A rather rebellious adolescent disagreeing with her father’s choice of bottles for a dinner party is what set me going on the quest of finer wines.
Educated in French lycées, but never having lived in France, I headed to Bordeaux, planning to spend a year to witness the miraculous transformation of grape juice into wine. My first job was to clean out vats. I started – as it were – from the bottom of a vat and worked my way up.
Once involved in the passionate world of wine it is hard to leave it!
I worked for wine importers in London, but missed the proximity of vineyards. Returning to Paris, I washed wine glasses, had a monthly column in a French wine magazine and wrote for various wine and food guides. I also worked in a lovely old wine shop « Legrand Filles et Fils » and opened an annexe for the wonderfully eccentric old Monsieur Lucien Legrand .
He was way ahead of his time: stipulating that the “”cuvée” he reserved in Champagne be ‘non-dosée” and that his Beaujolais be “non-chaptalised” – in other words no sugar added.
He dismissed wines that were not the true reflection of the soil or “terroir” from where they came and outright rejected wines that were “oaked”.
He taught me a major lesson that has remained instilled in me since the early 1980’s: a wine first and foremost must be
“digeste”. It sounds like an old-fashioned idea, but it simply means that one should be able to drink wine throughout a meal, and in reasonable quantities and not feel knocked out by the alcohol content or the over-extraction or sort of up-front jammyness that one finds in modern wines.
A few years ago I decided to take the plunge, search in the Loire Valley for an exceptional “”terroir” and produce my own wine.
I love the freshness of the wines from the Loire Valley. Of all its many different appellations – the red wines from Chinon are the ones I prefer. They combine a certain class with a sensual quality, and always that touch of lightness which makes them “digeste”.
After a three year search I found what I was looking for: a one and a half hectare vineyard in Chinon overlooking the river Vienne. It is immediately opposite the Chateau de Chinon, which belonged to the English King Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart. The vineyard was first planted for the Capucin convent in the early 1600s.
My first vintage at the Clos des Capucins was the 2011 – a vintage which should really be laid down for 5 to 10 years before drinking. The domaine is now on its way to becoming organic.
In 2012, I bought another hectare – a few minutes away from the domaine – on a lighter soil . It produces an easy, quaffable red to be drunk young. It’s organic.
The 2012 vintage is called “Fiona Beeston’s Perfectly Drinkable Chinon”.