Earlier this year, as I planned out my trip to the Central Loire, Max had one request—that I visit Domaine de la Chevalerie in Bourgueil. He had read about this winery in Rajat Parr and Jordan McKay’s The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste (2018), which says “this little-known domaine makes some of the best Cabernet Francs in the world,” and insisted that I add it to my list. Following the visit with Thierry Germain in Saumur, I enjoyed the most delicious, picturesque lunch at Le Terrier du Château, overlooking the centuries-old Château de Saumur, then drove 30 kilometers to the right bank of the Loire, heading toward Bourgueil.

The Caslot family, owners of Domaine de la Chevalerie, has been making wine in Bourgueil since 1640. Siblings Emmanuel, Stéphanie, and Laurie were the 14th generation to oversee the domaine, starting in the early aughts. Their father’s last request upon retiring was that the vineyards be converted to organic farming, and now, the estate is certified, as well as in biodynamics. Sadly, Stéphanie and their father have since passed away, but the Caslot family continues to make traditional Cabernet Francs for an incredibly affordable price, considering the amount of care that goes into bottle.

Bourgueil is one of few appellations in the Loire to focus almost entirely on Cabernet Franc. Though the terroir is similar to Chinon and Saumur, Bourgueil’s south-facing exposure to the Loire River makes for the most maritime climate. Here, Cabernet Franc reveals raspberry and blackberry fruit, earthy and herbaceous notes, and immense structure. Sharing the same name as the domaine, the Caslots’ “Chevalerie” cuvée comes from a parcel first planted in 1893, with vine age averaging 70 years old. It’s situated mid-slope, at the heart of the estate, on clay overlying the estate’s largest outcropping of tuffeau limestone.

“A lot of people think Cabernet Franc from Bourgeil is just interesting to drink young, but we think [that] is wrong and like to show the potential of aging,” said Laurie, my tour guide for the afternoon. All of the wineries that I visited had ancient underground cellars, but Domaine de la Chevalerie’s was hands down the most massive. Having this much space allows them to hold onto their wines for extended amounts of time, and they only release bottles deemed ready to drink. 2014 is believed to be the last “classic” vintage to yield perfectly balanced wines. Today, Chevalerie’s namesake cuvée is a pure delight, though it's sure to evolve in the years to come. At $35 per bottle, the value is simply unbeatable!

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