For the discussion of Chinon

Was absolutely smitten with Olga Raffault's '08 Chinon Les Picasses last night. Light but fresh rather than ethereal, bags of savoury, earthy character but in no way lacking in juicy fruit either.

I know very little about Chinon, having bought this in France after remembering it being recommended here (by Mr Carrington I believe). But after getting so much enjoyment and such extraordinary value for money out of last night's bottle, I've resolved to investigate more thoroughly.

Who are your favourite producers?

And additionally, what are your thoughts on the ageing potential of Loire reds in general?
I don't have much experience. I like Bernard Baudry's wines, I think his Le Croix Boissee is not that expensive but not cheap as well and they are good for keeping.
Don't have vast experience, but we visited Phillipe Pion at Domaine des Quatre Vents in Cravant les Coteaux and really enjoyed the wines at the top end of his range... my parents bought the vielles vignes and I liked the slightly more expensive (but still only low teens in euros) L'Excellence
I'm a fan of Chinon. However it is difficult to make generalisations about style and ageing potential. There are broadly three different soil types (and much the same at nearby Bourgueil); sand and gravel on the lower lying sites tending to make fruity, early maturing wines; calcareous clay on the slopes making more serious and structured wines and chalk on the plateau making the most tannic and long lived of the three. Add to that producer style and there is a lot of diversity.

I have wines mainly from three producers in my cellar; Baudry's are perhaps the most elegant, Alliet's the most burly using noticeable wood ageing with Joguet's between the other two. All three make cuvées from the three different soil types.

IMO cuvées made from clay and chalk sites repay at least ten years ageing and I have had 20+ year old Dioterie and Chêne Vert from Joguet which were really superb in finesse and fragrance. Baudry's entry level cuvée, Les Granges, is delicious young but an overlooked bottle nearly 10 years old was still drinking beautifully. Alliet's VV and Coteau de Noiré from the late 90s and early 00s are superb at present; the former though mainly, I believe, from sandy gravel has enough structure to keep it going and the latter, from the chalky plateau, has now fully integrated its quite heavy oak ageing and tannins and is drinking very well but with more in reserve than the VV.

Don't overlook Chinon blanc from Chenin. Quantities are small but there are some very pretty cuvées including two from Baudry.

I also love Bourgueil, St.Nic.Bourgueil and Saumur-Champigny. I confess to being unable to distinguish between Chinon and the first two but S-C tends towards a bit more structure. I have some 1989 Saumur-Champigny VV from R-N Legrand which is still delicious.

I have read that some Chinon and Bourgueil from 1959, 1964 and 1971 can be still superb but, alas, have no personal experience.
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John - I'd recommend the Clos de L'Echo from Couly Dutheil, Philippe Alliet, and those Sourdais wines mentioned by Dave S. I know it's not Chinon, but I'd also recommend Lame-Delisle-Boucard's Bourgueil - their Vieilles Vignes and Cuvee Prestige cuvees are very good. These L-D-B wines age very well indeed into the bargain. I've had 1969 and 1976 from the Cuvee Prestige - drunk in the late nineties, they were just perfect.
I'm a huge fan, the appellation offers a wide range of styles from the up front young drinkers to serious wines of great ageing potential. Lots of good suggestions above to which I will add Charles Jouget. His Cuvée Terroir is excellent for early drinking within a year or two of the vintage whilst his two "clos" wines together with Varennes du Grand Clos demand some serious bottle age.
I'm a big fan of Loire Cab Francs. I've drunk a few 10-year-old bottles and realised it's a beautiful wine but a) I don't really know which producers to buy and b) I love it so much I find it difficult to keep without drinking too young.
TWS have a couple of mature Serge et Bruno Sourdais Chinons listed at the moment: 1993 and 1996.

They're not profound wines but give good insight into how Loire Cab Franc ages and in the 1993's case it'll cost you about the same as a Chablis from M&S.

