Saturday, August 8, 2009

Domaine l'Hortus & Domaine Couly-Dutheil Tasting

The Spirited Gourmet recently held a wine tasting showcasing the wines of Domaine de l'Hortus and Domaine Couly-Dutheil, supposedly the best producer of Cabernet Franc anywhere. It was that claim that really interested me, especially considering my dislike for many Cabernet Franc wines. Yet I have recently found some Cabernet Francs that I have not only liked, but have impressed me.

Domaine de l'Hortus is owned by Jean Orliac, who bought the land for his vineyard around 1980. After much hard work, the first vintage was not until 1990, and the winery itself was not completed until 1995. He produces both whites and reds. He also produces wines under the Coteaux du Languedoc appellation at Clos du Prieur.

The 2007 Bergerie Blanc ($19.99) is a blend of equal parts Chardonnay, Roussanne, and Sauvignon Blanc with a little Viognier. This wine sees no oak and has an alcohol content of 13%. It was an interesting wine, with an aromatic nose of flowers and citrus, and a crisp taste with plenty of peach, apple, and melon. There were also some herbal notes and a pleasing finish.

The 2007 Bergerie Pic St. Loup ($18.99) is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. It was aged in used French oak and has an alcohol content of 13.5%. This wine has a very floral nose, mostly violet and lavendar, both which came out in the taste as well. This may be one of the most floral blend of these three grapes I have ever tasted. There were still flavors of dark berries yet the lavendar and violet dominated. Tannins were moderate and the finish was moderately long. Not what I expected but pleasing nonetheless.

I was told the 2006 Clos du Prieur (not available for sale yet) was a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache but research online indicates it may actually be a blend of 30% Syrah, 60% Grenache and 10% Carignan. This was an impressive wine with a bright red fruit smell. On the palate, there was plenty of ripe flavors of black cherry, plum and blackberry alone with a spicy backbone. Tannins were moderate and the finish was very long and satisfying. A heartier wine that seduces the palate with its complexity and intense flavors. A strong recommendation.

Domaine Couly-Dutheil is an older winery, founded in 1921 by Baptiste Dutheil. Baptiste settled in the Chinon region following WWI and started out as a wine merchant. He married his cousin Marie Couly. In 1928 another family member, René Couly, moved to Chinon. He eventually married Madelaine Dutheil, the daughter of Baptiste and Marie. For much of the next years, René was the face of Couly-Dutheil. It has remained in the family ever since.

The 2007 Les Chanteux ($27.99) is made from 100% Chenin Blanc and comes from the tiny Chinon blanc AOC. It sees no oak and has an alcohol content of 13%. This was a crisp wine with plenty of fruit, especially green apple, pear and peach. It had some minerality too and a fairly long finish. A very nice wine that should please many.

The Rene Couly Chinon Rose ($19.99) was a disappointment. Made from Cabernet Franc, its taste had that green/vegetal taste I dislike. I was starting to worry a bit about how the other Cabernet Franc wines would turn out.

The 2007 Chinon La Diligence ($21.99) was made from 100% Cabernet Franc and also had that green/vegetal taste though it was somewhat mild. Though sufficient that I did not care for the wine.

Thus, with much trepidation I tasted the 2005 Chinon Baronnie Madeleine ($29.99), also made from 100% Cabernet Franc. In their best vintages, they select some of the best barrels from the different vineyards to make this wine. I was expecting more greenness yet was pleasantly surprised when there was absolutely none there! Instead there was dark red fruit flavors and spice, reminding me of the Shinn Vineyards Cabernet Franc that I had enjoyed so much in Long Island. This Madeline was exquisite: complex, smooth and with a lengthy and satisfying finish. I even bought some of this wine as I loved it so much. Even if you generally dislike Cabernet Franc, this is a wine that will make you change your mind.

The list of Cabernet Francs that I do enjoy keeps growing.


David McDuff said...

"...supposedly the best producer of Cabernet Franc anywhere."

I'm not going to touch that one, Richard, other than to say it's more than mildly hyperbolic. Look for the Chinons of Bernard Baudry and Fabrice Gasnier, as well as the Bourgueil of Pierre & Catherine Breton, just to name a few. All offer wines starting as low as $15 that are fantastic examples of Loire Cabernet Franc.

Wine of Month Club said...

Had my first Cab Franc yeserday...yeah yeah I know. Interesting wine and I could definitely see how people would like it. It was from a Temecula CA producer and too earthy....I'd love to try a really, really good one

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi David:
I probably should have made it clearer that the "best producer" comment was made by the wine store.

Thanks for the recommendations. Do those Cab Francs have a green/vegetal taste?

David McDuff said...

I wasn't sure where the "best producer" comment was coming from, Richard, but I was pretty sure it wasn't your take.

I can't promise you'll never find any kind of herbal flavors in the wines from the producers I mentioned, but their wines definitely do not fall into the bell pepper juice camp. One thing I will say, though, is that Cab Franc, and especially Loire Valley Cab Franc, is always best enjoyed with food.