Wine Flight to the world of Cabernet Franc

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

1- Château du Hureau

Grape: Cabernet Franc

Geography: Loire Valley, France

Appellation: Saumur-Champigny

Château du Hureau began embracing a natural approach to viticulture in the mid 2000s, and is officially 100% organic as of the 2007 vintage. This is a particularly impressive commitment given the threat of spring rains and the resulting risk of mildew from humidity and moisture. In the vineyard, a thick layer of grass grows between vine rows which are tilled by hand and the vines are also meticulously hand-pruned. Philippe rigorously crop-thins his vineyards, dropping fruit and retaining only the best bunches. He diligently passes through the vineyard numerous times, hand-harvesting so late that the final picking is often touched by passerillage (drying) or even noble rot for the whites. Once the grapes arrive in the cellar for vinification, Philippe hand-sorts one final time, guaranteeing utmost quality and ripeness of fruit. All wines are vinified with indigenous yeasts. The Tuffe is aged in tank while the top cuvées, including “Lisagathe”, are aged in a combination of demi-muids and foudres. 

Tasting notes: “The Cabernet Francs of Château du Hureau are dark, intense and sappy, with plenty of lovely fruit balanced by acidity and minerality from the underlying tuffe soils. Since the implementation of organic viticulture, Philippe has found the wines to be more pure, transparent and texturally complex. The quality and intrigue of the Château du Hureau wines continue to soar, as does their followiing at home and abroad.”

3- Domaine de la Garrelière

Grape: Cabernet Franc

Geography: Loire Valley, France

Appellation: Touraine

Features: Biodynamic

Located near the small town of Richelieu, in the most Southern part of the AOC Touraine (as a matter of fact, the village is separated from the main AOC), lies Domaine de la Garrelière. The town was renowned in the 1600s (During Cardinal Richelieu’s heyday in the 1630s, the town did indeed supply his court with wine) but phylloxera wiped out production in the late 19th century.

The Plouzeau family acquired the estate in 1973 and replanted vines. Pascale and Francois took over in 1985 and fully converted the now 50 acres to biodynamic farming. They are certified AB.

Francois likes to pick ripe and often harvests (by hand) in October and has the lightest touch with Sulphur. His terroir is mostly clay and limestone terroirs mixed with sandy soils and rocks. The unique labels produced by local artists that reflect the naming of the wine.

Tasting Notes: “This flavoursome red is made from a small plot of biodynamically-tended Cabernet Franc vines that are more than 25 years old. The wine is smooth and elegant and weighs in at 12.5% alcohol. Only minimal sulphur has been used.”

2-  Domaine de Pallus

Grape: Pinot Noir

Geography: Patagonia, Argentina

Appellation: Patagonia

Before the age of 30, Bertrand Sourdais had already made an impressive name for himself at Spain’s Dominio de Atauta. In the process of revealing a new terroir from Atauta’s ancient, ungrafted vines, Bertrand learned many invaluable lessons. The most important of these was the need to think critically about every single step in the viticulture and winery work. This process at Atauta also got Bertrand to start questioning the existing orthodoxies in his native Chinon.

By 2003, Bertrand determined to return to France and take up the challenge of his beloved Cabernet Franc. His father’s estate, Domaine de Pallus, is located in the heart of the appellation and is blessed with some of Chinon’s choicest vineyards. With vines averaging over 35 years old, Pallus held all the potential Bertrand could hope for. Beginning with the 2003 harvest, Bertrand has begun his quest to find the ultimate limit for Pallus. As of 2010, Bertrand is converting the winery and his vineyards fully to biodynamic practices.

Tasting Notes: “The dark purple ruby-colored Chinon Les Pensées de Pallus Cabernet Franc has an intense, pure and fresh, well-concentrated bouquet of dark berries, crushed stones, spices, pencil lead and floral aromas. Medium to full-bodied, intense and juicy, with perfectly ripe dark fruit flavors, firm tannins and a delicate acidity, this is an excellent and persistent Cabernet Franc with a long and aromatic finish. The velvety textured 2014 is in great balance and reveals a fascinating tension on the finish.”

Wine advocate: 91+

4- Domaine des Ouches

Grape: Cabernet Franc

Geography: Loire Valley, France

Appellation: Bourgueil

At the Domaine des Ouches, Cabernet Franc is sourced from different vineyards, allowing the Gambier brothers to highlight the impact of terroir and show off the range of possibilities of the variety. The 20, for example; is sourced from vines that grow from gravel soils, which warm up quickly and speed up the ripening process of the grape, giving forth supple wines. The clay and limestone hillsides of the Coteau des Ouches, however, result in slower maturation with more concentrated grapes. Sandy soils give solid but silky tannins to the wines (as seen in Le Clos Boireaux).

To best express their terroirs, Thomas and Denis work carefully in the vines and cellar to avoid using unnecessary chemical treatments while still ensuring quality wines. Tilling their soils, canopy management, and hand harvesting ensure healthy soils, happy vines, and the best selection of grapes possible. In their vinification, the brothers employ a variety of techniques to make cuvées with distinct personalities. For example, the shorter maceration periods in the winemaking of the 20 Rouge ensures that it is approachable, suited to consumption by-the-glass. The estate’s underground cellar keeps their wines cool during maturation, which for red wine occurs in oak barrels and lasts for 12 to 14 months.

Tasting Notes: “Bunches are 100% de-stemmed and transferred to stainless steel tanks. Total maceration time is 13 days, extraction by pump-over only. Natural yeast fermentation. Lasts 6 months in stainless steel tank. The wine is bottled during the spring following harvest.”

“Currants, cherries, savory herbs and perfumed soil. Fresh and lively on the palate.”