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Our love of Loire Valley Cabernet Franc dates back to inexpensive bottles purchased at grocery stores in Paris in 1978. I knew nothing about wine at the time - my favorite was Taylor "Lake Country White" - but these light-bodied reds tasted wonderful with the charcuterie and bread of our bargain meals. Becoming slightly more sophisticated we began visiting Loire vineyards in 1981, Domaine Pinon in Vouvray among others, and while staying in Bourgeuil in 1985 we had a marvelous tasting at Domaine Breton, just before Pierre took over the estate. This domaine has played a major role in the Loire Valley as their early conversion to organic and biodynamic farming, their natural vinifications and the outgoing personalities of Catherine and Pierre have contributed enormously to the spread of better farming and winemaking in the region and beyond. We were lucky enough to start selling the wines in NY beginning with the great 1989 vintage, and although the Bourgueil "Les Perrieres" is considered their "best" wine, we have often preferred the elegant and ageworthy wines of the mid-slope, south-facing vineyard "Clos Sénéchal. This parcel is on a great terroir east of Benais where the topsoil is a limestone clay mix (specifically "argile éolienne") over the Turonian limestone "tuf." Here the lack of gravel and sand in the topsoil produces a wine which is a bit more austere than other Bourgueils, but which possesses a remarkable purity of fruit with elegant, silky tannins, making it enjoyable as a young wine with a remarkable ability to age in a Burgundian style.
The vines are 35 to 50 years old, replaced slowly by massale selection. The grapes are hand-harvested into 20 kilo crates, there is a three-week alcoholic fermentation with wild yeasts, no added SO2. Two year elevage in used Grenier foudres with minimal SO2 added before bottling. In my opinion, 2014 is a great vintage for the reds of Chinon and Bourgueil, lacking a bit of the density of the 2010s perhaps but perfectly balanced, with beautiful fruit and moderate alcohol (usually 12 to 12.5%) with mineral flavors very present on the palate and perfect acidity. The 2014 "Clos Sénéchal" is indeed a special wine but very little was available for the US market. Those wishing to put some of this beautiful wine in their cellar should not delay...
First made in 2002 the 2014 Bourgueil "Nuits D'Ivresse" is a blend from different clay/limestone parcels made with zero added SO2 and is always a favorite at Chambers Street. The malo and two year elevage is done in two year-old barriques. "It's a search for purity of fruit according to the principles of Jules Chauvet, a wine of 'Pure Origine' without chemical additives." A great success in this vintage, the wine is absolutely gorgeous, a testament to the great organic and biodynamic farming and natural winemaking at Domaine Breton. Don't miss it!
Also just arrived in New York is the Breton's unique 2015 Bourgueil Franc de Pied, from un-grafted vines on sand and gravel soils. "We planted the vines in 1993," says Catherine Breton "in a virgin parcel - the planting was a success, while the plantings at Domaine Baudry and Domaine Joguet, who planted the same franc de pied vines, were attacked by the phylloxera. The production is very irregular, very different with a lot of variation in the vintages. In general, phylloxera will destroy the vines within 20 years, but our planting is in very sharp-grained sand which can scratch the eyes of the insect. We'll see, they could destroy this parcel at any time, but it has still been a beautiful experience." Surprisingly austere in the sunny 2015 vintage, the wine will need some time to express the qualities of the un-grafted vines.
We are happy to offer the balance of our inventory from Pierre and Catherine Breton - all wines will arrive by Thursday 9/21.
The Clos Sénéchal is a south-facing mid-slope vineyard, with soils of clay and limestone over the Turonian limestone bedrock. The vines are 35 to 50 years old, replaced slowly by massale selection. The grapes are hand-harvested into 20 kilo crates, there is a three-week alcoholic fermentation with wild yeasts, no added SO2. Two year elevage in Grenier foudres with minimal SO2 added before bottling. The 2014 is a superb example of Clos Sénéchal showing a deep red/black color and aromas of ripe blackberry and cassis with earth, violet, pepper, spiced citrus and animal notes. The palate is deep and ripe with fantastic density of fruit but perfectly balanced with firm acidity at only 12.5% alcohol. There is a fine-grained, intense texture with pure black fruits, earth, graphite and dark chocolate that continue in the long, focused finish. This is a wine of earth and elegance that is enjoyable in its youth, decanting advised - or hold for 5 to 8 years, perhaps best 2025 to 2040 and beyond. Save your money on C*** R******* and put some Clos Sénéchal in your cellar!
