Posted by: tomciocco | June 3, 2014

CHINON ROSE’: THE LOIRE’S BIG RED IN A PRETTY SUMMER DRESS

Just 10 years ago or so, rose’ wines were pretty difficult to get into a drinker’s basket. Considering their current popularity that fact might seem hard to believe, but that’s the way it is – or rather was.

The first pink wines to break through to the greater consciousness of wine drinkers, and rightfully so, were the often pale fresh and pretty Provencal pinks that are typically made from made from some combination of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, i.e. the red varieties authorized for the production of red Rhone wines. I’ve said it before, but I think that it bears repeating – all other things being equal, Southern French Rose` wines are still the best, but…

Across the border in Spain, the Spaniards do a bang-up job with richer, fleshier and more deeply colored roses made primarily from Garnacha or some combiantion of Garnacha, Tempranillo and Carignan and in Catalunya the light-red skinned variety Trepat as well. And more recently, Portugal and Italy have more than credibly gotten into the act of making pink wine, though but for a few localized areas in both countries, have a very limited tradition of the production of rose’wines.

And though I still give the (very slight) edge to Provencal Roses overall, my “1b” choice in a pink drink is made from Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley in Central France. The long and thin Loire Valley has a great east-west extention – from deep in the eastern part of the country all the way to the Bay of Biscay at France’s western edge. Red and white wines get made in about equal amounts here; whites chiefly from Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc and reds from Malbec, Pinot Noir, and what is almost surely the Loire’s top red variety, Cabernet Franc.

There are literally scores of appellations across this fertile valley that are made exclusively from Cabernet Franc, but one of the most celebrated as well as one of the biggest bodied and imposing ones is Chinon.  But as it’s likely become abundantly clear by now, the wine up on the bench this evening is not a red but rather a rose’ but one that still prominently carries the prestigious Chinon name.

Though the tradition of making rose` wine from Cabernet Franc is not a terribly long one, the variety is nonetheless supremely suited to it. Cabernet Franc is an inherently freshly acidic and very fragrant variety – two qualities that are essential to qualify a grape to make really good rose’, but Cabernet Franc from Chinon also brings to the table the complexity and structure and often a certain “funk” for which red Chinon is known in a lighter more versatile package. Chinon rose’, like all rose’ wines, is indeed a “fun” wine, but of all of the playful pinks one could pop open, Chinon Rose’ is definitely one of the most “elaborate”.

I put this quite athletic blush wine with a first course of a cold, pureed cream soup made with fennel, tomato paste and chervil followed by a modest but bold main course of a knife and fork griddled sandwich called a croque madame with a side of oil and vinegar-dressed potato salad with scallions and parsley.

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Couly-Dutheil Chinon Rose’ 2013

Light candy pinkish red color. Gregarious aromas of cherry, raspberry, kiwi fruit, almond milk, red flowers and hint of raw mushroom. In the mouth the wine is medium-full in body, round and quite rich but still quite fresh and chewy in texture with flavors of strawberry, pink grapefruit, sweet red pepper paste with a slight chalkiness underlying. Very warm and slightly bitter finish.

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