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Growers in the Loire Valley suffered devastating frosts in April of 2021 after a warm late winter and early spring - losses ranged from 50 to 95% in most vineyards. Consequently, estates in the Loire have been slowly releasing remaining stock from 2018 - 2020 and the small quantities of 2021s are just reaching us after long delays in shipping. Finally some of our favorite wines are now making their way to NY and we are happy to feature new arrivals from our friend Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme, whose beautiful and affordable wines have been gracing our tables since his early years with Thierry Puzelat.
Happily the 2021s are, in many cases, outstanding wines that bring us back to 2014 in their low to moderate alcohol and lovely purity of fruit. Pierre-O's "Telquel" and "Vercheny" as well as the Mosse family's vibrant "Bangarang" are astonishly refreshing and delicious - buy them by the case to help make it through the summer! And don't miss this small re-release of the beautiful 2020 Bonhomme Sauvignon Blanc...
Since 2015, Claire and Florent Bejon have been producing small quantities of Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc from 5 hectares just west of Chinon on limestone soils. These are natural wines made to express the terroir, rather than a "fruit-forward" quality - they are remarkably pure and etremely mineral in flavor with subtle fruit and firm acidities. The two wines offered today "Picrochole" and "Saint Germain," have just arrived in NY and will benefit from decanting or a few years in the cellar. Produced entirely without additives, with zero-added SO2, these are fascinating examples of natural winemaking on great limestone soils.
The Clos Cristal is an historic estate in Saumur-Champigny, originally owned by a rather eccentric man named Antoine Cristal. A textile merchant by trade, he was an avid wine-lover and wanted to create a domaine in the Loire Valley to produce exceptional Cabernet Franc wines. The Clos was formed in the late 1890s, and is a true enclosed vineyard with limestone walls, both within and enclosing the vineyard. This famous and successful vineyard was donated by Antoine to the local hospital (Cente Hospitalier de Saumur) in 1928. The vineyard declined until the arival of manager Eric Dubois in 1995, who converted the estate to organic farming and began to make the wines with minimal extraction and minimal SO2. Sadly, the hospital decided to sell the estate in 2015 - we're not sure how the wine offered today is under the name of winemaker Come Isambert, but here they are, a bit of Saumur-Champigny history from this historic site...
Wines arrive August 5th, normal cases/mixed case discounts apply.
This "poil dur" is wagging its tail again in 2021, with the brightness and balance of the old days at 11.5% alcohol, really refreshing and delicious! The wine shows bright plum, raspberry and green apple fruit with a bit of earth and spice. The palate is light and fresh but with nice density of fruit - raspberry, red currant and cherry with bright acidity, quite "gouleyant" - lip smacking and tasty that is, reminding us of the Ducroux Exspectatia...yum! The blend in 2021 is still based on Gamay, with Cabernet Franc, and some Syrah and Grenache from the Roussillon (noted from tasting with Pierre-O in February 2022).
Pierre-Olivier has made a simply delicious Touraine Sauvignon Blanc again in 2020 - it's a great value for everyday drinking! The wine shows a pale gold/bronze color with aromas of ripe pear, fig, lime flower, gingerbread and honeysuckle, really lovely. Dry but with lovely ripe pear and apple on the palate framed in firm acidity, with stone, chalk, saline mineral flavors and candied fruit in the finish. There's a lot of character in this inexpensive wine - enjoy by itself or with any fish, chicken or white meat dish, great with goat cheeses and Asian food, too.