One of our favorite Loire reds, the Breton Nuits D'Ivresse is a selection of old vines on terroirs of clay and limestone. The wine is vinified, aged and bottled without the addition of sulfur, preserving it's lovely fruit aroma. The 2014 Nuits d'Ivresse is simply sensational, showing the depth of fruit, balance and elegance of this great vintage for Loire reds. The wine shows a dark red/black color and gorgeous ripe aromas of strawberry and blackberry liqueur, a bit of musk, damp earth, violet and citrus peel, quite lovely and fresh. The palate is quite dense with meaty ripe berry fruit lifted by bright acidity and herbal notes. The finish is refreshing and long with black fruits, mineral flavors and citrusy acids. Serve cool - absolutely delicious now or cellar five to ten years. Epaulé Jeté! David Lillie
The 2015 Breton Bourgueil Franc de Pied is from ungrafted vines planted in 1993 in soils with a high content of sharp-grained sands which has, so far, deterred the phylloxera from attacking the vines. Surprisingly austere n this sunny vintage, the wine shows aromas of red currant and raspberry with leafy herbal notes, mint, musk and white pepper.The palate is light but sappy at 12% alcohol (the ungrafted vines always give a wine with less alcohol) red currant and dark berry fruits with mineral notes, chalk and citrus. Decanting many hours in advance is recommended, or five to ten years of aging, to allow the wine to open up and show the unique character of the franc de pied vines.
This delicious Bourgueil is from young vines on clay and gravel soils over limestone, harvested by hand into small baskets and vinified to extract the primary aromas. Trinch is particularly yummy in 2015, a sunny vintage bringing wines with lush, supple fruit, and a bit less acidity than the norm. The color is dense red/black with deep aromas of blackberry, violet and bitter chocolate with a hint of roast meat. Intense black fruits on the palate with earthy, saline minerals, musk and citrus, very supple and ripe with a nice bright finish. This is a great thirst-quenching Bourgueil to serve cool with charcuterie, roast chicken, pork and full-flavored cheeses.
Tasted twice in February 2016 and 2017, the 2011 Les Perrières has impressed both times with it's structure and complexity, showing dense, deep earthy red fruits with meaty and herbal notes. There is ample tannin for aging, but there is good ripeness that opens up nicely with decanting. This superb Bourgueil will accompany grilled pork and beef and full-flavored cheeses. Decant 3 to 4 hours in advance if serving now, or cellar - best perhaps 2020 to 2030. DL
From 30 to 45 year-old vines on beautiful clay/limestone terroir in Saint-Louans, on slopes above the Vienne. The 2011 Saint-Louans received 30 months of aging in used barrels. This is an elegant wine, very marked by the limestone and rounded nicely by the extended aging. The aromas are complex and lovely with slightly spicy red fruit and earth tones. The palate is balanced with delicacy and power, indicating long aging potential. Carafe if drinking now, best perhaps 2025 - ?
(Our original review) One of our favorite Loire Valley reds is the Pierre and Catherine Breton Bourgueil Les Perrieres, and we have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the 2010. As opposed to the heavier and more forward 2009, the 2010 is lighter and medium-bodied, perfectly balanced with earthy, bright acidity and obviously built to last — a "grand vin!" From 70+ year-old vines in mid-slope on soil of clay and silica over limestone. Deep black/red color; elegant aromas of black fruits, earth and mint, subtle and beautiful. Intense fruit on the palate but not at all heavy — blackberry, red currant, black pepper, bitter chocolate and mint with a hint of oak, framed in cool acidity with a tannic structure that will carry this wine for twenty years or more. Powerful and complex yet balanced and elegant at 12.5% alcohol. This beautiful wine comes from the Bretons long experience with this parcel, their 30 years of organic and biodynamic farming and a masterful vinification and élevage, with minimal SO2, which allows great terroir expression and ageability. I will be putting this wine in my cellar, along with my 2010 Baudry Croix Boissee, and, if I can afford it, a 2010 Clos Rougeard, for a nice tasting in 2034! (Some details: Hand harvested into small boxes; 7 day cool maceration, wild yeast fermentation in oak vat without addition of SO2, progressively warmer over 15 days; no chaptalization, minimal extraction — one pumping over, no cap punching; aged in 10% new, 90% one-year-old barrels for two years with one racking; bottled after 2 1/2 years on a "flowering" day.) DL
Saint-Louans, a hamlet above the Vienne, downstream from Chinon, is home to some of the earthiest and most complex wines of the appellation. Often "difficult" when young, the wines age beautifully with extraordinary secondary aromas and dark, earthy fruit. We are reminded of the Louis Farou "Clos du Parc de Saint-Louans" (very close to the Breton's parcel) which was almost undrinkable when young but magnificent after fifteen years. (If anyone has a few bottles of 1989, please let me know.) We have never tasted the rare 2010 from the Bretons, but I can safely say that it should be superb with another five to ten years in the bottle...