This is an incredible Chinon, which makes it an incredible wine full stop. Made by one of the most revered estates in the Loire's beloved village, this is complex, layered, medium-full and utterly delicious. Showing blackberry, plum, notes of green pepper, earthy spice, graphite and tobacco, it is a showcase of the best of the Loire and Cabernet Franc.
If you don't know Cabernet Franc or Chinon, you're in for a real treat.
This is from one of the most wonderful clusters of villages in France for producing Cabernet Franc. Though probably originally from south of Bordeaux (where it is an important blending component), it is here just off the Loire that it is made as the shining star. Never massively full-bodied or overtly powerful, you get elegance and finesse here - somewhat stylistically like a hybrid of the structure from cooler Bordeaux appellations with the complexity and elegance of Burgundy.
The Loire is distinctly cooler climate and as a result there isn't as much warmth in the grapes, nor the resultant wines, but that's no bad thing, even if climate change is leading to more and more vintages with fuller, riper fruit.
Alcohol levels are often more moderate and there is structure and complexity from the dark grape skins (certainly in the Cabernet Franc wines) that really makes them stand out in the crowd. Cabernet Franc stands out on its own because of of the stylistic singularities that it possesses: tannic, dry, blackcurrant, redcurrant, leafy and above all else a sense of pencil lead and, in under-ripe vintages, green bell-peppers.
The winery of Olga Raffault has a fascinating story that dates to the end of the second world war. Her husband died suddenly in 1947 with his work in the winery supported by a German prisoner of war and refugee who had been working with them on the estate. The winery is now run by her granddaughter and great-grandson and has been fully certified as organic since 2015. That was merely an additional cherry on the cake of what has become one of the best estates for Cabernet Franc in the world.
The wines of Chinon can be light, fruity and fragrant, just as they can be darker and more extracted. This one is definitely of the second type. While not being heavy, or too powerful, it is profound and wonderfully filling. Complex and immensely enjoyable, it is aged in fairly neutral oak vats for up to four years and always released at a later date to show more age and development in the wine that suits Cabernet Franc so well. Les Picasses is one of the top single site 'Lieu-dit' wines in Chinon, which shows how remarkably under-appreciated the region is and what amazing value it offers. It is certainly a food wine, but we'd never say no to a glass on its own either.
Region: Loire Valley
Grape(s): Cabernet Franc
Style: Vibrant, Structured, Pure, Profound, Organic, Medium Full, Meditation, Fresh, Complex, Bright
Best food matches: Venison, Tuna, Tapas, Steak, St Stephen's Day, Soft Cheeses, Roasts, Poultry, Mature Cheeses, Hard Cheeses, Grills, Fine Dining, Duck, Cheeses, Charcuterie, Beef