OCTOBER DIRT: FROM THE LOIRE TO BORDEAUX – WINES WITH A STORY
We like to have our Club Dirt wines to have a story behind them, a reason that we’ve paired them up for you. Not just because they are delicious and we want you to drink them, though that’s a pretty good reason, but the story gives you a connection to the wines and the people who craft them.
This month we have a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley and a Merlot-based blend from Bordeaux. The story does not immediately show itself. But, there is some Cabernet Franc in the Bordeaux (25%) and this is certainly an excellent opportunity to study the varietal characteristics of Cabernet Franc, which we will touch on. But the similarities between these two estates struck me as rather interesting. Both farm organically and biodynamically. Both estates are relatively new but the winemakers are true traditionalists. Winemaker Thierry Germain started his winemaking journey in Bordeaux before settling in the Loire. And both wines reflect their terroirs superbly. Let’s dig deeper.
Roches Neuves Saumur Champigny Rouge ‘Cuvee Domaine’ 2015 – $24.99/BTL
Winemaker Thierry Germain’s domaine, Roches Neuves, has vineyards planted in the Saumur and Saumur-Champigny appellations. He was influenced by Charly Foucault of Clos Rougeard and like Charly, his wines are pure and focused. His goal is to produce Cabernet Franc with finesse and drinkability, while avoiding rusticity, too much vegetal character, and hard tannins that can be associated with the varietal. You want some of those characteristics to come into play, but you want balance. By harvesting his fruit a little earlier than his neighbors, he gets fruit that is fresh and vibrant.
This is 100% Cabernet Franc and there is no question about it. On the nose it exhibits a savory persona; notes of pencil lead, roasted meat, green herbs, and pepper. It’s bright on the palate with notes of blackberry, black currant, sage, rosemary, and graphite. Everything is woven together nicely in a tapestry of earth, herbs, and dark fruit. It’s remains light on it’s feet, that acidity raising it up. Pair this with a super simple Salt and Pepper Roast Chicken.
Chateau Bellegrave Pomerol 2012 $48.99/BTL – $48.99/BTL
Chateau Bellegrave is located in southern Pomerol. Merlot is the dominant grape in Pomerol and plays a large part in making the wines rich, smooth and approachable at an early age. Cabernet Franc is also often present, adding structure and an element of savory spice. The vines are situated on a mix of clay and sandy soils and are between 35-60 years old. Winemaker Jean Bouldy purchased the vineyards in 1951, his son Jean-Marie now manages the estate. The estate has been certified organic since 2012 and under Jean-Marie’s guidance, has transitioned from zero-chemical farming to biodynamics.
The Bellegrave Pomerol is mostly Merlot (75%), with some Cabernet Franc (25%). It offers up a beautiful nose of raspberries, red currants, violet, wet clay, and a powdery note like crushed red cherry candies. Silky on the palate with notes of red fruit, graphite, iron, brown spice, and a touch of cedar. It’s well-balanced with nicely integrated acidity and tannin. This is a perfect example of Merlot and Cab Franc working well together, the Merlot’s plush fruit balanced by Cab Franc’s savory minerality and spice. This wine, like the Roches Neuves, shines best with simply prepared dishes, try this very straightforward recipe of Grilled Lamb Chops.