MCF Rare Wine
2 Days in the Valley
Part 1: Loire Reds
I believe that naming your favorite wine region is like trying to name your favorite album or your favorite book (or movie or painting or television series or...). The answer likely varies over time and it can depend on so many factors, like what kind of mood you are in at a given moment or what's going on in your personal life. But if you're like me, there are certain albums or books (or anything else) that are always at least persistently 'in the conversation' even if they never make it all the way to 'favorite' status. That is the way I feel about the Loire Valley. If you ask me my favorite wine region, I"m not necessarily going to tell you it's the Loire, but it's definitely going to come to mind as a potential answer any time the question is asked.
The Loire Valley offers a wide breadth of superlative wines at often highly affordable prices and both the reds and whites alike are built upon an appreciable tension between the fruit and the acidity. I'm an acidity guy. I usually like some tanginess and some zip to my wines and the Loire's relatively cooler climate is conducive to these livelier, food-friendly styles.
Regarding the breadth/affordability factor, I'm hard-pressed to think of another region in the world (besides Campania, also 'in the conversation') that combines the two so impressively. Beaujolais, for instance, offers similar value and quality, but without the varietal variety. With all due respect to a good Beaujolais Blanc, Gamay runs the show there. And while there are plenty of regions around the world where you can find a diverse array of grapes being vinified, they aren't often producing world-class examples of more than one or two varietals. Or if they are, you can bet that at least one of these wines is generally in the upper stratosphere of pricing. Piedmont, which admittedly is my answer to the question of favorite wine region on many days, comes to mind here. There you can find the holy trinity of Barbera/Dolcetto/Nebbiolo along with a number of other lesser-known grapes producing fantastic wines. However, Nebbiolo, in the form of Barolo and Barbareso of course, can be quite pricey.
In the Loire, you can find the peak versions of Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne from such highly esteemed appellations as Chinon, Sancerre, Vouvray and Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Clisson without really climbing out of the $15-$40 range. There are also some lesser known gems being made from more obscure varietals like Romorantin, Pineau d'Aunis and Grolleau that are equally as inexpensive. If you're paying more than $100 for a wine from the Loire Valley, you're likely to be one of the lucky few purchasing Clos Rougeard, a legendary producer, the DRC of the Loire. And yet, to further my point, Clos Rougeard is still at bargain pricing in comparison to DRC!
So there you have it. If you've made it through my treatise on why the Loire is one of my not quite favorite wine-producing regions in the world, you've now reached the part of the email where I attempt to sell you some of its wonderful wines. Today we are focusing on two red wines, a couple of Cabernet Francs from two Chinon producers, Patrick Lambert and Bernard Baudry. Tomorrow will feature some whites from the Loire (as long as a much shorter intro!) so stay tuned for that offer as well.
Chinon is one of the three premier appellations for single-varietal bottles of Cabernet Franc in the world, along with Bourgueil and Saumur-Champigny, all in the Loire Valley. Both of these dark-fruited, peppery and savory wines from Lambert and Baudry feature that nice zip of acidity I was mentioning earlier and they are perfect for accompanying a wide variety of foods. Their medium-weight freshness will go great with most everything that you're planning on grilling this summer and it's not a bad idea to stock up on either of these, as Chinon is also a classic Fall pairing for when you start roasting some birds or tossing some lentils and mushrooms into the mix. The Baudry has additional 'stock-up' worthiness, as it certainly has some years of life ahead of it. Further details on both are below.
Patrick Lambert Chinon Les Deuzelles 2017 $20
A softer, younger drinking style of Cabernet Franc. This features the typical dark fruit and herbal, floral aromas of a Chinon but with a particular focus on the fruit and freshness and less so on the modicum of tannic structure that can also be found in your Loire Cab Francs. This is a juicier, more everyday version of the varietal, with the term 'everyday' connoting its deliciousness and versatility, as opposed to any sort of ordinariness.
Bernard Baudry Chinon Clos Guillot 2016 $35
Baudry is my sentimental favorite Cab Franc producer but his wines stand on far more than sentiment. They are dark, mineral, herbaceous. well-built gems. This is certainly a more structured Cab Franc than the Lambert and it will age quite gracefully over the next decade or so. I definitely recommend grabbing some of these for the cellar but it is also worthy of drinking a few bottles now and will play nicely with some of the more substantial dishes that you enjoy this summer.
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249 West 13th Street NYC 10014