Posted by: tomciocco | January 12, 2014

LOIRE NOIR

Though the first ideas that come to mind when the region “Loire” and even more so, “Touraine” spring from the lips, are “white wine” and a bit more specifically, the two varieties Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. These initial associations are more right than wrong at least in terms of volume of wine produced in this region, but there is another large minority of almost as equally prized red wines that emanate from this region.

The Touraine region in the Loire Valley, which is often known as “The Garden of France” for its relatively mild year-round climate and quite fertile soil. But as you may or may not know, wine grapes thrive on poorer soils, at least if real quality wine is the expectation. So, in the areas of the valley where shallower soils and lower levels of organic matter predominate is where most vineyards can typically be found. And within these less fertile regions, there is a justly famous sub-topsoil geology called “tuffeaux”. Tuffeaux is in essence a deep and dense limestone chalk that is subdivided into two types: tuffeaux blanc, which is lighter in color, denser, and typically more suitable for raising white vines and  tuffeaux jaune which is darker in color (because it is mixed with varying amounts of clay and fine sand) slightly less dense, and is more adapted to the planting of red-fruited vines. But regardless of whether it is the white or the yellow type of tuffeaux in question, both types are soft enough to excavate and carve easily while still maintaining a very stable and reliable structural integrity. This set of characteristics has allowed the people in the areas in which this feature occurs to dig entire wine cellars and even homes from this unique material, and indeed the vineyard from which this wine comes has just such caves located directly under their vineyards in which they age their wines.

In terms of grape varieties, this cuvee` is made from three of the most characteristic red grape varieties found in the The Loire: Cabernet Franc (70%) Cot (20%) which the local name for the grape better known as Malbec, and Gamay (10%). Both Cabernet Franc, and even somewhat more so, Gamay, have high levels of acidity, and when planted on sites other than ones underlain by tuffeaux, they can produce very light and often vegetal wines, while Malbec is usually naturally deeper and rounder. But when planted on tuffeaux, the two former varieties shed their jagged edges and vegetal notes, and all of the three plum-up in texture (the Malbec even more than it usually is already) utimately yielding wines whose depth and chunkiness belie their high latitude origins.

I paired this earthy but still quite elegant wine with a triumverate of French cheeses (Selles sur Cher, Brie de Meaux, and Saint-Nectaire) with apples, pears, walnuts and chewy-crusted bread.

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Domaine du Clos Roussely “Anthologie du Clos” Touraine Rouge 2009

Opaque, blackish purple color. Rustic but not inelegant nose of barnyard, blackberry, wild blueberry, currant, old leather, lilac, violet, cumin, vanilla and coal smoke with a hint of orange peel. The palate of the wine is medium in weight but with a sweet, soft and round mouthfeel, and integrated but still prominent and sinewy acid/tannin structure that define fresh flavors of plum, cranberry, and sour cherry fruit with secondary flavors root beer, and a sapid minerality. Long and clean raspberry finish.

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