The 2021 Vercheny is 100% Pinot Noir from 60 year-old vines in the "La Boissiere" vineyard near the village of Blois in the Loire. Hand-harvested grapes are fermented traditionally with stems and raised in neutral barrels for six to eight months. Low or zero addes SO2. The 2021 is delightfully light at only 11% alcohol - it shows a pale red/garnet color and lovely, ethereal aromas of plum, tart cherry, rose petal, spicy citrus and earth. The earthy plum and cherry flavors continue on the palate with spice and minerals, and the finish is wonderfully long and sapid for such a light and refreshing wine. Serve quite cool and enjoy! David Lillie
The 2018 Bonhomme "Monsieur" is a bit of a mystery - all we know is that it's a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvingnon, which shows clearly in the lovely aromas combining cassis, black raspberry and blackberry with floral and citrus hints. The palate is deep and round with ample acidity, with lovely ripe fruits and earth flavors in a nicely balanced frame. This is a quite interesting and food friendly Loire red - serve a bit cool over the next three to five years.
A dark, brooding expression of Gamay! La Probiliere comes partly from old vine Gamay Teinturier meaning the flesh of the grapes is as red as the skins. This makes the wine a deep, opaque inky color leaving a wall of red across the glass in its wake. The nose and palate are equally intense, and yet this also retains all of fun, juicy qualities of a typical Gamay. Notes of pepper-dusted black plum and cassis, a faint whiff of saddle leather and crushed violets on the nose. The palate has a rustic quality with grippy, tongue-coating tannins, but plenty of juice to keep you refreshed. This is a great Gamay to pair with chili or BBQ! Michelle DeWyngaert
The 2021 Mosse "Bangarang" is 70% Grolleau and 30% Gamay - it's also 100% light and lovely showing a very bright red/garnet color and subtle aromas of raspberry, cherry, violet, citrus and earth. The palate is remarkaly refreshing with earthy berry fruits, mineral flavors and crisp acidity - serve very cool with any casual meal, just delicious!
The Clos Cristal is a historic estate in Saumur-Champigny, originally owned by a rather eccentric man named Antoine Cristal. A textile merchant by trade, he was an avid wine-lover and wanted to create a domaine in the Loire Valley to produce exceptional Cabernet Franc wines. The Clos was formed in the late 1890s, and is a true enclosed vineyard with limestone walls. Cristal even planned the walls to have holes so that the stalks of the vines grew on the north side and were then trained through the walls with the foliage on the warmer south side. Now owned by a large wine co-op, and boasting a very flashy new website, the previous winemakers were basically a motley crew of local hippies led by a skilled and humble vigneron named Côme Isambert, working with manager Eric Dubois. Francois Saint-Lo was involved with the winemaking as well... in fact it's hard to tell who exactly was running the show, but that was part of the appeal. In many ways a collective effort, the 2015 was the last vintage before the new owners took over. The style here is unmistakably "natural," but the clincher is that the fruit is from very old vines on classic limestone soils, and there's a bit of bottle age. For fans of fine Cabernet Franc more than it is for fans of "chillable reds" or "cool natty wines," if that makes any sense. -EL
The Picrochole lieu-dit is named after a Rabelais character from the novel La vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel (Rabelais is originally from the area). It consists of 60 ares of Cabernet Franc and 40 ares of Chenin that are around 30 years old. L ocated on the left bank of the Vienne between Chinon and Saumur, the soils here are heavy clay and limestone with a strong presence of flint and exposed full south. The 2020 Picrochole shows aromas of crushed strawberry and black raspberry, with floral hints, earth and mint. The palate is medium-bodied with intense mineral flavors vying with the red and black fruits, with firm acidity and a dense chalky texture. As with the 2020 Saint Germain, this needs some time open or some time in the cellar and cries out for a hearty meal.
The 2020 Bejon is 100% Cabernet Franc grown on sandy soils over limestone in the village of Saint Germain, just west of Chinon. The grapes macerate whole-cluster, saturated with carbonic gas in 50hl tanks for long periods of infusion, elevage then occurs in old barrels and, as of 2020, grès amphoras. The wine shows a dark red/black color with intriguing aromas of crushed berries, earth, violet and mint. The palate is medium bodied, quite dense and very mineral with black raspberry and red currant fruit, and finishes on earth and minerals that linger on the palate. This will benefit from decanting or a few years in the bottle - it's a real Cab Franc of terroir that will please lovers of natural wines!