A Pauline conversion

Christopher Pincher discovers a family wine business in the south east of Sancerre

On Wine

June is a month of solstice and celebration; of lazy afternoons and languorous evenings when the sun snubs all beseeches to set and the moon, when she rises, brightens the earth. Nature is in full rapture; its colours are of vivid intensity and the only light that fades is the memory of February’s never-time.

The poet Robert Browning adored summer; indeed, he chased it to Italy and remained there to his end. He wrote about it too, most memorably in his long poem “Pauline”, but also in the much shorter “One Way of Love”, in which he pines for his lover, lamenting

All June I bound the rose in sheaves.

Now, rose by rose, I strip the leaves.

And strow them where Pauline may pass.

She will not turn aside? Alas!

If Homer’s Helen launched a thousand ships so this eponymous woman unleashed a short-lived craze for her name as mid-Victorians queued to christen their daughters after the poet’s creation. Amongst these Browning babies was Pauline Louis from Thauvenay, a village in the south-east of Sancerre some century and a half ago.

Though the evangelical nonconformist Browning might have been pleased at Pauline’s name, it is doubtful he would have approved of her profession. For Pauline established her family’s reputation for quality wine-making which continues to this day, now under the watchful eye of her great-grandson Eric Louis, whose labels bear her name and likeness.

Eric knows what he is doing. He limits his yield to a tiny parcel of land, tends his vines with organic care, and prunes and picks his grapes with special attention. The fruit is then pressed slowly over several weeks to preserve its most delicate flavours.

Finally, a relentless round of tasting (it must be tough) sieves the best from the rest to deliver, in this case, a wonderful white. The Sancerre Cuvée Pauline is possibly the Domaine’s most precious, and the 2015 is particularly good. Its ripened fruits roll around the mouth, vanilla competing with zestier and more exotic strains to excite the palate. The finish is cool and smooth with just a touch of acidity for the endnote. Personally, I think it is best enjoyed in the open air, which is safer these days, as the sighs of summer complement its fragrant nose and cooling draw. We may have to live with social distance for a while longer, but a little of Pauline can lift our social spirit.

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