"That must be it," I said to Jonathan Wurdeman behind the wheel. Since my arrival in Paris a week before, I'd been hanging with the guys from Pheasant's Tears--driving, eating, drinking, visiting vineyards (Puzelat and Clos Roche Blanche) and talking. Jonathan's wine partner, and winemaker, Gela Patailashvili, was gallantly squished into back seat with the bags and baguettes. They were weary from their debut at La Dive, and I was weary from my three weeks on the road and headcold. But no time for that. We were hunting down a man who's wines have always impressed me, Reynald Héaulé.
There are some wines that greet you with a smile, then you don't exactly have a make out session or get into bed, but you slip into a long enduring, satisfying friendship/ flirtation. That's exactly the way I feel about the wines of Reynald Héaulé. Which is why when he said, and you will stay to lunch and I don't care that you are four and two of you are vegetarian, I rearranged plans and delayed my arrival in Paris. Oh, my other three friends was Philippe, a nearby film/winemaker who always wanted to meet this supposedly reclusive Reynald, and my two Georgian friends.
We arrived in Saint-André-Cléry, not far from Beaugency, that used to be t a ritzy wine area in the 17c. But now, it might as well be the Canary Islands, (what? they make wine there?)
Philippe had just parked his van, in front of some dreary, British Isle like houses. Reynaldemerged from his vines, in back of his father's house. He is a compact, firm man, bursting with a nervous fervor. He has the quick, fierce movements of someone who's body language speaks even more than his words. There's a tremendous amount of emotion packed into that man. After introductions, we followed him to his vineyards nearby, in the deep freeze that was coming into France.
He has 3 hectares or a few parcels, and a chunk of one in old river bed, with whatever geological matter had been washed in it: pebbles, tuffeaux, silica, silex. So the flat is way more interesting that you might at first think. In his plantings he's followed his mentor Claude Courtois; planted to a variety of grapes. Amongst the chardonnay and pinot meunier (which he is known for) is romo and the sauvignon are some hybrids like marechal foch and seibel (planted in the 1950s), all in extremely high density.
New plantings in the snow, soil bursting with life. Much silex down below. As with his others, extreme high density and along the neweset plantings is a hedge, that will grow up and provide shelter from nearby chemical farming.
I knew that I had been charmed by Reynald's wines but would my fellow travelers? So far I'd become sensitive to Gela's taste. Having rarely been outside of Georgia his ability to sample other wines has been limited. But his palate is very sensitive and specific. He likes strong reds even though I saw him warming up to gamay, but what I mostly saw him cleave to was that nerve inside of a wine that spoke to life.
Tasting through the barrels, he had one, a chardonnay from 2004 that he keeps just for himself. Complex, wildflowery, layered. Then there was the old vine chardonnay: exreme, mint, herbal and lively.By this time, however, the Georgian's were already convinced, it was the 2010 white blend, romo, sauvingon, chardonnay and whatever, which at that point had 2.5 years in wood that provoked the bThe wine really was electric. Gela's eyes said it all, then he said to John in Georgian, it was the best wine he'd had. Like Reynald. The young vigneron smiled has a smile, as if he is packing a lecture inside of it. Even though he's inclined to blurt out comments through the smile such as "2011 was a bad year, I had a hernia operation and my wife left," that smile and the wines, his generosity, were what really spoke for him.
Wines to look for: Contre Courant 2009 (pinot menuier)
Insoumis de Village (field blend)
Rive Droit (chardonnay)