Beautiful Representation of Cabernet Franc From an Outstanding Loire Valley Producer

Today’s Story: Domaine Bernard Baudry

Domaine Bernard Baudry was established in 1975 by Bernard Baudry in the village of Cravant-les-Coteaux within the Chinon AOC of France’s Loire Valley. Bernard began with 2 hectares (5 acres) of vines though he grew his domain to 32 hectares (79 acres) of vineyards over time. Bernard’s vineyards are planted to about 90% Cabernet Franc and 10% Chenin Blanc, and their soil types vary greatly across gravel, limestone clay, and sandy limestone throughout the Chinon AOC. Though the vineyards have always been maintained without chemical weed killers, all viticulture has been entirely organic since 2006. Winemaking is meant to be minimally invasive, which begins with manual harvest and gravity-fed movements in the cellar. All plots are harvested and vinified separately, following native yeast fermentation with no adjustments or additions. Some wines age in cement vats and others in oak barrels (when they want more structure) before most are bottled unfiltered. The rosé, white wines, and Les Granges are filtered for bottling. Remaining a family venture, Bernard’s son Matthieu joined in 2000 and largely leads winemaking today.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Le Clos Guillot

100% Cabernet Franc; 13% ABV

The 2017 Le Clos Guillot is deep purple in color and opaque. I decanted this for about an hour, which really helps to bring out some of the more nuanced notes at this stage. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing aromas of blackberry, plum, black raspberry, cigar box, green bell pepper, tomato, leather, pencil shavings, wet gravel, and crushed rock. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity, with the palate displaying notes of black cherry, blackberry, red plum, black tea leaf, dried underbrush, green bell pepper, mushroom, and crushed gravel. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but fine-grained tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $35. I think this is a very solid value wine, though it won’t be for everyone. The quality is incredibly high and the complexity at such a young age is great. The only reason I say it might not be for everyone is it’s incredibly terroir-driven and those classic Cab Franc bell pepper and green notes are there that can sometimes turn people away.

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.

An Elegant Take on Sauvignon Blanc

Today’s Story: Domaine Vincent Pinard

Domaine Vincent Pinard is a family-owned wine estate located in Bué in the heart of the Sancerre region in France’s Loire Valley. Though the estate has been in the Pinard family for generations, the current iteration was established in 1996 and is currently in the hands of brothers Florent and Clémente who took over from their father Vincent. The Pinard family owns 17 hectares (42 acres) of vineyards planted to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, with their portfolio consisting of six Sauvignon Blanc bottlings, three Pinot Noir bottlings, and a rosé made from Pinot Noir. Florent and Clémente practice organic viticulture and are transitioning to biodynamic practices, remaining as natural as possible in the vineyards without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or anti-rot treatments. The vines see rigorous pruning to limit yields, and most of the work in the vineyards is done completely by hand (including harvest). Minimal intervention is also the name of the game in the cellar, where the wines ferment with indigenous yeasts and with no winemaking additions. Depending on vintage and cuvée, Florent and Clémente use a combination of stainless steel and old oak barrels to preserve the variety characteristics and showcase the terroir.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Harmonie Sancerre

100% Sauvignon Blanc; 13% ABV

The 2017 Harmonie is pale yellow in color. With aromas of pronounced intensity, the nose showcases notes of lemon peel, grapefruit, passionfruit, honeysuckle, raw asparagus, freshly cut grass, and wet river stone. Meanwhile flavors are of medium (+) intensity, with the palate displaying notes of honeydew, white peach, fresh pineapple, white floral blossom, limestone, and mild green herbs. This dry white is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $52. I think this is pretty fairly priced given its quality, intensity, and complexity at this stage, however there are better values in the $30-35 range for sure. I’d be curious to see how this develops with another couple years of bottle age, but right now this is a very elegant and precise take on Sauvignon Blanc.

