by VineSleuth Contributing Writer, Steve Gross
In the Rhone Valley intro post, Cortney mentioned the red wines of Chinon, which are made from the Cabernet Franc grape. In the Houston area, I found disappointingly few examples of Rhone Valley red wines. Interestingly, for a little-known set of wines (the whites are widely acclaimed, but the reds are kind of under the radar) the bottlings I found were all above $15. I have found that the law of supply and demand holds up pretty well in the wine world, but this seems be a rare exception.
Cabernet Franc is a grape that is earthy, rustic, and a little rough around the edges in the examples I’ve tasted this month and on previous occasions. I do like it, however. Just like the other French wines this year, they have evolved to be drunk with locally-grown food, and I certainly could see how these Rhone Valley reds would hold up to simple, yet robust food, like grilled meat, bread, soup or country paté (I know, I know we Americans don’t consider paté to be simple food, but the French do). If you enjoy taking a picnic when there’s a chill in the air (I certainly prefer this over muggy and hot days), these might be good wines to take along.
Couly-Dutheil Chinon 2010 $20
Nice ruby color. More purplish when swirled.
Green pepper and berry vine nose; somewhat fumy with a bit of acetone.
In the mouth, this wine is sharply tart but also somewhat diluted.
This wine seemed a little bit raw, but within the range of many Cabernet Francs I’ve tasted.
Les Pensees de Pallus Chinon 2009 $22
Ruby color with clear rim. Less herbaceous smelling than the Couly-Dutheil above, with more fruit available to the nose. On the palate, has some of the same tartness as the other Chinon, but it is more enjoyable to drink. This wine has some of the rustic nature of the other Chinons I have tasted, but this is a more complex, less spiky wine. This would definitely be a good food wine, using the same pairings as above.
Clos Roche Blanche Touraine Cuvée Pif 2008 $16
NOTE: This wine is listed as a Red Blend. I do not know which grapes were used, but many Touraine reds use Cab Franc or Gamay grapes. Deep ruby wine. A little sweetness on a nose that includes light red fruit and acetone. Fruit goes away in the mouth, leaving a somewhat astringent tasting wine. Not to my taste.
Lucien Crochet La Croix du Roy Sancerre 2007 $40
Of the reds that I tasted, this was head and shoulders the best. All three tasters in my group (two of whom drink very inexpensive wine as a rule) went right for this bottle after we tasted each wine. Bordeaux-like nose, with hints of tobacco leaf, leather, and deep fruit. Refined and subtle, this wine makes you want to investigate it more deeply.