Saturday, November 22, 2014

3 Effective Cab Franc Remedies for the Rougeardless

Around this time of the year a frenzy happens in wine geek nation. A feverish search for elusive bottles of that wine unicorn: Clos Rougeard. I'm at a loss on what spurred this phenomenon. But then again a similar rush used to occur several years ago with Wine Spectator's pronouncement of its Top 100.

If, alas, you happen to come up empty, there's no need to sulk. You are not alone, in fact, nearly all would end up with a Rougeardless search. And so I'd like to step in and offer 3 Rougeard remedies. Though they taste differently from Clos Rougeard, they work for me because they share Rougeard's pure and expressive flavors and natural winemaking approach.

I think these 3 wines should keep things interesting until you get lucky enough to land a bottle of Rougeard. And you might just feel content enough and forget about searching for the unicorn.

Sylvain Dittiere is the new, young rising star of Saumur. He worked closely with Thierry Germain, Anthony Foucault (son of Charly Foucault of Clos Rougeard) and even Marc Tempe of Alsace. He's a micro-negoce, producing small quantity of wines from vineyards that are organically farmed and planted with 30 to 40 year-old Cabernet Franc vines. He applies a non-interventionist approach to his winemaking, vinifying with natural yeasts and applying minimal sulfites. This superb release has a gorgeous concentration. Fleshy and dense, with wild, rustic, flavors of dark berries, earthy, game, mineral, and spice. It is as intense, complex, and expressive as a great Syrah from Cote-Rotie.

Saumur-Champigny, La Porte Saint Jean (Sylvain Dittiere) 2011 $29.00 (order here)

Sebastien Bobinet became the eight vigneron in his family when he took over his grandfather's 2-hectare vineyard, predominantly planted to Cabernet Franc, in Saumur-Champigny back in 2002. Young and wet behind the ears, he befriended Nady Foucault of Clos Rougeard and trained with Olivier Cousin to learn the ropes. He learned fast. Today, 12 years later, he's a rising star and his small production is eagerly snapped up by customers in the few places his wines are sold.

Bobinet's wines are healthy and pure. He farms organically and vinifies with natural yeasts, avoiding additives and the addition of sulphites. He aims to express precisely the excellent
terroir of his wines. The 2013 Saumur-Champigny "Ruben" is 100% Cabernet Franc from a 1.25-acre parcel of the vineyard planted with 25-40 year-old vines. It is aged in larger barrels of 330 liters in the domaine's natural limestone cave. This is a wonderful Saumur-Champigny, floral-scented, juicy, and textured. Very youthful, yet luscious. A few more years and it will even be more irresistible.

Saumur-Champigny "Ruben", Sebastien Bobinet 2013 $23.00 (order here)

Imported by Beaune Imports, the same West Coast agent of Clos Rougeard. This, of course, is 100% Cabernet Franc from organically farmed vineyards in Bourgueil, very close to Saumur. It was the late Didier Dagueneau himself who recommended Pierre et Rodolphe Gauthier to Beaune Imports when they were searching for a Bourgueil producer. Juicy, with intense Cabernet Franc fruit and supple tannins. Well balanced and expertly crafted by Pierre Gauthier, a true master of Loire Cabernet Franc.

Bourgueil Cabernet Franc "Joir de Soif", Pierre et Rodolphe Gauthier 2012 $16.00 (order here)

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