On this occasion, we showcased 4 red wines from France’s Loire Valley. The goal was to highlight the Valley’s 2 most prominent red grape varieties–Cabernet Franc & Pinot Noir.
Chateau d’Epire Anjou “Clos de la Cerisaie”– we began with this seemingly charming, fruity, gulpable “country” red wine from the appellation of Anjou. If one were to look a little closer, one can smell the more masculine, gunflint character under the surface, which comes from the rocky schist oriented soils its vines’ roots grow in. Schist is one of the main soil types of the Valley & this wine will give one an inkling of how it shows itself in a finished wine.
Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Rouge “La Moussiere”–we poured this wine next, so tasters could more readily see the difference between Cabernet Franc & Pinot Noir (the grape variety used to produce this wine) Cabernet Franc has an innate masculinity, seemingly firmer structure & is underlyingly more tannic in nature. The other facet we wanted to show, was this wine comes from soils that are lighter & in this specific case more chalky. These kinds of soils help to create minerality & ethereal-ness in the wines, rather than the dark, flinty nuances one gets from schist. It is hard to really pinpoint a classic Sancerre, whether it is white or red wine. Eventhough Sancerre is a small appellation, relatively speaking, it seems to be a special crossing where limestone, marl, clay & sandy soils converge…..& therefore the wines will have many different soil expressions in the finished wine.
Charles Joguet Chinon “Les Varennes du Grand Clos”—in this part of the Valley, the river over the years has done alot of work eroding the soils from the surrounding hills, leave the limestone bare to the surface with not too much topsoil. Closer to the river on the flatlands, sand seems to be more prevalent & the resulting wines much lighter & more quaffing in style. Les Varennes du Grand Clos is a 4.61 hectare vineyard of siliceous chalk & clay at the foot of a gravel terrace with an eroding limestone slope. The vines were planted between 1962 & 1976. I thought jumping back from Pinot Noir to Cabernet Franc would again remind tasters of the difference between the 2 grape varieties. Yes, Cabernet Franc has a very virile acidity in its structure AND the skin tannins are much more evident.
1997 Domaine Chanteleuserie Bourgueil “Vieilles Vignes”–we finished the tasting with a 1997 Bourgueil, a village located across the river from Chinon. The main parcel for this bottling was planted in 1970 (although their site says 40 to 80 year old vines) in sandy-clay-limestone soils. I just wanted to show tasters how these wines taste when the pieces & edges are more resolved from bottle age. Though much more harmonious from beginning to end, the masculinity once again comes through (nothing light & feminine here) with a darker, sinister nuanced core & structure. I would further say, these Cabernet Franc based reds are tasty, rather than delicious.