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We're happy to again feature 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, the estate has improved it's vineyard work with the entire domaine either in conversion to organic farming or already certified. "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" (three to four years for the "Picasses"), "waiting until the wine is ready before marketing, preserving the fidelity of the great lovers of Chinon."
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. The Raffaults have once again released a small quantity of older wines, giving us a unique and wonderful opportunity to experience mature Chinon from good vintages. Altough I would not equate 1985 with 1989 and 1990, I've tasted many superb Loire reds from this vintage, notably from Pierre Breton and Stéphane Guion. 1989 is regarded as the great Loire vintage of that era - in this first of two sunny, warm vintages, the soils retained adequate moisture to give balanced wines with superb fruit and firm acidities. In 1990 the wines were a bit softer, but with beautiful ripeness, and they are drinking surprisingly well as they age. In order to share this generous release by the Raffaults, we ask for a 3 btl maximum order of the 1985 and a 4 btl maximum for the 1989 and 1990. Wines arrive Wednesday, March 6th.
(A note about the photo of Olga: This dates from my visit to the domaine in 1990, which may have marked the first export of Olga Raffault wines to the US, intended for Garnet Wines. Importer Alain Junguenet, whose company, Wines of France, features a superb selection of Rhone wines, would often have the growers pose wearing a Wines of France cap. DL)
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. 2014 was an excellent 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 2014 Raffault Picasses shows a bright, red/black color with aromas of morello cherry, red currant, blackberry and prune with hints of licorice, earth and black pepper. The palate shows silky tannins and sappy red and black fruits with chalky minerals and firm acidity, with a bit of the gamey, musky aspect of old-school Chinon. Earthy prune, plum and cherry fruits linger in the long finish. Please decant two to three hours in advance if drinking now, then serve a bit cool with roast chicken, pork or lamb. This will sing a different song after 6 to 8 years of aging, best perhaps 2026 - 2040. DL
1985 was a vintage for Loire reds that showed bright red fruits with aromas of bell-pepper and firm acidity. As is often the case with less sunny vintages in the Loire, the 1985s improved steadily over the years and we have tasted many superb examples, with the complex secondary aromas and flavors of dark fruits, sous-bois, mushroom and spice supported by the bright acidity.
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...
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.
Domaine Olga Raffault produces this lovely Chinon from alluvial and gravel soils along the Loire and the Vienne - it's a beautifully fruited wine meant to be served cool and enjoyedwith white meats and grilled foods. The aromas are complex and ripe showing cassis, raspberry and red currant with hints of violet, citrus and black pepper. The palate is deep and supple with complex red and black fruits that continue in the smooth, refreshing finish. This is a beautiful "drink young" Chinon that will enhance your fall and winter dining!
The Domaine cuvée from Olga Raffault is made up mostly of young vines from the Barnabes vineyard, planted on sandy soils right by the Loire River. This is a fresh and easy-drinking Chinon, displaying notes of red cherry, black cherry, raspberry, plum, crushed violet, cracked black pepper, and green bell pepper. Very approachable with soft, medium tannins, this a great wine to drink while the Picasses is maturing. Oskar Kostecki