I must confess I am a big fan of Cabernet Franc. In my opinion it is by far the best Bordeaux grape to be vinified as a single variety. It is in the top rank of single red varieties, and has some qualities which I prefer to the other contenders apart from Pinot Noir: Nebbiolo (narrower stylistic range); Sangiovese (weaker finish when unblended); Tempranillo (sometimes a little hollow – and then there’s the question of oak…); Syrah (a brackish quality I’m sensitive to, and dislike)… In addition it has usually reasonable alcohol levels (12½ or 13%) and is wonderful value.

So I was predisposed to like John and Ann’s Loire Cabernet Franc Tasting, last night at the WING TT group, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The tasting took the form of a comparison of two good Bourgueil growers: Pierre Jacques Druet (in Benais), and Domaine de Chevalerie (about a mile and a half down the road towards Restignie). We tasted their entry, mid-level and top Bourgueils.

Below are my notes – other colleagues please submit your comments.

The first pair were Chevalerie’s “Cuvée Bonne Heure” 2011 and Druets’s “Les Cent Boisselees” 2007.

The Chevalerie showed dark fruit – loganberry maybe – and a hint of leather on the nose. The palate with a hint of minerality and sour cherry flavours, supple and good quaffing but a slight hard edge on the finish indicating youth.

In contrast the Druet was a little duller in colour and had a more restrained nose after an initial lily perfume faded. Again sour cherries but a darker twist and more tannin which persists longer than the fruit. It was slightly more serious, but a little too old perhaps.

I prefer the Chevalerie now but at their peaks (3 years from vintage?) it would be close.

The second pair were Chevalerie’s “Cuvée Bretêche” 2009 and Druet’s Grand Mont 2007.

The Chevalerie was lovely: dark fruit and some chocolate on the nose, the palate was supple with sweet fruit following a supple acid line developing in the glass. Not sure this was that typical, it had almost a Pinot character and while enjoyable had a slightly narrow focus.

The Druet was typical Cabernet Franc. Bright with floral notes, red fruit and a hint of stalky vegetation. The palate was earthy green and a long fruit line with a mineral finish – drying but round and long.

These are lovely wines but the Druet won for me on typicity, complexity and longevity.

The last pair (actually a triple tipple) where Chavalerie’s domain wine, just called Domaine de Chevalerie 2007 compared with Druet’s Vaumoreau in both 2007 and 2002 versions.

The Chevalerie was the most serious from the domain and did have Cabernet Franc typicity. Vegetal first nose, green herbs and red fruit. Fresh supple tannins and acidity, raspberry notes and a long but slightly mineral finish. Lovely and closer to the Druet Grand Mont than the other Chevalerie wines.

The Vaumoreau 2007 had a dusty nose with plummy fruit and perfume. Smooth palate with a tannic backbone and sappy acidity supporting a long fruit line. Wonderfully supple and long, but with a richness also slightly untypical. I think one would guess at a rather superior right bank claret if served blind. The 2002 is a little cleaner and more resolved, it has perfumed fragrance with black fruit notes and a mere hint of cardamom. Round blackberry fruit and supple acidity with (for the first time) a green pepper nuance, over a mellowed tannic structure. Richer and rounder than the 2007.

I loved all three of these wines.

The Vaumoreau are fabulous wines, untypical in the sense of going beyond Cabernet Franc’s usual expression. But the best wines for me are the Grand Mont and the Chevaliere domain wine. They have typicity with great expression of fruit and length.

The two growers have a slightly different approach. Chevalerie is quite traditional moving from easier drinking to more structured wine through the Cuvées. Druet is a bit more experimental, I think, with his classic Cuvée in the middle. But how enjoyable, and what good value were all the wines.

Thank you John and Ann.

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