Posted by: tomciocco | August 17, 2010

SAUMUR-CHAMPIGNY, MY FAVORITE LOIRE RED (?)

I try to avoid using the word favorite, especially when it comes to wine. There are just too many factors – like producer, menu, mood, etc. – that make for just the right selection. That said, among all of the Cabernet Franc Loire reds – Chinon, Anjou, Bourgueil, St Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, etc. – I find Saumur-Champigny  to display the highest level of quality, consistency, and all-around drinkability. 

One of the “difficulties” one encounters with Cabernet Franc (one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon, by the way, along with Sauvignon Blanc!) is an often marked vegetal aroma. In small measure this can often take the form of a pleasant green bell pepper scent, but more than a few Loire Cab. Francs can throw off a pungent, weedy, brackish aroma than can be offputting. Now, a decent slice of the reason for this phenomenon certainly rests with vintage quality and harvest dates, but in Saumur-Champigny, under the top soil levels, there lies a massive vein of  tufa-stone (a sort of chalky limestone) that when reached by the roots of (especially older) vines, has the effect of taming most if not all of the vegetal aromas found in Cabernet Franc, as well as lending a notable round, balanced and vivid fruitiness to the wines.

Saumur-Champigny, and indeed all Cabernet Franc wines, are EXTREMELY versatile at the table. They are often cited as the perfect “bistro wine” – a wine that can cope with many if not most of the varied items on an eclectic menu (fish included), and still deliver a truly broadly characterful drinking experience… When you’re sent out  to get a bottle for a BYOB restaurant, and you don’t know the restaurant’s menu, and/or don’t know what you or anybody else is going to order,  a Saumur-Champigny is a great choice…hopefully they’ve got one…

Lydie et Thierry Chancelle Saumur-Champigny 2008

Youthful dark rosy garnet color. Sultry aromas of black cherries, strawberry preserves, a slight greeness, dark earth, manure, and motor oil. Initially the palate was a bit rough and closed, but with a little coaxing it revealed  a rounded satiny texture with juicy red currant fruit inside a stemmy, wiry, medium-bodied structure. Finishes with sour pomegranate fruit flavors.

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