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Back to France Part 4 – Reds from Chinon and Domaine Grosbois

IMG_2036We’ve been looking at some of the producers in the Touraine, along the Lorie River in France. Until now it has been a white party, with Chenin Blanc taking center stage and some excellent Sauvignon Blanc joining in. You can follow links to the previous articles in this series at the bottom of this page. This review however, is about red wine. They do make red wine here, and in fact they make some excellent red wine. To get a feeling for the wines of this region we turn to three bottles of red Chinon from Domaine Gosbois.

Chinon

Located in the Touraine, just south of the Loire, Chinon is home to some of the most celebrated Cabernet Franc vineyards and wines in France. They do make white and rose wine here as well, with the whites coming from the Chenin Blanc grape. Make no mistake however, this is red wine country. About 95% of the production in Chinon is red, and that is Touraine Mapalmost all Cabernet Franc. Chinon can be 100% Cabernet Franc, or it could contain 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. They favor more of a fresh style here, with the use of new oak at a minimum and many wines seeing no oak at all.

Annual production in Chinon is almost 3 million gallons, and again about 95% of that is red. Nineteen communes make up the AOC and contribute to that total.

Bordering Chinon are two other red wine areas, Bourgueil and St. Nicholas de Bourgueil, which produce similar styles of Cabernet Franc. Chinon is the best known of the three.

Considered an excellent food wine, red Chinon goes great with white meat. To me, it calls for herb roasted chicken. A while back we stumbled into a Coq au Chinon dish at the Hive Restaurant in West Harrison, NY, using Chinon red wine in the classic French dish. It was great, with my only complaint being that they didn’t have the Chinon available by the glass to accompany it. You can read about that here.

You can read more about the wines of Chinon at http://www.loirevalleywine.com/regions/touraine/chinon.

Domaine Grosbois

Domaine Grosbois has been family owned since 1820, with some records indicating that they have been in the area since the French Revolution. Consisting of 22 acres, the vineyards and 15th century fortified farmhouse that make up the property are situated in the heart of the Loire Valley on top of the Panzoult Hill in Chinon.

As is their family tradition, current proprietor Nicolas Grosbois studied viticulture and enology from 1992 through 1998. Upon completion of his education he decided to travel the world to see how wine was made in other regions in hopes of incorporating the Domaine Grosbois Estatebest practices into his own farm. Over the course of the next six years Nicolas worked in the south of France, Chile, New Zealand, other parts of the Loire Valley, Oregon and Australia. The overall lesson that his travels and experiences taught him is that wine reflects the story of a place and its people.  In 2005 at just 29 years of age, Nicolas returned home and began to work with his parents to implement his unique vision of micro-site specificity. His plan was to bottle the wines based on their strategically planted terroir-driven vineyards, a direction that his parents fully supported. The vineyards at Domaine Grosbois are sorted into 13 plots on the Panzoult Hill, with the size of each determined by geology. These plots have not been restructured since their organization back in the 1400’s. The different soil types, which consist mostly of limestone, clay or sand, determine the personality of each wine. In 2008 Nicolas took complete control of the farm and set this vision into motion, crafting a range of seven Cabernet Franc wines based on the different plots, all of which are aged prior to bottling.

Nicolas wholeheartedly believes in organic agriculture and has worked to transition his farm, converting to organic agriculture with his 2012 vintage. Furthermore, although not certified, Nicolas practices biodynamic farming, as he feels that living a certain way can have a positive impact on everyone’s lives.

IMG_1983

We have three reds from Domaine Grosbois to taste. All of the wines are 100% Cabernet Franc and range from 12% to 12.5% alcohol. The wines, as well as the background information on the Domaine were supplied by Cape Classics. You can read more about their portfolio of wines here: http://www.capeclassics.com/.

2014 Chinon La Cuisine de ma mere – grapes for this wine come from 15 year old, trellised vines situated at the bottom of a hill,IMG_1984in a mixture of sand and clay. Some grapes are also sourced from trusted friends. The 2014 vintage benefited from a season that allowed full ripeness. Open top concrete tanks were used for fermentation, with as little intervention as possible during the process. The wine was aged in tank for eight months after fermentation ended. What did we think?

More of a raspberry red color, the wine had an earthy nose, with some dark fruits. Plum and blackberry came to mind. On the palate the wine has a rich texture and a nice acid balance. The style is rustic, and it seems made to go with food. There is some good length on the finish. $21.99

2013 Chinon Gabare – 2013 was a challenging vintage in Chinon, with rain and mild temperatures. Careful sorting at harvest IMG_1985resulted in low yields but high quality. The grapes for this wine come from 35 year old vines located halfway up the hill, above the bedrock. Grapes were handpicked. Fermentation occurred in open top concrete tanks, and the wine was aged in tank for 12-18 months prior to release. Our thoughts:

This is very dark red with a little purple at the rim. Dark berry fruit is prominent. Overall the wine presents a rich nose. There is a bit of earth and a touch of mint as well. On the palate the wine is just shy of full bodied, with soft tannins and a smooth, lush profile. This is a serious wine, and we really liked it a lot. A very long finish rounds it out nicely. This is not a light, fruity quaffer. Considering the alcohol comes in at only 12% it is surprisingly rich. $29.99

2012 Chinon Clos du Noyer – the grapes for this wine come from 40 year old vines on the top of the hill, benefiting from southernIMG_1986 exposure. Soils are a mix of sand and clay. The 2012 vintage produced smaller yields than usual, but quality was high. Indigenous yeasts were used for fermentation in open topped tanks. The wine was aged in a mixture of tank and French oak barrels for 24 months prior to release. Our impressions:

Deep red in color the wine caries a nose of currant, raspberry as well as some floral notes. A little earthy quality also emerges. On the palate the tannins are definitely there but very approachable. The wine carries good acid and has a wonderful balance. It’s medium bodied, and very long on the finish. There is complexity, beautiful fruit and an overall seamless experience. This is a very good wine. $49.99

Some might consider the red wines from Chinon to be basically built to go with food. That description falls far short however, and some of the wines reviewed above are classic examples of why the reds from Touraine stand quite well on their own. Both the Gabare and the Clos du Noyer are excellent.

Try some Cabernet Franc from Chinon. We do recommend an herb roasted chicken as well, but make sure you take the time to appreciate the wine on its own.

To read the previous installment in the Back to France series click here.

A votre santé!

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