Wine of the Week – I might be jumping the gun here, but I’m going to go ahead and call this one of my favorite wines of 2017. From a tiny, family run, biodynamic domaine in France’s Loire Valley, the 2012 M. & S. Bouchet Cabernet Franc is everything I look for in a red wine and more. I love how it balances freshness and total “chuggability” with more “serious,” savory and complex nuances. I love that it comes from 80+ year old vineyards that see zero chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or additives. I also love that the wine has 5 years of age on it and that less than 100 cases make it to the United States. And finally, I love the fact that we bought it all! For fans of lighter, fresher, spicier red wines (think Beaujolais) that you can serve with a little chill, I promise you’re going to love this natural wine from France’s Loire Valley.
Matthieu and Sylvanie Bouchet took over the family domaine in 1990. Located in Montreuil-Bellay, just south of Saumur, the husband and wife farm 15 acres of vines according to the strictest principles of biodynamics. This isn’t a new phenomenon here — Matthieu’s father Francois started farming this way back in 1962. In fact, Francois wrote the seminal book on how to use biodynamic principles in the vineyard, and he consulted for the likes of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Domaine Leroy, and Domaine Leflaive (to name a few) when they decided to make the conversion to this integrated system of organic agriculture. Matthieu and Sylvanie chose to follow in Francois’ footsteps and the estate is now Demeter-certified organic and biodynamic.
That’s all fine and dandy and healthy for the planet, but what’s the wine like? Trust me folks, this stuff isn’t just good for the planet, it’s good for the body too! I can testify to this fact. After consuming the better part of a bottle last week, I felt great and I woke up the next morning feeling even better. The Bouchet’s put a ton of TLC into this wine, and you can certainly sense it. The estate’s Cabernet Franc vines are some of the oldest in the region at 80+ years of age. In addition to using no synthetic chemicals in their vineyards, the couple ferment with native yeasts. They add minimal sulfur and do not fine or filter before bottling. They then age this one for a full 2 years in neutral French oak before bottling. This hand’s off approach in the vineyards and the cellar is all done in an effort to showcase the beauty and purity of these old vines.
The Bouchet’s are succeeding in this effort! ‘Le Sylphe’ is an aptly chosen name for this wine — translated into English, it me means a slender, graceful woman. The wine definitely has its similarities – it is beyond alive here with classic, sweet spices and black pepper. There is a silky, tobacco quality that combines well with all of the explosive black fruit. The wine tastes even better on day two when the tannin relaxes and all that is left is the exposed, raw richness of red/black/blue fruit that comes to the center weaving in and out with perfect acidity on a solid structure. It’s a delicious wine that will compete with the best Cru Beaujolais’ any day.