June 23, 2009 / 3:04 PM / 10 years ago

Speed dating... for winemakers

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - There was the promise of passion, finesse, elegance - and that was just the wine.

“What do you want to try first?” asked Pierre-Jean Sauvion at a speed-dating French winemakers’ event.

In a tone that was almost as seductive and playful as his Muscadet, Sauvion, 31, declared, “I am a pleasure maker. I don’t make blends. I make marriage. I’m a winemaker from the Loire.”

Like speed-dating French winemakers were given 30 minutes to promote themselves. But instead of assessing a potential life partner, the winemakers tried to impress some of the top U.S. wine writers with their latest vintages at a French restaurant.

Sauvion, the manager and chief winemaker at his family’s vineyards, compared his job to that of a chef.

“I’m like that. I choose the grapes I want, the methods that I use, to make the wines that I want. And I want my wines to give pleasure to everyone who drinks them,” he said.

He offered his Sauvion Muscadet Sevre et Maine 2007 explaining that when he made this wine of Melon de Bourgogne grapes, he had in mind two people sitting on a terrace on a sunny afternoon.

“This wine is perfect for that. It is round, but not huge and it is fresh and fruity and I make this wine because I want to introduce myself. To get the conversation going,” Sauvion said.

Before quickly moving on to the next person, he poured what some would call his signature wine - Sauvion Haute Culture - Chateau du Cleray 2007, Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur lie. It is also 100 percent Melon de Bourgogne, but the difference between the two is astounding.

The wine spends six months on the lees - dead yeast particles - that give the crisp wine complexity, structure, and the aromas of a flower-filled garden.

“The lees feed the wine. They also give it a fizziness when you first taste it. It makes you feel happy ... and we keep the wines on the lees because the yeast prevents oxidation and keeps the wine fresh,” he said.

Next up was Vincent Cruege, the 44-year-old winemaker in charge of Andre Lurton’s white wines from the Pessac-Leognan appellation of Bordeaux.

Though both men come from winemaking families their styles couldn’t be more different.

While Sauvion concentrates on single varietals, Cruege is a matchmaker — someone who marries Semillon with Sauvignon Blanc and a bit of Muscadet to capture what could be called Andre Lurton’s trademark white: Chateau Bonnet Blanc, 2008.

“When you drink this wine you are in the meadow, the smell of white flowers just fills the nose. You can drink the sunshine,” he said, unscrewing the top.

A screw top? If France is tied to tradition, Bordeaux is bound by it.

“Yes, it is daring,” Cruege conceded, “but it is only a commercial risk, not a quality risk. The screw cap is so much better for the wine. And at Andre Lurton we are always open to new things, things that can only improve the wine.”

Like speed dating, there was not be enough time to find the perfect wine, or mate, but there were certainly many intriguing candidates from which to choose.

Editing by Patricia Reaney

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