Yes, these are great wines for the price - I had a 93 last night and it is fully mature. The 1996 is a bit more upright but shows how well these wines can age.
I also buy often Domaine Nobblai - TWS also have some of their wines, although I find they need quite a few years in the cellar to ease into a decent drinking state.
John, I think maybe you're getting a bit of reporting bias in the responses so far? In the interests of balance my view is that while there are some very good and very interesting wines, for my taste (& bear in mind we see of lot of these at the Nottingham Wine Circle!) roughly one in ten is a wine I'd be happy to drink. There's a lot of harsh, astringent & tough stuff which for me never seems to develop any charm.

I'd agree with the comments that Baudry & Couly Dutheil can be good. The best Chinons I've had have been Joguet's with some significant age, but they have been through some poor patches too with some irredeemably bretty wines, so hard to buy without trying.
Baudry and Joguet are top tier producers and both age extremely well - 20+ years in strong/good vintages. Baudry is probably a bit more "slick", Joguet a bit more erratic but still of very high standard IMO. I have not personally ever thought much of Couly Dutheil - even their top wine seems lacking - perhaps I have just been unlucky. Chateau de la Grille is a tricky one - very modern-ish style, perhaps trying too hard and, as a result, probably missing what Chinon is all about.
Hard to recommend a list of others since there are so many - and IMO the standard is rather good across the region ( there are of course some duds but on the whole I think the past 10 years in particular have shown a significant improvement in wine-making - helped by some pretty decent vintages ) - but one has to like some tannin, acid and savoury flavours to appreciate some of the styles out there. Sourdais ( I forget which one - there are lots of them! ), Delalande, de Bel Air, Pion, Foucaud, Noblaie all make very decent fare - such a great region for vins gourmand .
This wine, which we opened last night with a spaghetti (apologies to Carluccio) bolognese, is typical of Chinon/Bourgueil/St.Nic from a sandy gravelly plot, is suitable for drinking on its fruit in its first year and may keep going for another two or three. It needs the food for balance and Andy, whose palate obviously differs from mine, might class it in the 90%:eek: which he finds "harsh, astringent & tough stuff which for me never seems to develop any charm". Laurent Mabileau should not be confused with the better known and very good Frédéric Mabileau (also working in St.Nic & Bourgueil plus some excellent Chenin labelled Anjou).

2015 Laurent Mabileau Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil (10/24/2016)
At a similarly early stage the 2014 was slightly disfigured by a resinous note, which this 2015 hardly has, but it receded in a matter of weeks. Otherwise the two vintages are quite similarly exuberant with medium- body, lively red fruit, minerals, touches of pepper and underlying roundness with fresh acidity. There is a certain youthful brashness which I expect will be refined away shortly down the line. Good and impeccable QPR at <€6.

Posted from CellarTracker
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Hi John,
Your description is exactly why I'm a fan of loire cab francs. I have bought various ones over the years, but due to the randomness of my sampling I could only tell you the ones I prefer, but not necessarily the reasons why. Reading Tim's post is very interesting as I would guess that there are similarities in the ones I like. I have found that generally I have a preference for Saumur-Champigny (the fillatreau VV from yapp a fave), and Bourgueil (I like the F Mabileau wines) over Chinon but I see that i have not tried any Baudry or Jouget wines. Always a good section to check on a restaurant list as they go well with lots of food and tend to offer some value.
Ok, not Chinon but ... I bought a six pack of Jacky Blot's Domaine de la Butte Bourgeuil Mi-Pente 2009 a few years back, on recommendation of HRH, I think. First bottle opened earlier this year was superb: deeper and more complex than any Loire Cab Franc I've tried (though admittedly that is not a very long list). It was even better on day two, so I'm going to hold off a while on the other bottles.
Once again, thank you for your learned insights everyone!

