Chinon is a small specific AOC of the larger AOC Touraine and even larger of the Loire Valley. In general, Chinon is not known world wide, but within France it is being recognized for producing different types of wine all from the single grape Cabernet Franc (we will talk about it in a minute). Chinon makes three broad types of Cabernet Franc- light and fruit forward, firm bodied, and fine. Each of these styles is a product of the terroir, more specifically the different soil types. Chinon is composed of sandy soil, clay and gravel soils, and limestone soil on the hillsides. It is really fun to taste all the different types of wines and the expressions of terroir- for a palate training searching for the intricate details came be overwhelming and I must admit I felt very out of practice, but still really enjoyed myself.. Chinon itself is between the Loire River and the Vienne River with a continental climate- meaning, at a very basic level, it has an extreme range in temperatures throughout the year.
Now, there are other grape varietals allowed within Chinon, but for today I will be focusing on the Cabernet Franc and to be honest that is really the only grape of consequence. Cabernet Franc is most famous for being one of the five grapes of the Bordeaux region. I like to say it gives a backbone to the Bordeaux varietals- meaning structure and identity to the wines. It is like the grape varietal Mourvedre in the Southern Rhone. Anyway, it is a grape that prefers cooler climates because of early ripening and susceptibility to bad weather. It is also a varietal that can be served slightly chilled. Don’t be shocked if you order a bottle at a restaurant in the summer and it comes cold- its normal.
So, that is a little bit of background on Chinon in general. Where we went to was the largest producer in Chinon- Domaine Baudry Dutour. This is actually two producers coming together create a large domaine. Christopher Baudry is a sixth generation winemaker in Chinon and Jean-Martin Dutour came to Chinon in 1993 passionate about wine. In 2003 the two came together to create Domaine Baudry Dutour; with four different parcels of vines they are the largest wine growing domaine in all of Chinon. The chateau itself is beautiful and there is a elephant hedge in the front…
Anyway, here are my notes on the reds we tried…
Domaine de la Perriere 2011
Notes: 100% cabernet franc, 20 year old vines, sand and gravel soil on ancient river bottoms. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. Not big on the nose, bright red fruit on the front of the palate, long finish.
Domaine de la Perriere Vielle Vignes 2011
Notes: 100% cabernet franc, 45 year old vines, on sand and gravel valley with clay and limestone slopes. Nose of cassis, spices, wax and what I can only describe as varnish (sorry not a great reference, but it works). Unfortunately, the finish was not very long lasting. Thinking another three years.
Domaine du Roncée 2010
Notes: 100% cabernet franc, sand soil with a little clay, herbal on nose, slightly musty, darker in color… with the nose and palate corresponding.
Domaine du Roncée Clos des Marronniers 2011
Notes: 100% cabernet franc, a specific parcel of 7 hectares, slight nose of dark, black fruit, dry on mouth with smokey notes.
That was the first round of tastings… Sorry for the ‘not as well rounded as I would like them to be’ tastings notes. The tastings are all in French and my notes are then a combination of French and English blurbs. A little frustrating and not the most effective, but I’m working on it. Anyway, next we moved on to a vertical tasting. Vertical tastings mean the same wine just different years. In this specific case, this is the wine Domaine Baudry Dutour bought from the previous owner/winemaker of Chateau de la Grille and now sell at their chateau.
Just like we talked about earlier in Anjou, the vintage years are important to take into consideration because they give us information about how the vines were at the time of harvest, therefore how the fermentation process might go, and ultimately the wine itself. In comparison with the Anjou wines however, these vines come from clay and limestone soils verses the schist of Anjou. Basically meaning that the vines do not have to work as hard in a bad year to find nutrients. So, let’s take a look at the vertical…
Chateau de la Grille 2005 – 100% cabernet franc, deep deep plum color, fresh blackberry, spicy on front of the palate (holy snap), needs cheese!
Chateau de la Grille 2007– 100% cabernet franc, cinnamon orange, christmas on the nose, light with tannins, 16 months on the barrel. Note: In the Anjou La Musee 2007 there were also hints of herbal notes, but the tannins and the acidity similar to Chinon, in general a lighter wine.
Chateau de la Grille 2009– 100% cabernet franc, barnyard nose, first harvest done by Domaine Baudry Dutour. Aged in one third stainless steel and two thirds neutral oak barrels, then left to rest in the bottle for two years before being sold.
Et viola… there you have a taste of Chinon. Next stop, Vouvray!