Complex Loire Valley Cabernet Franc That Continues to Impress

Today’s Story: Domaine des Roches Neuves

Domaine des Roches Neuves was founded in 1992 by Thierry Germain following his move to the Loire Valley from his native Bordeaux. At 23 years old, Thierry soon met Charly Foucault from Clos Rougeard who would become an inspiration behind some of his winemaking practices. Thierry converted his domain to biodynamic viticulture, as well as being certified organic, in an effort to let his vines guide him rather than play a heavier hand that removes truth and transparency from terroir to bottle. This practice helps Thierry’s wines showcase vibrant ripe fruits (thanks in addition to relatively early harvesting) with incredible purity while avoiding rustic vegetal notes. Also, his red wines do not typically have high tannin but rather integrated, soft tannins conducive to drinkability.

When harvesting his fruit, Thierry practices very traditional methods such as hand harvesting and hand sorting at the winery. Further, all of his wines are fermented with natural yeasts in no new oak barrels or tanks. For the wine I am reviewing today, grapes are 100% de-stemmed and fermented in conical tanks. There is a great overview of Thierry’s history and practices here, as well as an overview of his wine portfolio. The domaine’s website also contains fact sheets and an overview of the history and people here.

I reviewed the 2015 Les Mémoires way back in early November 2019, and given the positive experience I decided to check in on the 2016 vintage today.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Les Mémoires

100% Cabernet Franc; 12.5% ABV

The 2016 Les Mémoires is deep ruby in color. I used my Coravin to pour a glass on night one but pulled the cork the following night, allowing this to open up in the glass over time. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black raspberry, blackcurrant, green bell pepper, violets, cigar box, gravel, scorched earth, wild herbs, and stony mineral. Flavors are also of medium intensity, and the palate displays notes of strawberry, raspberry, brambleberry, tobacco, cracked pepper, grilled green herbs, a hint of chocolate, and crushed rock minerality. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but refined tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Fruit for this wine comes from vines planted in 1904, which I think greatly adds to the complexity at such a young age. Given 3-5 more years in the cellar, this will only become more impressive and drink well for probably 5-10 years after that.

Price: $65 (less expensive in Europe). Though not inexpensive, I think this offers very solid value. The quality is incredibly high, while the balance, complexity, and power in this wine greatly impress me. Certainly my favorite Loire Valley red I’ve had up to this point, perhaps sharing the stage with the 2015 vintage of the same wine.

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