In the land of past Kings there is a place where nature has carved out a slope of rock, burnishing the hillside over time, weathering the gravel down into small little pebbles like a child might throw into the river, skipping them in three bounces across the water to the other side. This is Les Petites Roches – the vineyard of the small rocks – and it is in Chinon of the Loire Valley in France.
Les Petites Roches is truly a French wine of refreshment. Many commentators feel that the great growths of Saint Emilion achieve Cabernet Franc’s highest distinction but Charles Joguet might argue that instead it is in Chinon. In 1957, when he returned to Chinon, Charles was a young sculptor whose family Domaine needed a scion. He married his strengths to those of his homeland and its domestic vines, creating red wines whose flavors were not based on oak driven power or monster sized fruitiness, but on the powers of refocillation. These gravelly pebbles raise up red wines of violet and cinnamon aromas, with tangy refreshing acidity, and green spring-like tannins that charm as well as seduce with a tender tug across the palate.
Refreshment is not a word much discussed with regard to red wines. The expectation is that this function is fulfilled by white wines: Sauvignon Blanc, maybe Oregon Pinot Gris, or a crisp, un-oaked Chardonnay. These wines are less “serious”, maybe more playful, and can be drunk with the abandonment of a backyard patio Memorial Day party.
But what about those of us who drink primarily red wine? And drink our patio wines with robust foods – sandwiches of bacon and truffle mayonnaise, asparagus and artichokes roasted on the grill and slathered in garlic butter, or maybe a salad of grilled duck breast tossed with arugula? No white wine would ever do and yet the modern idea of red wine – rich in fruit extract, robust and beautifully smoothed into vanilla perfection by lavish oak garrulous, exotic and sweet tannins fulfilling the palate’s every need – are just too much. These “powerful”, “monolithic”, “hedonistic” red wines will never do because they do not refresh. This is not to their disadvantage, it is a simply an element of their functionality.
Charles Joguet’s Les Petites Roches is not like these modern cabernets. Based purely on Cabernet Franc, many people won’t like it – it will be too different: acidic, tannic, and pronounced in its portager of aromas. It is not the cocktail, La-z-Boy style of California Two Buck Chuck, a wine whose charm lasts just slightly longer than a party bore with chronic verbal diarrhea.
Les Petites Roches is for those of us who drink red wine all spring and summer long. Like a friend’s crooked smile, the exact qualities of which make it so different it becomes beautiful. On the nose aromas of violets, spring greens and sour cherries interact to form a complex and inviting perfume. Here is a red wine that perfectly matches anything present at a picnic, from salads all the way to charcuterie. The palate revels in its 100% pure Cabernet Franc glory, rich aromas of sous bois and loam bring depth to its taste. The vineyard, those little rocks, are famous for adding an element of minerality, a slight twang like hard water from a worn-through-love farm faucet to the finish of the wine. Finally, a sense of structure completes it: the tug of tannins, quickness of acidity giving the wine a pleasurable hardness that leads to the next glass.
Charles Joguet retired from his family Domaine several years ago to continue on his life path as an artist. But before he left not only did he shift the world’s impression of Cabernet Franc, but also help three of his friends learn and understand the vineyards. It is their work, through the purity of its vineyards like Petites Roches, that Domaine Joguet is now recognized as one of the premier wineries in the region.
2007 Joguet Les Petites Roches Cabernet Franc
Suggested List Price: $26.99
Special price via this email: $16.99
And for extra imbibing pleasure:
2007 Joguet Chêne Vert Cabernet Franc
Suggested List Price: $47.99
Special price via this email: $39.99
First planted by Bourgueil monks this legendary Cabernet Franc vineyard is one of the oldest plantings in Chinon. Named for its monumental 800 year old green oak tree (the Chêne Vert), the resulting wines are extremely age-worthy, taking years to show their sophisticated depths!