I know if Diane or Catherine were that. Whichever way this Sauvignon Blanc is full and fabulous. It had a little lees time, no doubt adding to the bod. It is rather tropical for a region in northern France and I am not mad at it. Opulent as Catherine’s partays. 2018 Thierry Germain “Terres Chaudes” Saumur-Champigny This Cabernet Franc is the opposite of a sneak attack. Out of the bottle it was a bit aggressive. Given a bit of time to air it mellowed in the RIGHT ways. Pepper and tannins all wove together and made friends. Roses bloomed. And all was well. 2016 Clau de Nell Grolleau And now for something completely different! You don’t see Grolleau as a single varietal wine that often. And this biodynamic gem is of a very different nature than many of the Loire lovelies I’ve been trying. Anne-Claude Leflaive WHAT A WOMAN. She took over Domaine Leflaive of Burgundy fame. She and her hubby helped revive the flagging Clau de Nell starting in 2008. Sadly Anne-claude left this world in 2015 but her wine lives on. It is of the earth. It is what I described on the nose as Grand-Canyon-trail-herb-mixed-with-mule-excrement. The tannins are not woven in. And yet it is compelling. And I think in two years it’ll fly even free-er. FORTRESS OF CHINON + JOAN OF ARC Overlooking Chinon (the town) and Vienne (a river, one of the several in the Loire Valley), the Fortress of Chinon was important in the 100 Years’ War. Joan of Arc stopped by in 1429 to have a supes cas chat with Dauphin Charles (future Charles the 7th). She had been sent messages from above so was like “hey Charlie, can I have some men to command? God says it’s cool, so it’s on you bro”. He thought sure but before granting her the army, wanted to flex his perceived power and sent her for tests of her “virginity and good faith” (HOW THE F*#K DID THEY DO THAT?) and…well this is another book, but let’s say Joan knew this was the way. And she did it. She led them to victory. Going forward things were less than favorable for her—stake-burning et cetera ya know standard bulls*#t. This is another article. So much to do. I’m told there is (WAS I should say, before the COVID ages), a festival the first week of every August at this Chinon château. Goodness I want to go there and pray to the universe. May we all be delivered from this COVID madness. But...oh my this sounds flip but…here is some wine to keep you at home in the meantime. I just want us all to get through this. 2018 Domaine de Pallus Messanges Chinon Perfectly delightful as well as perfectly affordable. You can just slip a pair of well-worn jeans (I hear that’s a thing I dunno I wear skirts) and you’ve spritzed yourself with a lightly rosemary-d, delightfully floral fragrance and omigosh your elegant self will nurse this glass all night. Or maybe not. Purple violets and herbs, something tangy and pomegranate-esque, silky light tannins with a hint of a grip like the confident casual elbow bump we’ve all adopted in pandemic. Not too complicated, but classic. Like those comfy (theoretical to me) jeans. 2018 Jean Maurice Raffault Chinon Blanc Chenin in Chinon! This has a subtle citrus aura with a wallop of acid and whisper of…Pez? It’s dry and makes me think of a honey-preserved kumquat that has been through something, but had good enough friends to lay it down on a sheepskin rug in a field of sage, and apply healing balms of orange. At first I didn’t think there was much going on, but it really opened up. 2019 Bernard Baudry Chinon Rosé Smells like Cabernet Franc with the volume turned to 11 playing roses and chalk. But like before the dial twist, the flowers and limestone were on a green juice cleanse. On the palate, white pepper covers pebbles and strawberry bushes? Plants? Shrubs? I’m a somm, not a botanist. Let’s just say strawberries grow nearby. Or maybe it is more of a syrup-used-for-a-strawberry-snow-cone-but-not-sweet vibe. Rather a steal, you must get this wine. TO CONCLUDE You know what you need: my pick for a shower castle woman wine. Preferably sipped in the spray with Hendrix’s ‘Spanish Castle Magic’ playing—because so far as I know there is no Loire castle song. I‘m going with the Clau de Nell Grolleau as it is more earthy, and if I am gonna be naked and drink wine may as well go feral right? Feral in the right ways. Under the spray. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Whole Wine - Pairing Optional Goth Wines for the Perennially October Soul Back to School More Than Port It’s a Can-demic Ellen in Lalaland Pandemic-Style Pink Velvet, If You Please: Old World You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Cha McCoy Wine Situation Final Five! With Lydia Richards

Anne Claude Leflaive

Clau de Nell Anjou Grolleau 2016

Grilleau it is. Good nay great. Unafraid. — 3 years ago

Severn, Ira and 16 others liked this

Eurl de Pallus

Messanges Rouge Chinon Cabernet Franc 2018

Easy and confident. If this wine were a pair of chunky heels I’d wear it everywhere. — 3 years ago

Severn, Paulo and 15 others liked this

Domaine des Roches Neuves (Thierry Germain)

Terres Chaudes Saumur-Champigny Cabernet Franc 2018

Yes please can I hold hands with this wine while discussing things like the conundrum that is reconciling quantum and mechanical physics? — 3 years ago

Severn, Paulo and 15 others liked this

Jean-Maurice Raffault

Chinon Chenin Blanc 2018

Give it some time and space and it speaks its (subtle but effective) mind. — 3 years ago

Severn, Paulo and 18 others liked this

Domaine des Mazelles

Thézée Touraine Chenonceaux White Blend 2018

Full on flagrant delight. This Sauv B will be as it wants to be. Which is surprisingly full and tropical for a Loire Sauv. — 3 years ago

Severn, Paulo and 16 others liked this

Domaine Bernard Baudry

Chinon Cabernet Franc Rosé 2019

Gimme gimme gimme I want more. Oh Baudry, how I love thee. So much happening and evolving moment by moment. Gimme more. — 3 years ago

Daniel, Severn and 19 others liked this