Anecdotes from an Erstwhile Wine Merchant — 1
Now that I’ve finally gotten around to it, I realized that the buildup for the Loyau anecdote or rather the one on the 21 Vouvray, may have spoiled its effect.
That 21 Vouvray became available in the early 80s because Loyau literally stumbled on it.
I’m not sure how much of a Gauliste he was (or not), but when the Nazi arrived in the Loire valley the first thing they sought out was stocks 0f fine wine (a point which made me think twice about then). Loyau’s grandfather, at least, was anti-Nazi and built a hidden annex in their warren of cellars which he then walled off and made look like it was just … a wall.
The old guy passed during the war and everyone forgot until the late 70s what he had done. When the annex was finally discovered, they couldn’t be sure which wines were which until they also finally discovered the coded instructions Grandpa had left.
One day René was working there and stubbed his toe on a pile of wooden cases which he was able to identify and re-label as 21 Vouvray. He let Kermit market several cases of it. It was something cheap, like $100 a bottle.
It was early on in my stage with Kermit, who used the occasion to teach me to make cold calls to a known list of aficionados, one of whom was an Iranian brain surgeon in LA.
When I called his number, I got his secretary, who told me he was not available. But after I told her he could get his hands on a allotment of three bottles (the norm), she said she would call into the operating room and let him know. And that I should hold the line.
A minute or two later Agha Khan came on the phone himself, having left surgery to talk to me. He tried to beg two or three allotments but to no avail. I had my instructions. Poor guy had to make do with three bottles.
It was a bargain. In 1982, sixty years later, this semi-sweet Vouvray had digested most of its sweetness, had plenty of balance and fruit and a bouquet reminescent of an old manuscript into which flowers had been press-dried. It was a delight.