Posted September 08, 2017 A restrained beauty, with a frame of dark olive and singed bay leaf notes around a core of gently steeped cherry and plum fruit. The smoldering charcoal hint on the finish stays in the background as the fruit plays out.
Our tasting note suggests a dark, complex red with a range of fruity and savory flavors. Right off the bat, there are some grape varieties that we can cross off our list. Pinot Noir is the first in line, as it tends to produce lighter-bodied wines with red fruit flavors—our olive and bay leaf notes, along with the charcoal finish, are off the mark. The next one we can eliminate is Cabernet Sauvignon, as our note is missing that grape's signature currant flavors, and bay leaf is quite an uncommon descriptor for Cabernet. Nebbiolo is another outlier, since we are missing the grape’s typical tar, red cherry and rose flavors, not to mention tannic grip.
We are left with Malbec and Cabernet Franc. The former typically produces darker, fleshier wines, with full tannins, sweet spices and berry fruit. The latter characteristically includes flavors of olive, bay leaf, cherry and smoky spices. Cabernet Franc hits the mark here.
This wine is a Cabernet Franc.
Cabernet Franc is considered an international variety and is mostly used as a blending grape, but in Oregon and Spain you would have a hard time finding it. There are hardly any standalone Cabernet Franc bottlings from Argentina; most of the Cab Franc grown there goes into Bordeaux-style blends. This leaves Italy as our main competitor with France. Cabernet Franc-based wines are made in Tuscany, but in Italian versions, the grape’s distinguishing herbal and vegetative character is often masked by aging in new oak. Cabernet Franc gets the most attention in France—in Bordeaux, where it’s used as a blending grape, and in the Loire Valley, where Cabernet Franc is the star red grape.
This Cabernet Franc is from France.
Cabernet Franc’s fruit flavors evolve into savory mushroom and leathery notes with aging. Considering our note displays prominent flavors of steeped cherry and plum, without any of the indicators that it's spent some years in the cellar, we can safely presume that our mystery wine is in one of our two categories of young wines. The Loire Valley has had a tough run of it since 2010, vintagewise. 2011 saw extreme conditions and a cool, wet summer; 2012 and 2013 were both marred by extreme weather, including rain and hail; and 2014 brought another rainy summer and inconsistent wine quality. But 2015 was outstanding for Cabernet Franc, with a hot and dry growing season and good ripening.
This wine is from the 2015 vintage, making it two years old.
Knowing that our wine is from France, we can eliminate Oregon's Willamette Valley, Italy's Barolo, Argentina's Mendoza and Spain's Rioja, leaving us Vouvray and Chinon, which are both appellations of the larger Touraine region of France's Loire Valley.
The Vouvray appellation is dedicated entirely to still, sparkling and dessert wines made from the Chenin Blanc grape. Chinon, on the other hand, is best-known for its reds, which by law must be made from at least 90 percent Cabernet Franc. Chinons are known for their structure, dark fruit flavors, bay leaf notes and signature charcoal finish.
This Cabernet Franc is from Chinon.
This wine is the Catherine & Pierre Breton Chinon Beaumont 2015, which rated 92 points in the Sept. 30 issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $30, and 150 cases were imported. For more on the wines of the Loire Valley, read senior editor James Molesworth's tasting report, "Relief in the Loire," in the Oct. 15, 2016, issue.
—Aleksandar Zecevic, associate tasting coordinator
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