Then and Now – Château d’Epiré
Our early history with the Savennières producer Château d’Epiré (our longest standing relationship from the Loire) is one that became all too familiar to Kermit over the years—in 1985, the patriarch of the family, Monsieur Bizard passed away:
“The family was crushed. I was emotional. Tears flowed. And there were problems, they said, because Monsieur Bizard’s regular customers stopped buying once he was gone. Meanwhile, I noticed three new stainless-steel tanks standing on skinny, angular legs in a part of the winery where some of the old oak casks once resided.” (pp 52, Adventures on the Wine Route)
Bizard had supported his winery with a more profitable charcuterie business and his son and daughter could no longer continue to craft the wine by hand—it was too labor intensive and they could not keep their price competitive with their neighbors. The family would now start making their wine in a modern style—stainless steel tanks, laboratory yeasts, filtering etc…
The appearance of stainless-steel tanks in a cellar became the symbol that foreshadowed more than just a change in winemaking style at a winery. Most often, this storyline ends with no conversation, no compromise, and no wine. Kermit would ask that they vinify a small amount in the traditional way for him, but he would hear that that was impossible, more work than before, and the price would be unreasonable. Thankfully, in the case of Château d’Epiré, after a comparative tasting of the modern and traditional wines, the family agreed that they preferred the traditional style and would continue to make wine for Kermit in the way that he and our clients had grown attached—vinified in casks, bottled unfiltered, and labeled as the “Cuvée Spéciale.”
For nearly three decades we Americans have had the good fortune to enjoy some of the finest Savennières made and the wine is still produced in the style of Monsieur Bizard. I say “we Americans” because in fact, the wine we import is not sold in France; it is made exclusively for the refined palates and traditional sensibilities of the American public.
A visit to Château d’Epiré is always a stunning experience. The Château was built in the 16th century and the wine is made in a lovely 12th century chapel.