—by Averill Shepps
I have a lot of wine books, and have written about a couple of them in this column. I have another one to recommend, especially to those of you interested in French wines or who are planning a trip to France. The author is Jacqueline Friedrich; the book is titled, Wine and Food Guide to the Loire. Published in 1996, she is currently updating and expanding it. However there is comprehensive information in the original version about the history, climate, soils, grapes, area food and the winemakers. There are readable maps for each of the areas covered, the Nantais, Anjou and Saumur, Touraine, Sancerre, and the Auvergne. At last the wine labels based on geography make sense. She lists the best producers, rating them in a very understandable way: Leaders, Excellent, To Watch, Highly Recommended, Recommended, and By the Glass. She also reviews the best producers. The book has won many awards, having been named the best wine book of the year by James Beard, IACP(Julia Childe), Veuve Cliquot, Decanter magazine, and Robert Parker. Jancis Robinson has placed it on her list of favorite wine books. I’m in good company!
I carried the book on a trip to the Loire with friends about 15 years ago and used it as a guide to finding good wineries to visit. A gem of a discovery was Domaine de L’Ecu where fifth generation winemaker Guy Boussard was producing superb Muscadets. He named them after the rocks that generated the soils in which they were grown, namely Granite, Gneiss, and Orthogenesis. He proudly pointed out the horse in the vineyard, but I didn’t understand its significance until I learned a lot more about organic and biodynamic methods in the vineyard. The horse’s hoofs were easier on the soil than heavy tractors or other machinery. The first volume of Jacquelin’s update is called Earthly Delights from the Gardens of France. By the time you read this, I will have order and read it!