Open season for Bernache, the sugary juice-turning-into-fermented-beverage. This was saturday late afternoon and as I was spending the weekend in the Loire, when a sudden thought popped up : this is Bernache time, how didn't I remember ? I often miss by inattention this narrow window of opportunity when shortly after the harvest you can go to a winery or a coop and purchase this deliciously fermenting juice called bernache in the Loire and vin nouveau elsewhere. Many wineries and coops sell bottled bernache. The bottles are usually closed with a light cap with a hole, because otherwise the fermenting juice could burst out of the bottle with the pressure, ruining everything in the way in the car or in the kitchen. The earliest type of bernache, when fermentation has just begun, is the best, don't miss this stage : the juice is utterly onctuous and sugary and still has this faculty to get you high with the developing alcohol. Later, it's also interesting somehow, but something has changed, the juice has lost its ingenuousness, it has already turned toward the more austere features of the future wine.
With these sweet recollections in mind, I grabbed an empty bottle of water and remembered that I also wanted to buy a case of Jacky Preys's Sauvignon Cuvée Silex, a particularly mineral Sauvignon. So I had an excuse to drop there and fill my bottle with bernache.
Now, what would I do without these wonderful plastic bottles ? Be it for raw milk or rosé in bulk, they've been on every story lately...
I took my motorcycle to go to Jacky Preys in Meusnes, the road is pleasant and it's not a big road, I remember that there was this light truck I had to follow and couldn't pass for some time, making me wondering if I wouldn't arrive too late at the winery and find the door closed. It was not too late, and Jacky Preys was still working in one of the vatrooms, but it happened that I had just missed Jim Budd (the author Jim's Loire) by only three minutes... He was on his way back from the Quincy region where he inquired about the 2009 vintage and had stopped at Jacky Preys, whom he wanted to visit for a long time. That's too bad we missed each other, that would have been interesting, Jim has been visiting many places in the Loire for this harvest. See his post about his stop here, there's a couple of pictures of Jacky Preys.
Jacky Preys says that this vintage (2009) should be historic, it's just exceptional, in his own words, he has never seen that quality in the 45 harvests he has lived through. The health of the grapes, the quality of the juice, every thing is just perfect. It's rather high in alcohol, like 13°, and the only down side is that the volumes are smaller this year because of lack of rain, he says that it's early to give precise statistics (at this hour he still has 5-6 days of harvest) but it's something in the range of 20-25% below a normal year in terms of volume. The quality of this harvest makes him consider 2009 as possibly the harvest of the century. The late season is also perfect, sunny but not hot (21° to 24°C), cool nights with lows like 4° or 5° C, which prevents the bad rot.
Jacky even had me taste a bernache of Pinot Noir, that was also something, with its redish and turbid juice. At the end of my visit, he gave me a couple of bottles from a cuvée of Touraine Pinot Noir 2007 (le Piloris) which he vinified without any added SO2. It's a limited edition, he said, a try on a small volume, but several restaurants in Paris liked it and ordered some. We'll open a bottle soon and see how it tastes.