Loire Valley ABC's: Anjou, Bourgueil, Chinon Don't fear the Franc

Rene Mosse from Anjou
Cabernet franc.  A grape that either makes you smile or cringe.  Indeed we often find that cabernet franc is a polarizing variety, some love it's elegant structure, crunchy, earthy tannins and brisk acidity.  Others deem them hard, green and angular, not fun to drink. I think cabernet franc gets this reputation for good reason, but those reasons are often more nuanced then simply panning an entire grape variety or loving it blinding because that's what 'wine geeks are supposed to do'. The reality is, like pretty much everything in the wine world, the answer is not black and white, rather there are many shades of grey and it's all about finding the style that works for you. You know we love the Loire Valley's wines.  So much to offer, such diversity.  But more often then not it seems that the cabernet franc based wines get the short end of the stick, so let's change that with a little extra understanding by way of tasting a bunch of them. 
Tonight we explore the middle-Loire as I like to call it.  The ABC's of Anjou, Bourgueil and Chinon.  These regions/villages within the Loire are great places for cabernet franc (and a couple other things) to shine.  The tasting wines tonight will open up with a super fun rose` pet'nat made of grolleau and cabernet franc then we will have an excellent chenin blanc from one of my favorite producers before we get down to business and taste some serious franc. 
These wines are perfect for the last few weeks (months?) of winter and will be excellent with those last root vegetables you've got hanging around in fridge.  Join us tonight, we'll divide the room, pick favorites and name names.

Know your ABC's: Anjou, Bourgueil, Chinon!

Rene Mosse, Moussamousette, Rose` pet'nat, Anjou $30
It's not nearly Spring time yet, but if there were ever a wine to make you think those happy thoughts this would be it. Rene Mosse is by now a name known in the Anjou area as one of the best chenin blanc producers.  He also grows some great cabernet franc and grolleau and makes this delicious fizzy pink wine out of it.

Dom. du Closel, La Jalousie, Chenin Blanc, Savennieres $28
When I got to visit Evelyn at the Dom. du Closel seveal years ago it was an eye opening experience.  Her family's domaine has been making classic wines for over a century but it was Evelyn who brought Closel to the height of its quality and focus.  Her chenin is always a powerful one, rich and round with a core of intense minerality. The perfect white wine for late winter and a great alternative for those who love white Burgundy.

Chateau d'Epire`, Clos de la Cerisaie, Anjou rouge $18
Just next door to Closel is the mighty and history Chateau d'Epire`.  Perhaps along with Nicolas Joly and Closel these three houses are in some ways 'the law' when it comes to natural and serious Savennieres.  We were excited to see that finally of this producer's red wines made it stateside, and it's here for you to enjoy! This shows the bright, fresh and fruity side of cabernet franc, the ultimate bistro style. 

Domaine Jaulin-Plaisantin, Le Dolomen, Chinon $18
It seems to me that Chinon is yet again having an identity crisis or that there are just some people making pragmatic wines these days.  A few years ago Chinon was really into making these powerful, slicked up, modern wines; dark, brooding, oak driven wines meant for aging.  Now, perhaps because of a few difficult vintages, producers are heading toward the 'soif' style....and I'm enjoying it a lot.  Here we have a new producer, just 2-3 vintages making wine so far, and this is their carbo-soif cabernet franc.  I think even the biggest haters of the grape will find pleasure in this little wine.

Domaine Guion, Cuvee Domaine, Bourgueil $20
The village of Bourgueil is, as one dear importer-friend of mine once put it, 'the most pissed off appellation in the Loire'.  He's referring to a few things I think.  One, that the clay and limestone soils of Bourgueil tend to make firm, tense and lean wines.  This seems to contribute to reason number two, which is in turn that the winemakers here often don't get the recognition or high prices of their more famous neighbors.  Guion's wines are different then the rest.  One of the original organic and natural producers in the Loire, this is a wine that David Lilly of Chambers Street Wines in New York pretty much discovered and brought to the fore. The wines are always excellent, complex and a ripe deal.  This is one to stock up on.

Catherine et Pierre Breton, Nuits d'Ivresse, Bourgueil $30
The Breton's are synonymous with cabnernet franc, so it felt appropriate to share one of my favorite wines they make in this tasting.  Like I said, Bourgueil has a reputation for being tough, often structured to the point that drinking them is literally tough.  Well, this is the answer to that issue....a gently extracted, semi-carbonic, terroir-soif wine with zero added sulfur.  This wine overcomes the simplicity of a thirst wine yet remains fun like it's namesake, 'Drunken Nights'. 


Comments on this post (1 comment)

  • Andrea says...

    This did make me chuckle, but soduns like you all had a good lunch anyway.It’s always great to discover a new grape. Zuccardi in Mendoza, Argentina grows and makes a single varietal Ancellota, sold as ‘Textual’ – it’s quite a deep, brooding hefty beast.

    On December 28, 2015

Leave a comment