Much has been written about the great terroirs of France. From the Côte d'Or for both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, to the slopes of the Northern Rhône and its incredible Syrahs, to both banks of Bordeaux, it is easy to forget that there are hidden gems yet in France. When it comes to truly great red wines, there is an argument to be made that Loire Valley Cabernet Franc is the next frontier. Long used in Bordeaux as a blender grape, it reaches its apogee in the right hands in the Loire. And within the Loire, it just doesn't get better than Chinon and Saumur. We begin with one of the most legendary estates in the region, Domaine Charles Joguet. Joguet was an artist, who devoted the same diligence in his farming and winemaking you'd only find in the Grands Crus of Burgundy. And, during his day, his wines were selling for a couple of Euros a bottle. His incredible wines were eventually discovered by a young Kermit Lynch, who fell madly in love with them recognizing, ahead of his time, that the wines were among the highest quality being produced anywhere in France. That is still true today, and the estate's Chinon 'Les Petits Roches' is our selection this month.
Cab Franc is perhaps best known for its tendency to produce wines that are distinctly herbal. The grape itself is prone to throw off compounds called pyrazines, which are simply those that produce many non-fruit flavors in wine–from the infamous green bell pepper, to floral notes, and notes of black and white pepper. Though earthiness is part and parcel with great Cab Franc, the best winemakers take pains to extract gently and harvest at the perfect moment, so as to extract a more delicate expression of these compounds. More flowers and less bell pepper. As such, in this expression from a very hot vintage, we find just that. Beautiful red fruits frame the experience, with a smattering of floral notes on the back end, all framed by stern but silky tannins. This can be drunk today or aged in the medium term. It will pair beautifully with a roast bird.
Les Petites Roches, one of many terroir-focused cuvées at the estate, comes from a particular parcel of 35 year-old vines with dominant soil types including gravelly, siliceous alluvial sands and limestone. It is cold macerated before fermentation, after which it is aged in cement tank, allowing the wine to gently breathe without giving any flavor.