We're very happy to again offer the beautiful Chinons of our friends Sylvie Raffault and Eric de la Vigerie at Domaine Olga Raffault, who are doing great work at this important Loire Valley estate. While retaining the traditional vinifications practiced here, with aging in vat and large foudres, the estate has improved it's vineyard work and will soon be certified organic. New releases from the estate are consistently impressive, including the outstanding Blanc and Rosé, and we look forward to the arrival of the 2015 "Les Barnabés," for those who enjoy a softer, more forward style of red Chinon. While we're thilled to offer the 2005 Chinon Blanc "Champs Chenin," we apologize that only a few bottles are available - perhaps buy a few 2015s and put them in storage?
During my first visit to Domaine Olga Raffault in 1990, wine-maker Ernest Zenninger would keep disappearing into the basement returning with older and older mouldy bottles of their Chinon "Les Picasses." While I was well acquainted with the wines of Chinon and Bourgueil at the time, this was my first experience of the remarkable complexity and delicacy of the wines at fifteen to thirty years of age. We applaud the domaine for its committment to the periodic release of mature wines at reasonable prices!
"We hope to conserve the historic path of Olga and Ernest through traditional vinifications with minimal intervention, giving the wine time to develop through long elevage in large barrels and vats" (four years for the "Picasses"), "waiting until the wine is ready before marketing, preserving the fidelity of the great lovers of Chinon."
The Olga Raffault "Champ Chenin" has always been one of the great white Chinons, often needing 10 years of aging before it would reveal its mysteries. Happily, the wine is now made in a more approachable style, without losing the intensity and ability to age of this lovely Chenin. The 2015 shows striking aromas of pear and apple liqueur, dried herbs and white pepper with hints of exotic fruits. The palate is elegant and firmly structured, with subtle white fruits, citrus peel and stone flavors. The finish is long, with lemony acids, stone and saline mineral flavors. This is a lovely and very distinctive Chenin Blanc from an excellent vintage that will accompany grilled fish, roast chicken and mild cheeses - or hold for five to twenty years and serve with fish or chicken in sauce. David Lillie
Les Picasses is one of the greatest vineyards in Chinon - a south-facing slope of clay over porous limestone that retains water and nutrients, nourishing the vines. While the wine is amply fruited and enjoyable young, it has firm acidity and structure for long-term aging, up to 30 years and more depending on the vintage. 2012 was a quite successful vintage for Loire reds, which generally showed vibrant fruit, fresh acidity and moderate alcohol. Not a "big" vintage but one of very pretty, well-balanced wines. The 2012 Raffault "Les Picasses" is a surprisingly full-bodied wine, showing ripe strawberry, blackberry, and cooked prune with a fabulous earthy core of stone and mineral flavors. The palate is dense with blackberry, prune, citrus, earth, licorice and cocoa with a long fresh finish. Ripe and forward enough to drink now with anything from roast chicken to steak, the 2012 should age beautifully, perhaps best 2020 to 2030 and beyond...? David Lillie
Since Olga Raffault’s passing, the estate has been run by her granddaughter Sylvie and her husband Eric de la Vigerie. Vineyard work and winemaking practices are very traditional: vineyard maintenance is done by hand, native yeast fermentations, and long, slow élevage in large, neutral oak (sometimes chestnut, a local wood in the region) barrels. Les Picasses is their top vineyard with 50-year-old Cabernet Franc vines planted in hard alluvial clay soils with a chalk limestone base on semi-steep slopes facing south. This is the perfect terroir to showcase classic Chinon aromas of black cherry, currant, cool blueberry fruit, white pepper, and a touch of tangerine. The palate is fresh and vibrant with juicy plum and black cherry fruit dotted with spice. Tannins are quite soft, yet present, and the finish is long and mineral with dark berry fruit. This is an outstanding example of what Cabernet Franc can be! 2010 is a great vintage for this wine, with the depth and structure for long-term aging. Tim Gagnon
A lovely young Chinon Picasses with the beautiful aromatic profile of this great vineyard — tart cherry, strawberry compote, earth and white pepper — really lovely. Earthy red and black fruits on the palate with the usual bracing acidity. Nice finish of "sous-bois," fruit compote and earth with juicy acids. A great food wine, perfect with roast chicken. We thank the young Eric de la Vigerie who is doing great work at Domaine Olga Raffault, and we remember wonderful tastings with Ernest Zenninger, partner and winemaker for Olga Raffault from 1947 till the late 1980s.
Another great vintage for the Raffault "Les Picasses," 1990 was the second of two hot, dry summers, producing wines that were lush, round and very ripe but lacking the perfect balance of the 1989s. Having said that, many people have preferred this vintage to 1989, finding it more velvety and forward.
From a clay/limestone vineyard in Savigny-en-Veron, fermented slowly and kept on the lees until bottling. "This dry white wine develops aromas of lime-flower, quince, honey and almonds and will improve with age" say the Raffaults. The 2005 was from 60 year-old vines, and was a quite full-bodied version of this wine, at 14% alcohol, despite the 12.5 it says on the new label. Perhaps lacking the acidity for really long-term aging, the 2005 is quite good now with mature aromas of lemon oil, almond, mushroom, pear and fine herbs. Tasted in a very appreciative crowd, the wine did not get a chance to open up - we suggest decanting and waiting a few hours for peak drinking. One bottle per person, please.
1989, the first of two dry, sunny seasons, is the best vintage for Loire reds since 1947. With terrific ripeness, the wines also had firm acidities leading to beautiful balance and the ability to age for twenty to thirty years and more. We haven't tasted this wine recently but it remains our favorite vintage for "Les Picasses," with 1990, 1996, 1997, 2002, 2009 and 2010 following behind, though of course we like them all...
1985 was a vintage for Loire reds that American reviewers happily called "green and herbaceous" and in this case they were right! However, as is often the case with less sunny vintages in the Loire, the wine has improved steadily over the years and showed beautifully at our dinner with the Raffaults last fall.
Recent tastings of the Olga Raffault "les Picasses" going back to 1979 have consistently revealed light, very complex and beautiful old wines, still possessing a core of red and black fruits with lovely secondary flavors of mushroom, sous-bois, licorice, and graphite with herbal and vegetal notes. Serve with wild mushrooms, truffle omelet, coq au vin....