Posts Tagged ‘Cabernet Franc’

The Small Stones: Joguet Chinon Les Petites Roches

In Cabernet Franc, Drinking on May 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm

In the land of past Kings there is a place where nature has carved out a slope of rock, rx burnishing the hillside over time, sale 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!

Like Son, Like Father: Marcato Cabernet Franc

In Cabernet Franc, Drinking, Special Offers on March 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Being upstaged by your son is a bitter pill for some men to swallow.  And not just being upstaged, and but permanently forced into the shadows, like a brummagem supporting role in a forgotten 1980’s sitcom, adds insult to the injury. 

This is the history of Cabernet Franc.

Most of us don’t know the taste of Cabernet Franc because almost everywhere it is planted and grown, Cabernet Sauvignon completely overshadows it.  And the two grapes have a relationship – Cabernet Franc is Cabernet Sauvignon’s parent.

Like many plants and animals on this earth, grape vines like to have sex, some more than others.  Cabernet Franc falls in the former category, being, shall we say, overqualified in some departments.  Engaging the willing partner of Sauvignon Blanc in the late 1800s, it produced the namesake crossing Cabernet Sauvignon.

While investigative tipplers may have a hard time imagining it, DNA evidence proves it’s true: Cabernet Sauvignon took the best flavors and tastes from both its parents, resulting in amazing wine.  But this well-endowed child didn’t stop there.  It went straight on to conquer the world of wine, heaving its parents out of their ancestral homes, not only in Bordeaux, but in all of France, Italy and Spain, chasing them like so many pitiful pieces on a fragmented Risk game-board, across the ocean to the New World, dominating there as well.

But there were some hold-outs; areas where the dominating Cabernet Sauvignon just couldn’t grow, and in these areas Cabernet Franc is experiencing a recrudescence.  The Veneto, the vineyard area surrounding Venice, is one such area.  Probably first brought to Venice by Napoleon’s victorious land-grant generals, Cabernet Franc from the Veneto is beginning to shine.  And the Marcato Estate at La Giareta is a new and very successful example.

Marcato’s Cabernet Franc shares some of the characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon – the red currant and strawberry fruit aromas, the delicious sense of balance between fruit and supple tannins on the palate, and then a juicy, fresh finish.  But this Cabernet Franc gives more complexity than its typical offspring.  Here there are hints of clove, ginger and sweet spices accompanied by blackcurrant leaf and violets.  It doesn’t over presume on your attentions, smacking your palate around with immature squeals of overripe fruit.  Nor is the palate boxed in and made four-square with so much oak like many a Cabernet.  It is a light, refreshing wine, calling for another lunchtime glass. 

Like any confident father, Marcato’s Cabernet Franc doesn’t try to upstage its acclaimed off-spring.  It merely displays the self-assuredness of a well-made, if overshadowed wine: graceful, charming and delicious, it is a joy to drink again and again.  

2008 Marcato Cabernet Franc

Suggested List Price:  $13.99

Special price via this email:  $10.99