Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008 | Cabernet Franc, France, Loire Valley, Red Wine, Wine Blogging Wednesday, Wines Under $20 | 5 Comments
Cabernet Franc grapes are grown mainly in the Bordeaux region, where they are blended into the wines. However, the only terroirs that produce pure Cab Franc wines are in the Loire Valley: Bourgueil, Chinon, and Saumur-Champigny. At least in the United States, the Loire Valley might be better known for its Vouvray, and perhaps that’s because the reds might be difficult for some palates to love. Unlike the fruitier Cabernet Franc wines from the West Coast, French Cab Franc tends to be a little more… how shall I say it? “Rustic” perhaps? And I mean that in a good way. It is refreshing to get away from super-fruity wines and enjoy something that challenges your taste-buds a little bit.
I sent Drew on a mission to seek out a Loire Valley Cabernet Franc and he had little difficulty finding one. He purchased a bottle of 2002 Olga Raffault Chinon “Les Picasses” ($18.99) at Arlington Wines & Liquor in Poughkeepsie, NY. Winemaking in Olga Raffault‘s vineyard in Savigny-en-Véron has been a family tradition for over 60 years. Olga passed the vineyard onto her son Jean, and it is currently maintained by Olga’s granddaughter Sylvie and her husband Eric de la Vigerie, who is also the winemaker. Of the 25 hectares of vineyard, 24 hectares are planted with Cabernet Franc. The other hectare is planted with Chenin Blanc.(Trivia: These two grapes are credited as being “parents” to Cabernet Sauvginon.)Here is a bit of information on Les Picasses that I found at The Wine Doctor:
Lastly comes Les Picasses, undoubtedly the most classic and ageworthy wine from the domaine, and some would say also one of the finest examples of the whole appellation. Naturally it comes from a limestone terroir, a lieu-dit where the vines have reached a respectable fifty years of age. The fruit is hand-harvested and the final yield is typically in the order of 30 hl/ha and after fermentation, which is again carried out in stainless steel controlled to less than 30°C, followed by a maceration of 25-30 days, the wine that results goes into large foudres where it will rest for between 12 and 14 months before bottling.
We were very excited to taste this wine. In the glass it is a dark, deep red, and brown-tinged around the edges. It was rather watery, which is characteristic of the wine. The complex nose might have been the most interesting part of the wine for me — it was unlike most wines I drink. There was something metallic (almost bloody) about it. I also was reminded of pine mulch. Imagine standing in the woods in very late fall, or even now in early spring and scooping up a handful of dried pine needles off the ground. After a while I got a hint of marigold, too. Again — a very earthy scent. There was a tiny bit of alcohol on the nose as well, which surprised us as the wine is only 12.5% alcohol.
This is a light-to-medium bodied wine. The metallic scent carried through to the palate and we immediately thought of iron when we tasted this wine. I think Drew put it best when he said that the wine “tastes like a good butcher shop smells.” I know that doesn’t exactly sound delicious, but trust me — it was. After some time we detected sour cherry and unripe raspberry flavors as well. The tannins were present, but certainly not overwhelming, and there was a suggestion of ash on the finish. I found it to be a delicate wine, but Drew argued that “delicate” implies “dainty” which the wine surely is not. Perhaps “elegant” or even “graceful” would be a better a description?
I originally intended to serve the Chinon with roasted pork tenderloin (which would have been great with the wine, I think). However, we’d gone out to lunch on Sunday and were much too full for another big meal. Instead we opted for a snack tray that included Herbes de Provence salami, garlic and red pepper olives, goat cheese rolled in parsley and lemon zest (full credit to Jenn at Last Night’s Dinner for this idea), grapes, honeydew melon, and French bread with butter. I was surprised to find that I thought the wine paired best with the goat cheese bites. The lemon zest brought so much flavor out of the wine and I didn’t expect that. While I think this wine is drinking well right now, I think it will hold up quite well over the next several years. I might pick up another bottle, myself.
Thanks to Gary for hosting. Rumor has it that this might be the WBW with the highest participation level to date, which is exciting. I’m eager to read everyone’s posts. Wine Blogging Wednesday is the brainchild of Lenn Thompson of LENNDEVOURS.
Loire Valley Map Image from Brittany Ferries
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