Loire Valley: That Time I Bought Wine For My Grandkids

In between Chinon and Tours there is a tiny little town called Saint Martin le Beau. In it, there is a tiny little winery called Domaine Flamand Delétang. It’s run by a little family, the Flamands, residents of Saint Martin le Beau, and the winery is, in fact, so small that they only make wine for the local restaurants and surrounding towns. And some of their friends.

(I’m linking to the winery’s website here, mainly because of the quality of Olivier Flamand’s mustache. It is even better in person.)

I actually can’t recall how I found this particular winery, but it ended up on our list and by god, we were going to visit it.

After getting lost in the French countryside for a while (and experiencing a totally subpar tasting where we showed up at a tasting room located in someone’s living room and were told we had to taste quickly because it was “almost lunchtime” (it was 11:15am)) we finally found Saint Martin le Beau. The town was so small and so quiet that we assume (and I still believe) there are about 15 residents.

There was one little road in the entire place, so we were quickly able to locate the winery. It’s tasting room was up a little driveway, in an old stone building. We were following the “dégustation” (tasting) sign up toward the building when a woman suddenly flew out of the screen door in a building to our left. She had her mouth full of food. It was lunch time, she said. (Of course it was. France - the country of perpetual lunch.) Come back in an hour.

We wandered back to our car, Emma mildly irritated in her unfailingly polite English way, and me fuming with my American impatience and indignation at the obvious disregard the French have for serving customers and therefore making any money. There was nothing else to do, so we literally drove our car to a cathedral, sat on the stone steps (that smelled like pee) and proceeded to consume an entire bottle of wine while we waited. When in France, right?

An hour (and some) later, we were finally able to taste some wine. Not that the Flamands were done with lunch. No. They were still eating when we came back over an hour later. But, after I walked up the driveway yelling “BONJOUR!!” they all hurried out of the house. (I took to yelling “Bonjour!!” consistently throughout the trip, usually whenever I walked into a shop or a tasting room and felt the French were intentionally ignoring me, the way that they compulsively ignore everyone. Emma was horrified.)

Madame Flamand led us into the tasting cave. (Everyone in France who is in the wine industry has a cave.) The bottles were all set out, unlabeled, with the varietals and dates written on the bottles in chalk. We started tasting through the whites, which were all chenin blanc. The soil of the Loire shown in these wines; the character of what used to be an ancient sea bed making itself known with hints of oyster and saline accompanying the natural melon and honey flavors of French chenin blanc.

After a while, Madame Flamand grabbed a bottle from the far end of the shelf. This was the 2003 L’Or des Petits Boulay, another of their chenins. They usually didn’t let people try it, but it was already open so would we like a taste?

I don’t know if it was the coolness of the cave, the bottle of wine we had just consumed, or the country of France going to my head, but this wine sent me off my feet and straight into a state of wine bliss. The chenin was aging perfectly. A beautiful balance of fruit and acidity, with mango, pineapple, sweet orange blossom and honeysuckle marinating with that acidic Loire Valley salinity that makes the wines from this region world class. The wine lingered on my tongue, with a finish that lasted forever and a day.

I was sold. And Madame Flamand knew it. I asked her if she would sell me a bottle. She eyed me up and down and then looked at Emma to translate. “Only if you age it for 100 years,” she said.

I nodded, furiously. Because, 100 years? I totally got this. It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. JUST GIVE ME THE WINE.

“Well,” she said after a moment, “at the very least, age it for 80 years. I know you Americans are impatient.”

I smiled, forked over my credit card, and 70 euros later (!), walked out clutching my bottle of chenin that I was now planning to age for 100 years.

It remains unclear if I was totally overcharged, but what I do know is that the wine was spectacular, and that it is now almost in it’s 3rd month of its 100 year required aging period. Only 1200 months to go.

PS - I actually have no children, so "buying a wine for my grandkids" is a somewhat aspirational statement. It could very well be that I drink this wine by myself, while toasting myself from my nursing home bed.