Les Barnabés is a single vineyard parcel held by Olga Raffault. The Cabernet Franc vines are grown on sandy-gravelly soils with less limestone than les Picasses. This wine spent less time in foudre before release; it makes a very pretty and elegant Chinon, approachable in youth, but eminently ageable.
Like many New York wine drinkers, I have come to know and enjoy a host of vintages of Eric and Sylvie de la Vigerie’s Chinon through their policy of holding their top cuvée, Les Picasses, in their cellar for library releases to their American importer. That wine can be a little prickly when young, however, so I was excited to see the arrival of their fresher, lighter cuvée Les Barnabés, which I had not seen around before. As is the case with other producers in the appellation, the ealier-drinking wine hails from gravelly alluvial soils while the higher limestone plateaus are reserved for the vin de garde. It’s delightfully rasperryish with tinges and graphite of violet and is ready to guzzle today. No better or worse than Les Picasses, just a different animal.
There’s a lot to remember when it comes to the Loire. Novices, take note: Cabernet Franc is a great alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscadet is unparalleled as a companion to shellfish, and Cour Cheverny is the best white wine appellation you’ve never heard of. As diverse as Loire wines are, one day soon you'll know your Melon de Bourgogne from your Romorantin.
Relegated to moderate obscurity in modern times, Cabernet Franc is in fact the proud parent of the attention-hogging Cabernet Sauvignon (after an illicit affair with Sauvignon Blanc a hundred-odd years ago). Cabernet Franc has remained close to its roots in France, enjoying small pockets of popularity primarily in the Loire Valley (specifically in Chinon), where it is often bottled as a varietal...
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