I drank the Olga Raffault at the same time as an '08 Bachelet Chassagne-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes. Despite the latter costing twice as much, I think it was outshone by the former. In fairness, the Bachelet was probably a bit closed but all the same, it really underlined the extraordinary value of Mme Raffault's wines. And they aren't without Burgundian qualities either - the combination of lightness and depth, the earthy/savoury character, the beguiling nose that had nothing to do with fruit. It really gets a chap who find Burgundy increasingly unaffordable thinking.

Point taken, Andy. Indeed, in the dozen or so bottles of red Loire cab franc I've ever broached, there have been some unpleasant, astringent or downright characterless examples as well as the pearls. Buying carefully seems to be extra-important in this region, hence the appeal to the w-p hive mind.

Those old Sourdais wines are too interesting an opportunity to resist, Dave. Thanks for the tip!

Plenty to be going on with - sounds like Baudry and Joguet are perhaps the producers with the finest reputations, with Alliet and Couly Dutheil also highly thought of? More than happy to expand to Bourgeuil, Saumur-Champigny, etc to the list as it's cooler climate cab franc in general that I want to get to know better. With Lame-Deslisle-Boucard, Nobblai, la Chevalerie, Delalande, de Bel Air, Pion, Foucaud, Fillatreau and Domaine de la Butte I have plenty to go on!

Shall order a few mixed cases in the name of research....
Ok, not Chinon but ... I bought a six pack of Jacky Blot's Domaine de la Butte Bourgeuil Mi-Pente 2009 a few years back, on recommendation of HRH, I think. First bottle opened earlier this year was superb: deeper and more complex than any Loire Cab Franc I've tried (though admittedly that is not a very long list). It was even better on day two, so I'm going to hold off a while on the other bottles.

I bought a case of 2010 Mi-Pente, fantastic wine for the price.

I am a fan of Yannick Amirault La Petit Cave.
If you're spreading the net to outside Chinon - can thoroughly recommend Chateau de Villeneuve (Saumur Champigny) which was a recommendation from here that we visited while there and is also one of Hugh Johnson's favourites - upper end of the Loire price bracket but substantially cheaper than a village Burg and has great ageing potential. Also the Domaine Amirault - Clos des Quarterons in St Nicolas de Bourgueil (another gem find from Hugh Johnson) - very good bang for buck (their sparkling was also v pleasant)
It may be useful for me to summarise the Chinon, Bourgueil and Saumur-Champigny growers whom I can recommend from personal experience out of my cellar. I have put the names of the owners in brackets.

Bernard Baudry (Bernard & Mathieu Baudry)
Charles Joguet (Jacques Genet)
Philippe Alliet (Philippe Alliet & fils)
Château de Coulaine (Etienne & Pascale de Bonnaventure)

Bourgueil & Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil
Yannick Amirault (Yannick & Benoît Amirault)
Dom. de la Chevalerie (Stéphanie, Emmanuel & Pierre Caslot)
Domaine de la Butte (Jacky Blot)
Frédéric Mabileau (himself)
Pierre Breton (himself & Catherine)

Clos Rougeard (Foucault) - Bordeaux super second prices
Dom. de la Roche Neuve (Thierry Germain) Villeneuve (Jean-Pierre Chevallier)
Ch.du Hureau (Philippe Vatan)
All the above also make excellent whites from chenin under the Saumur appellation.

As in most wine growing regions there are often several distinct estates operating under the same family name, but not to be confused with the above named, e.g.
Christophe Baudry at Dom.Perrières and Baudry-Dutour
Thierry Amirault at Amirault-Grosbois and at Domaine Amirault - Clos des Quarterons
Laurent Mabileau.

Generation change is under way at many of the above but AFAIK there has been no change in standards.

PS: In the past, I bought a lot of Saumur-Champigny with great satisfaction and friendly prices from René-Noël Legrand. On my last visit in 2008, I felt that his top cuvée, Les Rogelins, was no longer quite as excellent as in the 90s. Since then his daughter Clotilde has taken over. I have met her entry level cuvée, Les Terrages, at three successive Foires aux Vins and very good QPR it is at c.€6.
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