Sancerre Unicorn

Today’s Story: Domaine Edmond Vatan

Domaine Edmond Vatan is a miniscule but highly regarded producer situated in the small town of Chavignol in the Sancerre appellation of France’s Loire Valley. The vineyards consist only of one hectare (2.5 acres) and are planted to the Sauvignon Blanc variety as is required for white wines in the appellation. Vatan’s vines, planted on the steepest slopes with optimal sun exposure, are low-yielding and severely pruned to maximize quality and intensity. Vatan also uses minimal additives/treatments in the vineyards, harvests later than his neighbors, and vinifies the wines adhering to very traditional methods in old oak barrels. The wines are racked only once and then bottled without fining or filtration. Since 2008, Edmond’s daughter Anne took over production following his semi-retirement during the early 2000s, though he is still involved as a guide and teacher. Production is incredibly limited, with about 500 cases total produced each vintage.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Clos La Néore Sancerre

100% Sauvignon Blanc; 14% ABV

The 2017 Clos La Néore is pale yellow in color. This is a baby by preposterous standards, so at this stage it needs several hours to open up. Only by the end of the day did this start opening up, and I wish we had the restraint to hold it into a second day. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, showcasing notes of lemon and lime zest, white peach, freshly cut grass, wet river stone, and saline mineral. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity, with the palate displaying notes of meyer lemon, tropical citrus, lychee, pineapple, chopped grass, wet slate, and crushed rock mineral. This dry Sauvignon Blanc is medium- to full-bodied with racy high acidity, high alcohol, and a long finish. Very, very good, but just way too young.

Price: $275 (shared by a friend who paid $200). I can’t call this a good value, but I can see what the hype is after this gets several hours of air. This is certainly an excellent representation of the Sauvignon Blanc variety, and one that has the ability to age for decades. But is it a necessary purchase given the price? Probably not.

Exquisite Loire Valley Cabernet Franc

Today’s Story: Domaine de la Chevalerie

Domaine de la Chevalerie is a small family-owned estate and winery established in 1640 by the Caslot family. Located in the village of Restigné within the Loire Valley, the domain consists of about 33 hectares of vineyards planted entirely to Cabernet Franc. A true family affair, the domain is run by siblings Stéphanie and Emmanuel who joined their father Pierre in the early 2000s. Pierre’s first task he set upon his children was to convert the entire domain to organic viticulture and winemaking, which they received certification for in 2008. By 2012, the domain transitioned entirely to biodynamics and received the Demeter certification. Though Pierre unfortunately passed away in 2014, Stéphanie and Emmanuel carry on the legacy aided by their younger sister Laurie who joined in 2018.

In their goal to produce terroir-driven wines that showcase a true sense of place, the Caslot family goes further than biodynamics alone and practices a minimally invasive winemaking style. All fruit is hand-harvested into small baskets before being sorted, destemmed, and sorted again. The grapes are not crushed, but instead transfer into vat by gravity to begin fermentation with only indigenous yeasts. After fermentation, the wines move to demi-muids and large 400 to 500 liter neutral barrels for aging. They add minimal SO2 and generally bottle the wines unfined and unfiltered.

To explore the family’s vineyard holdings, portfolio of wines, or read more I recommend visiting their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Bourgueil Galichets

100% Cabernet Franc; 13% ABV

The 2014 Bourgueil Galichets is medium ruby in color and nearly opaque. This is an absolutely gorgeous wine out of the bottle, but really needs 45 minutes to an hour of decanting to truly open up and shine. On the nose, I get pronounced aromas of redcurrant, bing cherry, strawberry, black raspberry, slight barnyard, tilled earth, crushed rock, mild chili pepper, and dried underbrush. Meanwhile the palate showcases notes of crunchy cranberry, stemmy strawberry, raspberry, cigar tobacco, scorched earth, gravel, charred bell pepper, and crushed rock minerality. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, fine-grained medium (+) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $30 (might be able to find this closer to $25). This is an outstanding bottle of wine, particularly given its price-point, balance, and complexity. A very solid value play here, and definitely worth seeking out.

