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Not Enough Superlatives to Describe this Loire Cabernet Franc from Saumur-Champigny

Domaine des Roches Neuves “Clos de l’Échelier” (Saumur-Champigny, 2014)

We were fortunate enough to get a onetime shipment of elite Loire producer Thierry Germain‘s wines before a well-known and highly regarded US importer signed him and dried up our (very affordable) supply. Our stocks are dwindling but we do have enough of the cuvée “Clos de l’Échelier” left for one last tasting. Grab some now before they reach the cult status/price of the other famous Saumur-Champigny producer, Clos Rougeard. Even now, this wine sells for over $20 more per bottle nationally than our promotional price, and it will rise further as more wine drinkers learn about Thierry’s work.

Since he arrived in Saumur decades ago Thierry Germain had his eyes set on Clos de l’Échelier, a five acre walled parcel located southeast of Saumur in Dampierre sur Loire that he knew to be special. He finally purchased the plot in 2011. With a thin crust of calcareous clay topsoil over solid Turonian limestone, the wines from this vineyard show gorgeous and elegant aromatics of dark red berries, violets, and petrichor. A sip is fresh, pure, harmonious, intense…and the wine is only going to get better with time.

Raised in Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, at the family winery of Château Yon-Figeac, Thierry set out on his own at the tender age of 23 to make his name in the more challenging climate of northern France. Although receiving accolades nearly from the start, his winemaking style has gone through several stages of metamorphosis over the years, ultimately eschewing new oak and blowsy fruit for precision and sense of place. Thierry believes that the wines he has made over the past four vintages truly exhibit the highest expressions of Saumur.

We’re using the word “style” to talk about Thierry’s winemaking but the adjustment has really been about moving away from wines created in the cellar and toward wines created in the vineyard. The domaine has been certified biodynamic since 2002. Harvesting is done completely by hand in over 30 parcels, all of which are vinified separately with indigenous yeast. Yields are small and almost all of his wines are matured in larger casks, although he particularly likes the three-year-old barrels that he buys each year from the Burgundy producer Méo-Camuzet in Vosne-Romanée. Which is no surprise as one of Thierry’s goals is having his Saumur-Champigny rival the silky elegance of high level Burgundy.

Indeed, Cuvée Clos de l’Échelier has been described as the Chambolle-Musigny of the Loire.

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Posted on 2016.04.27 in France, Loire, Saturday Sips


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