Wine Club Dirt – March 2017

Perhaps the greatest thing about Cabernet Franc is it’s versatility. It has so many different personalities and expressions that it can satisfy any craving a wine-lover may have. Young Cab Franc is fresh, fruity and delicious. It is great with goat cheese, and can even be chilled for a summertime bbq. But Cab Franc can also age beautifully, shedding it’s youthful innocence for something bolder and complex, holding its own when paired with a nicely roasted leg of lamb. Indeed it is one of our favorite varietals.

For March Dirt we will sample three different Cab Francs from three different appellations within France’s Loire Valley. Despite its beginnings as a blending grape in Bordeaux, Cab Franc, in its purest expression, really shines in the Loire. The three regions we are exploring this month, Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur exemplify Cab Franc at its best, especially in the hands of this month’s winemakers.


Olga Raffault Chinon Barnabés 2014 – $29.99/btl

For many years Olga Raffault set the benchmark for Cabernet Franc in the Loire Valley. After the sudden death of her husband Pierre before the 1947 harvest, Olga, young kids at her feet, soldiered on and finished the vintage. With help from winemaker Ernest Zenninger, a former German POW, Olga earned an international reputation for quality. Today her granddaughter Sylvie and her husband Eric dutifully adhere to Olga’s standards. These include hand-picking grapes farmed without any pesticides, whole cluster fermentation, and no de-stemming.

Born from the sandy, gravelly soils of Raffault’s plots in Chinon, ‘Barnabes’ is a delight. After 15 days in stainless steel, the wine is transferred to casks for four to six months. Due to this fermentation process, the wines maintains an incredible freshness. Yet this wine still has a backbone of angular structure, supporting notes of cassis, raspberry and violet. Throw a slight chill on this wine, bust out your charcuterie board and you have yourself a perfect lunchtime treat. We recommend getting a selection of meats and cheese from the Dedalus Food Counter for this one – it’s really all it needs.


Catherine & Pierre Breton ‘Trinch’ Bourgueil 2015 – $29.99/btl

It is a happy and fitting coincidence that Cabernet Franc is known as “Breton” in the Loire Valley. The Breton’s represent all that is good in the Loire, whether it’s their generosity, passion or absolute love of entertaining. They are stewards of the land and because of this, they make wines with minimal intervention. As icons of the natural winemaking movement, the Breton’s make cuvees from their biodynamic vines using hand-harvested grapes and indigenous yeasts. What’s more, they employ little to no sulfur in the process.

As the label so perfectly illustrates, ‘Trinch’ is a German word for ‘cheers.’ This wine from Bourgueil (which lies immediately North of Chinon) embodies the spirit of celebration. Meant to be drunk young, this is a fresh, vibrant bottle made from younger vines grown in gravel and limestone soils. A delightful smack of blackberry, leathery spice and a hint of thyme grace the palate. This is a fruit-forward, tank-fermented good time in a bottle. Another bottle well-suited for the charcuterie board, we also like this with homemade pork sausages made with portobello mushrooms and cheddar cheese.


Fosse-Seche ‘Eolithe’ Saumur Rouge 2014 – $24.99/btl

Our last selection from the Saumur region of the Loire Valley is steeped in history. Fosse-Seche is a small, hilly area of Saumur that began its wine production in the early part of the 13th century by Benedictine monks. Fast-forward 800 years later where twin brothers Guillaume and Adrien Pire are the current masters of this domaine. They produce biodynamic wines amidst a fairytale landscape of bee-hives, goats, and a bird sanctuary to boot.

The ‘Eolithe’ cuvee, named for the distinct geology of the region, comes from soils of flint and clay. This wine, made with 95% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, ferments in concrete eggs and is then transferred to an old beer transport container, where it sits on its lees for 21 months. This method no doubt adds to its unique richness and complex terroir. Notes of graphite, green herbs, and dried rose petal grace the nose as ripe strawberry and blackcurrant round out the palate. Equally enjoyable as an aperitif or alongside a meal of slow-roasted duck.