Loire Valley wines: It’s not just a summer thing

Fell for crisp and refreshing Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley this summer? Then you’ll fall for this region’s fresh and juicy, berry-rich Cabernet Franc this autumn.

Cool and crisp, citrus and orchard fruit-driven Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley is synonymous with long summer days spent lounging on rooftops, picnicking in the park, and lying on the beach.
But the love affair with Loire Valley wines doesn’t have to end when the trees begin to shed their leaves. Much like the myriad colors of fall foliage, Loire Valley wines come in different shades. The Loire Valley’s temperate climate — dominated by sundrenched days, and cool nights — and the mineral-rich limestone, sand, and clay soil that define its landscape, make it ideal for cultivating several white and red varietals.

Cabernet Franc is one of the most widely cultivated red grapes in The Loire Valley. Chinon, Bourgueil, and St. Nicolas de Bourgueil within Touraine, and Saumur-Champigny within Saumur, in the Middle Loire, and Anjou Villages within Anjou in the Western Loire, produce some of the finest Cabernet Franc in the Loire Valley.

Cabernet Franc, (also known as Breton), is a fresh and vivacious grape characterized by bright acidity, juicy berry and dark fruit flavors, and supple tannins.

Cabernet Franc can be light and fresh, or full-bodied with a firm structure, depending on the area of production. Cabernet Franc from St. Nicolas de Bourgueil and Saumur-Champigny are typically fresh and light, while Cabernet Franc from Bourgueil are comparably fuller-bodied and bolder.

Cabernet Franc is a versatile varietal. Young Cabernet Franc typically offer fresh berry and dark stone fruit flavors, and bright acidity. The fruit-driven characteristics in Cabernet Franc can grow more complex and the wine may adopt herbaceous and woody elements as well as firmer tannins with age. Older Cabernet Franc, especially those from Chinon, are renowned for their ripe fruit and earthy flavors, and full- bodied structure.

I tried a trio of Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley this autumn. The three Cabernet Franc reinforced the reputation of this red grape as a versatile varietal that is equally capable of producing young and vibrant, as well as more mature and structured wines, without compromising its inherent fresh and juicy, fruit-dominant character.

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A full-bodied Chinon from Marc Plouzeau, Chateau de la Bonneliere, Les Lisons, 2018 yielded ripe blackberry, rich mocha, and fragrant cedar notes, as well as soft tannins.

I also tried a Regnier David, Le Paradis, 2017 from Saumur with juicy dark berry, cherry, and plum notes, good acidity, and well-rounded tannins.

The third wine, a Somnambule Rouge, Le Fief Noir, 2018 blend of 95% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon had lively notes of fresh berries and black fruit, and balanced tannins.

These Cabernet Franc would be ideal complements to roasted, braised, or baked meat and poultry, such as turkey, ham, and chicken. They would also be great pairing candidates for cooked grains, fruit, and root vegetables, and therefore, perfect for the coming holidays.

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