Sorry to disappoint you. This post is not about a book or an essay by the philosopher, writer, composer and botanist of Suisse-French origin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). It’s all about another attractive aspect of the Loire Valley: wine!
Noble Joué is one of the lesser known Loire wines. It’s produced by only a dozen wine growers situated between two of the Loire River’s tributaries: the Cher and the Indre. They are scattered over 5 villages south of Tours: Joué-les-Tours, St. Avertin, Chambray, Larcay and Esvres.
This unusual full-bodied Loire rose, also called ‘vin gris’ or ‘oeil de perdrix’ (partridge eye), is an assembly of three ‘Noble’ pinot grapes:
- ‘pinot meunier’ or ‘gris meunier’ for 50 to 60% gives it its fruity flavour.
- 'pinot gris’ or ‘malvoisie’ for 30 to 40% adds body.
- 'pinot noir' for 10 to 20% gives the wine its typical character.
We visited ‘Les Frères Rousseau’, who probably are the most prominent producers of Noble Joué in Esvres, in 2006. Bernard and Michel are the forth generation of a family that has been producing Noble Joué since the end of the 19th century. The wine itself goes way back in time. It is said that this ‘vin gris’ could already be found on the table of Louis XI.
At ‘Rousseau Frères’ , it being a family business, we were warmly welcomed by Catherine, wife to one of the two brothers. Besides the traditional tasting session, she showed us around the winery, where they were just in the middle of bottling last year’s (2005) production. Then she took us on a guided tour of some of the vineyards, explaining and showing us the difference between the different Pinot grapes.
Besides Touraine Noblé Joué, the ‘domaine’ produces a. o. a pleasant red pinot noir, a Malvoisie, and a very attractive pink ‘bubbly’: Brut Sensation, made according the famous ‘Méthode Traditionnelle’. We tasted all of them … and, of course, couldn’t resist buying several bottles. Mrs. Rousseau senior makes her own hazelnut oil … and we bought a bottle of that too. It‘s great for flavouring green salads.
It was almost lunchtime, and we had already bought the food for our picnic that morning at the covered Halles in Tours … all except for the wine. When we asked Catherine whether she would sell us a bottle that had already been cooled, she immediately grabbed one out of the fridge. ‘It’s on the house’, she said handing us the already opened but still full bottle. And then she showed us on a map where we could find a sunny picnic area on the banks of the Indre river.
As all wines, Noblé Joué should be drunk with moderation. Especially as it has a very high alcohol content up to 13,5%. It’ll make you tipsy before you know it.