Jacky Blot has been a force in re-shaping the story of the central Loire Valley. Recently, we had a tremendous response to his dry Vouvray Bretonniere monopole, and today we turn to his top Cabernet Franc, the 2015 Bourgueil Mi-Pente. In its own right, Mi-Pente is a benchmark Loire Cabernet Franc and a triumph certainly for the village of Bourgueil - one excluviely focused on this variety. However, the approachable personality from this Grand Cru vineyard full of black and purple fruits, lavender, and tobacco always brings an arms wide open reception that appeals to most New World drinkers, as well as Loire purists. This is Cabernet Franc fit for the global stage.
Jacky taps 70-yr-old vines on this direct south-facing site. Mi-Pente has long been regarded as a top vineyard of Bourgueil for its very thin topsoil over deep limestone bedrock. The most age-worthy and structured wines from here, as well as Chinon and Saumur, come from sites with this similar high proportion of active limestone. But, it's this mid-slope placement and southern exposition that drench the site with an amplitude of ripeness that's singularly Grand Cru in nature.
Blot uses 20% new French oak barrels for Mi-Pente, buffering the definition of structure and concentration in gorgeous fashion. There's no perceptible new oak impartation as far as flavor, but the silkiest tannins wrap everything together finishing with perfect balance. At once there's nervy detail, and at the same time palate-staining depth of dark fruits and spice. In 2015, the power behind every characteristic is elevated without losing any sense of snap.
2015 is mostly characterized throughout France as a warm and dry year. In the Loire Valley the red wines really excel in these vintages, never showing roasted or overly-forward fruit notes that can plague more southern appelations. For me, Bourgueil has always been the cool side of the pillow for Cabernet Franc, and this vintage is one that highlights every magical element of Jacky's touch.
2015 Jacky Blot (Domaine de la Butte) Bourgueil Mi-Pente
$40 per bottle.
In the central Loire Valley Pierre and Catherine Breton produce a range of Cabernet Francs from Bourgueil and Chinon that represent everything that this shop was founded upon. These are the quintessential grower-producers that caught my mind of fire years ago. Organic and biodynamic viticulture, low sulphur, single vineyard expressions of place, and wines the beg to be opened with complete abandon. These are among the very most delicious and gratifying wines in all of the Loire.
The Bretons embody the spirit of the natural wine movement and its primary objective of sharing passion like no other estate. Of their entire range of wines one has spoken to me differently than the rest. The Clos Sénéchal is 100% Cabernet Franc from a 1.3 hectare parcel of clay over white tuffeau, the prized and finely-grained chalky limestone that is found in the Loire.
Clos Sénéchal is always the most seamless and elegant of the Breton's six single vineyard Cabernet Francs. On tuffeau in Bourgueil Cabernet Franc is at its most suave and polished, but site-specificity is in full high definition. Fermentation takes place in large open top wooden vats, and élevage is in old foudre.
Tasting notes can often times pull us away from a wine rather than bringing us closer, but this may be the one single cuvée in the world whose characteristics are so vivid and consistent for me each vintage. Black cherries, fresh potting soil, iron, and lavender is the combo that jumps out of the glass every time. There is a sense of composure and effortlessness with Sénéchal that bridges a difficult gap that can sometimes exist between natural wines and the more classic, age-worthy bottlings.
2012 and 2014 were the best examples of Clos Sénéchal to date. 2012 offers a perfect harmony between the ripe and juicy qualities of Cabernet Franc, with a serious mineral spine. 2 years in bottle at cellar temperature have allowed these to evolve gorgeously, as now the tannins have softened even further since release.
2014 saw smaller yields, but concentration and ripeness is outstanding. A vintage that was wildly successful throughout the entire Loire, from Sancerre west through Muscadet. These have the structure and fruit to age for decades with proper cellaring.2012 Breton Bourgueil Clos Sénéchal
$29 per bottle.
2014 Breton Bourgueil Clos Sénéchal
$29 per bottle.
2013 Breton Bourgueil Franc de Pied
$29 per bottle.
From a sand and gravel parcel that contains some of the very last own-rooted Cabernet Franc in the Loire Valley.
2015 Breton Grolleau VDP Vin de Loire
$24 per bottle
Light bodied, red-fruited, and outrageously juicy. The ultimate spring quaffer is produced by carbonic fermentation and minimal sulphur.
2010 Breton Chinon Saint Louans 1.5L
$89 per bottle.
The most powerful and long-lived wine from the Bretons.