Cabernet franc reacts differently to the various soils within the Chinon appellation, giving wines that range from light and fruity to seriously fullbodied, tannic, and capable of long aging. The Baudrys farm their vineyards organically and ferment this wine in cement and wood tanks, then age it for one year in used oak barrels. The wine is then racked back into cement tanks, where it rests an additional nine months before an unfiltered bottling. It is a powerful expression of Chinon, with beautifully refined aromas of forest fruit and spice. While its elegance makes it approachable today, it will easily age and improve for ten or fifteen years in a good cellar.
Le Clos Guillot sits on a slope with south/southeast exposure, favorable to good ripening each year in this cool-climate northern region. The soil of clay over yellow tuffeau—a local type of limestone that is porous and almost chalky in texture—retains just the right amount of water to sustain the vines during times of drought but drains well enough to avoid oversaturation in wetter periods. Loire tuffeau is valued, for it produces wines with very fine, chalky tannins, giving reds like this an important structural element without seeming overpowering or aggressive. Chinons grown in tuffeau are also renowned for their exceptional aging potential—don’t hesitate to tuck this one away.
Bernard Baudry is unquestionably one of Chinon’s most outstanding producers. Not only does he have the talent to make delicious and consistent wines, vintage to vintage, but he is also fortunate to have vineyard land that showcases the varied soil types of the appellation. After completing his viticultural studies in Beaune, Bernard returned to the Loire Valley and purchased his first two hectares of land in Cravant-les-Coteaux, a village from which almost half of the production of A.O.C. Chinon is sourced. Over the years, the domaine has grown to 25 hectares and Bernard’s son, Matthieu, has joined the family domaine. The Baudrys are staunch traditionalists, and you would have a hard time finding a Chinon more classic than theirs.
The defining feature of the Loire Valley, not surprisingly, is the Loire River. As the longest river in France, spanning more than 600 miles, this river connects seemingly disparate wine regions. Why else would Sancerre, with its Kimmeridgian limestone terroir be connected to Muscadet, an appellation that is 250 miles away?
Secondary in relevance to the historical, climatic, environmental, and cultural importance of the river are the wines and châteaux of the Jardin de la France. The kings and nobility of France built many hundreds of châteaux in the Loire but wine preceded the arrival of the noblesse and has since out-lived them as well.
Diversity abounds in the Loire. The aforementioned Kimmderidgian limestone of Sancerre is also found in Chablis. Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur boast the presence of tuffeau, a type of limestone unique to the Loire that has a yellowish tinge and a chalky texture. Savennières has schist, while Muscadet has volcanic, granite, and serpentinite based soils. In addition to geologic diversity, many, grape varieties are grown there too: Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Melon de Bourgogne are most prevalent, but (to name a few) Pinot Gris, Grolleau, Pinot Noir, Pineau d’Aunis, and Folle Blanche are also planted. These myriad of viticultural influences leads to the high quality production of every type of wine: red, white, rosé, sparkling, and dessert.
Like the Rhône and Provence, some of Kermit’s first imports came from the Loire, most notably the wines of Charles Joguet and Château d’Epiré—two producers who are featured in Kermit’s book Adventures on the Wine Route and with whom we still work today.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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