Open House: Château du Petit Thouars

With food and wine having pride of place, France is a hedonist's paradise. For me, it was more of a linguistic paradise. I came here with little more than a passing appreciation for the country's gastronomic wonders and a palate in dire need of shaping and schooling. Nearly seven years and considerable progress later and I wonder how I ever managed to nourish myself before I moved given such limited food preferences. As proud as I am to say that living in France has broadened my tastes in invaluable ways,  there is one area in particular where I remain shamefully unenlightened.

Le vin - the country's lifeblood, its prized elixir and, according to my father-in-law, the only thing worth drinking - continues to escape me. I have a few trusty favorites but ask me to articulate why I enjoy them or where they fall in the vast spectrum of varieties and I'll struggle to tell you. But I'm optimistic. Next weekend I'm off to the Loire for the open house at the Château du Petit Thouars, a 30-acre vineyard in the village of Saint-Germain-sur-Vienne that has been in the du Petit Thouars family since the 17th century. My goal is to return more confident and discerning about wine and if Sébastien du Petit Thouars has any say in the matter, it's almost certain I will. To properly prepare for our trip, I caught up with Sébastien to talk about the business and what we can expect over Easter weekend.

Tell us a little bit about the Château and what you do. 
The Château du Petit Thouars has been in the family since 1634. We found maps documenting vines on the property as far back as the 18th century, but it's really when my parents planted new feet vines in 1975 that the exploitation became a professional winery. I joined the team in the fall of 2008 to develop the sales, the marketing and the communication of the château. Export-wise we are now present in the US, China, Belgium, the UK and Australia; we have won several commendations at the Decanter World Wine Awards, the International Wine Challenge and are regularly featured in the Guide Hachette des Vins and other wine publications.

What is the one thing novices, like myself, should understand about wine?
That wine is for everyone! It should make you smile and want to share with your friends. For me, it all starts when you find the wines you like and the ones you don't. Then you build on that and refine your knowledge.

Is there really a right and wrong when it comes to pairing wine with food? 
In my modest opinion, it's all about the fun of remembering, imagining, testing combinations of flavors, acidities, bitterness, textures and asking yourself about what you're really looking for in a pairing: contrast, fusion, complexity, comfort, etc. No one should be afraid to ask and inquire. I regularly ask the manager of my local wine shop to help with suggestions

Among the many wine bars in Paris, which should oenophiles consider- any favorites?
 I like going to La Cave du Daron, Avenue Parmentier in the 11th. Jean-Julien has a great selection of wines, leaning more towards organic choices, he's great fun, plays nice music and has great planchas of cold cuts, patés, rillettes, boudin and cheeses for which I have a real weakness. I also enjoy going to the two Wine By One opened by Stéphane Girard. They offer a great selection of wines and champagnes available by the glass from around the world, including Château du Petit Thouars. The staff is helpful and friendly and they have a nice selection of nibbles to share with friends while sipping your wine. I also like La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in the 6th. A very nice selection of wines, maybe more classic, but that's not a bad thing by any means.

Your wines have made their way overseas, most recently to my hometown - Philadelphia! What has the feedback been thus far and will you expand your offering? 
Our Cuvée Réserve red 2009 and Crémant de Loire Brut Blanc, both made from 100% Cabernet Franc grapes, have been available at selected PLCB shops in Philadelphia* for 3 months and the feedback has been great! My importers, Heinz and Nathan from ViNo Bliss, are working hard to make sure they're available in other PLCB shops across Pennsylvania. Our Crémant Brut Rosé will be coming next and we hope that all three wines will be available in New York in the near future. I know there's a huge food and wine scene in Philly, so I can't wait to visit and to drink and talk about our wines with as many people as possible.

*Currently available at four shops including Garces Trading Company

What can guests expect at your open house next weekend? 
We're looking forward to presenting our full range of wines as well as great products from local artisans (cheeses, chocolate, honey, charcuterie) in the region. We'll also be holdng commented visits of our cellar with members of our team and opening a special room dedicated to the amazing lives and travels of some of the illustrious members of the du Petit Thouars family. Last year we had a great turn out and this year we're partnering with Radio France Bleu Touraine, so we're looking forward to a busy Easter weekend!

If you happen to be in France between March 30-April 1st, don't miss the opportunity to visit the vineyard, taste the du Petit Thouars wine and meet the team. And keep an eye out for their wine on your home turf!

Château du Petit Thouars
37500 Saint-Germain-Sur-Vienne
+33(0)2 47 95 96 40
Open House:
March 30: 2pm-7pm
March 31/April 1: 10am-7pm
Updates on Twitter: @Chateaudptwines

{Photo 1, Sébastien du Petit Thouars; Photo 2/3: Benjamin Albarède}
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