Today is Cabernet Day, better known as #CabernetDay. I was torn between participating as I did for Carignan Day in February and Malbec World Day back in April or ignoring it, as I did for Chardonnay Day. While Cabernet Sauvignon is a fine grape, made into some excellent wine the world over, it doesn’t need any help from me to raise awareness of it. And so participating according to the letter of the day, while showing complete disregard for the intentions of the organizers, I give you a Cabernet, Cabernet Franc that is, the Domaine Nicolas Réau Anjou Rouge Cuvée Pompois 2009.
Really I have nothing against Cabernet Sauvignon – I respect it as the cornerstone of many great wines, including the Ridge Monte Bello I had for my birthday this past year. I’ve covered a dozen wines so far in which it was a component, most either as the largest portion of a blend or as a varietal. But just as I hate it when someone says “Pinot” without specifying Noir, Gris, Blanc or Meunier, people who say Cabernet without specifying Sauvignon or Franc need some reminding that there’s more than one.
I’ve written about the variety before, in particular when I covered another wine of Anjou, the Château Pierre-Bise Sur Schistes. To quickly recap though, Cabernet Franc is a classic French grape, a traditional component of the red Bordeaux blend and the main red grape of much of the Loire Valley. Relative to its Bordeaux blending partners, it ripens early, is somewhat light in colour, tannins and body, but can bring fruit to the blend as well as a bit of leaf and stem flavour.
Anjou as well deserves a quick word – a region in the Loire, grouped together with Saumur, it’s in the western end of the valley with Nantais between it and the sea. The area produces red, white and rosé wines, still and sparkling, which range from dry to very sweet. If they distilled spirits and perhaps made fortified wines, they would have everything covered. The climate is continental, though with some influences from the sea and winds down the river valley. The main soil type is schist, though there are areas of chalk as well.
Nicolas Réau is a native of Anjou, but not from a wine background. Described as a rugby player and a jazz and blues pianist, he was in his thirties and finishing some commercial studied when he decided he’s rather move into growing grapes and making wine. He bought a clos in Anjou of a dozen acres and started his new career not long after the millenium. He also produces wine off property in Chinon, and his range consists of two other varietal Cabernet Francs and a barrel fermented Chenin Blanc. Vines are grown organically, though apparently not certified as such. Harvesting is done by hand into baskets, fermentations are not inoculated so wild yeasts do all the work, there is no filtering or fining of the wines, and apparently no sulphites are added to those that occur naturally.
I hate to say this, but the wines of Nicolas Réau are described as “natural”. Long time readers of this blog will perhaps remember that I expressed my thoughts on “natural” wine some months ago when I looked at a Pinot Noir from Lucy Margaux. If you don’t follow the link, suffice it to say that I think that using the term “natural” to describe wine is dishonest.
First off, there’s no strict definition, such that any producer, even the most massively industrial, can call their wine natural. Second, calling your wine natural implies that people who don’t use that term are making wine which is unnatural. Finally, compare a naturally growing plot of virgin forest with any vineyard in the world and then try to tell me the vineyard is natural, with its evenly spaced, identical clones.
That said, I can gripe all day about what people say or write about their wine and what they put on the label or in the marketing materials, but what actually matters to me is what’s in the glass. And if you made it all the way through what I had to write about the Lucy Margaux, I liked that wine. I think it is dishonest to use the term natural to describe wine, but that influences what I think of the producer, not what I think of the wine itself.
So in the glass this wine is clear and bright, and has a deep purple colour with quick, thick, pale purple legs. On the nose it’s clean, with medium intensity, a developing character and notes of black fruit, stalks, and sweet spice. On the palate it’s dry, with medium plus acid, medium body, medium alcohol, medium plus intensity, and medium green tannins. It has notes of tart cherry, some cranberry, some greenness, a hint of chocolate, and some Red Vines® ( a red liquorice candy). It has a medium plus length and a black liquorice finish.
This is a very good wine, natural or whatever. It’s a bit tight – it comes across as almost concentrated and needs time to open up, be it a few hours exposed to air or if you’re more patient perhaps a few more years in the cellar. The colour is much richer than I would have expected from a varietal Cabernet Franc, but the flavour profile certainly has typicity, and does not lack complexity.
And while the rough theme for this week had been inexpensive but potentially interesting wines from a large wine retailer, this wine was purchased from one of my regular suppliers at a price well within my normal range (not too expensive, not too cheap).