A Refreshing Sancerre

Today’s Story: Guilbaud Frères

Guilbaud Frères is a family-owned winery and wine merchant established in 1927 by Edouard and Marcel Guilbaud in the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine appellation of the Loire Valley. Edouard and Marcel came from a long family history of winegrowers and took their culminated knowledge of the land, quality producers, and attention to detail in creating the principles of their new venture. Now nearly a century later, a fourth generation guides the Guilbaud Frères brand and, in addition to sustainably farming around 60 hectares of their own vineyards, purchases and produces wine from carefully selected growers. To check out their broad range of AOP wines, you can visit the link here.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Sancerre Les Chênes Vieux

100% Sauvignon Blanc; 12.5% ABV

The 2018 Les Chênes Vieux is transparent medium straw/yellow in color. The nose is quite expressive with aromas of tangerine, honeydew melon, lemon peel, honeysuckle, grass, slight smoke, and chalky minerality. On the palate, the wine displays notes of white peach, grapefruit, green apple skins, chamomile tea, finely crushed rock, brioche, and bright mineral. This is medium-bodied with mouthwatering medium (+) acidity and a lush mouthfeel into a crisp and refreshing medium length finish.

Price: $30. This is a very nice Sancerre for the price and drinks with beautiful precision while making me excited for a warm day outside again. Pair this with sole, lobster, or roasted chicken.

One of the Last Remnants

Today’s Story: Château de la Guimonière

Château de la Guimonière was a very historic 15th Century estate with origins dating to the château built there in 1487. The estate’s vineyards were located on the hillsides of Layon à Chaume in the town of Rochefort sur ​​Loire and occupied 19 hectares under vine. 16 hectares of vineyard land was planted to Chenin Blanc, while the remaining 3 hectares consisted of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Unfortunately, based on my research, it appears the château is now simply a cottage designed for family or group travel accommodations. Perhaps you can stay there when visiting the area for some Loire Valley tastings.

As recently as the late 1990s, under ownership of the Germain family, the estate produced sweet wines after Bernard Germain purchased Château de la Guimonière, Château de Fesles, and Château de la Roulerie. Shortly thereafter, thanks to how difficult it can be to make sweet wines in the Loire Valley, the family sold off Château de la Fesles and Château de la Guimonière. They maintained ownership of Château de la Roulerie, however, which seemed to have the greatest promise thanks to its origins way back in the 11th Century. Perhaps I will try to find one of their wines to review someday.

Bonus fact: Bernard Germain, the former owner of Château de la Guimonière, is the father of Thierry Germain whose Domaine des Roches Neuves I reviewed a wine from in early November. Bernard’s other son Philippe runs Château de la Roulerie.

Today’s Wine: 1997 Coteaux du Layon Chaume

100% Chenin Blanc; 13% ABV

The 1997 Coteaux du Layon Chaume is a disconcerting pale to medium brown in color, almost more reminiscent of a sherry or white Tawny Port. There is zero sediment in the bottle and the wine is almost entirely transparent. Though many people would probably dump this out on first sight, I gave it the old college try and was handsomely rewarded. The nose offers still delicate aromas of dried apricot, baked peach, orange marmalade, honey, white florals, mixed nuts, and slight earthy game while remarkably not really showing signs of oxidation. Once in the mouth, this wine showcases notes of candied orange, quince, marmalade, marzipan, licorice, caramel, toffee, and white floral liqueur. Medium- to full-bodied, this peculiar wine shows medium (+) acidity and a well-rounded finish that ends medium (+) in length.

Price: $100. At this price, I would not buy this wine again. While it was certainly a fun wine to try (I don’t have many wines from producers no longer in existence, or wines that come out brown but taste pleasant) I wouldn’t call it worth trying again. Pair this with rich, pungent cheeses or drink it alone for the odd experience.

Rockstar Value from the Loire Valley

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 domaine 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.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Les Mémoires

100% Cabernet Franc; 13% ABV

I picked this up based on a recommendation from an employee at one of my local wine stores. He believes that Thierry Germain is making some of the best wine in Saumur Champigny, and while I need to explore more offerings from the region this already seems tough to beat. The wine is a deep ruby color, though I almost want to call it purple especially near the edges of the glass. The nose showcases aromas of crunchy blackberry, steel cut oats, chocolate, cigar box, damp forest floor, violets, slight bell pepper, and mineral. Once in the mouth, we get flavors of tart blueberry, blackberry, pomegranate, loamy earth, pepper, and limestone minerality. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish. Give this a few more years of bottle age, though if you can’t wait it is drinking well with some air.

Price: $70. This is a rockstar wine well worth the price tag, especially compared to some of their neighbors. The traditional style does a beautiful job portraying the “place,” and this wine comes from 110+ year old vines. Pair this with beef, pork, roast chicken, duck, or lamb.