Cabernet Franc is the predominant red grape of the mid Loire valley around Saumur, the medieval town with a fine chateau shown above. Saumur is a bustling town that just oozes “all things wine”, brasseries, wine merchants, vignerons, vineyards…… as well as all of the things you associate generally with such a French town. Cabernet Franc is often one of the component grapes of red Bordeaux wines, but here in the Loire Valley it makes fine red wines on its own accord. The wines of Saumur Champigny just outside the main town and along the river are grown in a tuffeau terroir, a local limestone, chalky and sandy.
Domaine Filliatreau is our favourite producer here with cellars and a tasting room cut into the face of some white tuffeau cliffs on the main road between Saumur and Chinon. Our wine of choice here is their Grande Vignolle:
“The vines of this cuvée grow just above the troglodyte site of the Grande Vignolle. Dug for centuries by man, from simple cellars to stately homes, today it is the showcase for Domaine Filliatreau’s products. A cuvée made from 60-year-old vines on a plot that has been renowned for several centuries. This unfiltered cuvée will take off at least a year and a half after the vintage. Fruit in plenty, just like its length of finish. Full-bodied and greedy, this is a vintage that is consumed in its youth but which really expresses itself after two or three years.”
“A generous portion was poured into my glass and Charlotte then stood back, gestured at the glass and smiled as she challenged me to name the vintage! The two other visitors to my left stopped tasting and watched …. no pressure then! Dr C looked sideways at me and nodded, that was the only encouragement I needed, except for a little help from Sartre, Heidegger and existentialist thinking! I swirled the wine around the glass and held it over a clean white page of my notebook, a definite brown tinge at the meniscus and certainly less garnet in colour, darker in fact. So, this wine is NOT of a recent vintage say 2015-2017. My initial swirl and sniff revealed a definite earthiness I always get with Cabernet Franc which also seems to increase with age. The first taste was a surprise, softened tannin but still some acidity confused my taste buds to hell, or was it the other way round? The wine revealed more fruit and floral notes than the 2005 I had tasted earlier, so my brain told me that this is younger than 2005, could it be a 2010 which was a high scoring vintage for the region, or a 2009, also a brilliant harvest year with vintages either side of 2009/10 being less good? I told Charlotte I had narrowed it down to 2 years, she smiled again and told me to choose ….. I went for the 2010 based purely on knowledge of other wines from Chinon I had bought in 2015. “Well done” she said turning the bottle around to reveal a 2010 label and astounding the audience to my left who just said “how the hell did you do that?”.” Charlotte explained it to them, I was too exhausted!”