Category Archives: Loire Valley Update

B-21 Specialists believe this to be one of the most dynamic regions in France. Learn more about the region and it’s major grapes, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.

On The Road – Bourgueil’s Ageless Beauties: ’89 Cab Franc & ’09 Old Vine

You might not know Faugères and I could not have found this patch of the Languedoc without help. So I’m thrilled that Kermit Lynch showed the way to this special place and a very special winemaker, Didier Barral, and his beautifully pure wines at the Domaine of Leon Barral. As lush and earthy as any in Chateauneuf or Priorat at a fraction of the price.

Let me tell you about the place, Faugères is about 50 miles west of Montpellier and maybe 30 from the sea, sort of near St. Chinian and Minervois. High altitude vineyards up in hills with so much schist that some people say the grapes ripen at night from the heat of the stones. Faugères has grown grapes for centuries. Barral is one big reason Faugères is now on the wine route. Some of the wood and slate buildings have been there for ages and some it hand-built yesterday. Small and old-fashioned, certainly. Barral and his wines are famous across France and a beacon around the world for the biodynamic winemaking of the future.

On my visit a Japanese activist was spending a year with Barral to see how he does it. The answer? With cattle, pigs and sheep in the vineyards, ladybugs and earthworms in the soil and natural yeast and an antique wine press. I tasted the luscious 2009s and feasted on Didier’s food in their ancient barn. He then set out two boudins he had made, a roast haunch of pork and a two foot wheel of Franche-Comte.

A unique experience, wines like few others can make from syrah, carignan and mourvedre. Each wine is marvelous; even the “basic” cuvee from 40 year old vines is a huge helping of Faugères‘ rich, wild terroir. I know you’ll want more, and at B-21’s prices, you can have them all. This is the best of the very old way of France.

2009 Domaine de la Chanteleuserie, Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes
2009 Domaine de la Chanteleuserie, Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes

1989 Domaine de la Chanteleuserie, Bourgueil Cuvee Beauvais
1989 Domaine de la Chanteleuserie, Bourgueil Cuvee Beauvais

Reporting from: Loire Valley, France

The sun came out today in Nantes. That’s a rare and welcome occurrence in January. The mercury barely rose, but no matter. We’re on the road to Bordeaux today and looking forward to a visit at Chateau Lafite. I know what you’re saying, “Who can afford that stuff?” Well, here’s a little secret. Lafite has been working in Argentina for over a decade now and making a beautiful red for everyone.

When we opened the first bottle of 2009 Amancaya, the staff went wild. Why not? This Malbec/Cabernet blend comes from the partnership of Barons (Lafite) de Rothschild’s French expertise and the long Argentine heritage of the Catena family. This joint venture, called CaRo, makes the Amancaya cuvee with Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, and uses just the right amount of oak (very little) to show its elegance early. With Argentina’s excellent fruit in 2009 and 30 year-old vines in the best vineyard sites, this is more than a fine red; it’s a beautiful wine that speaks to every level of wine appreciation and sophistication. The 2009 Amancaya has an amazingly high level of concentration, freshness and distinct Lafite poise. You certainly won’t believe the price. More notes tomorrow from St. Emilion, on the road.