Two Chinons from Baudry

Hello friends. Continuing our series of reference-point producers in various wine regions, we have today the magical Cabernet Francs of Bernard Baudry in Chinon.

2011 Baudry Chinon Les Granges

The Loire Valley is the value garden of France. While Bordeaux and Burgundy command ever escalating prices, the Loire keeps chugging along, sending us containers of transparent, delicious, well-priced wines. A rule of thumb I suggest to friends when perusing a long restaurant wine list: find the Loire. Muscadets, Vouvrays, Savennieres, Jasnieres, Chinons, Saumurs, Bourgeuils: they’re almost without fail the finest values on the menu, and the most complementary of food.

Okay, Loire pitch over (No, I do not receive remuneration from the Loire Valley Wine Bureau. Yes, I would accept surreptitious library bottles of Coteaux-du-Layon in exchange for all this free marketing).

Let’s get oriented, because the Loire is a big place. Here’s the map. Chinon is region #22, right there along the Vienne River, one of the tributaries of the greater Loire. In fact, Baudry’s vines for Les Granges are literally right next to the river, so much so that he is known to prune the outer plants via rowboat. Come on! That scene is so bucolic, it’s only missing nymphs dancing to the sweet sounds of the pan-flute.

Bernard Baudry has been making wine since 1982, and his son Matthieu now joins him at the domaine. He is revered among lovers of Chinon for the purity and transparency of his Cabernet Francs, as well as the attention he pays to terroir. To wit, check out this display at the winery, showing each of his bottlings on top of their respective soil types. Les Granges is the leftmost, and Les Grezeaux (the other bottling we’re offering today) is second from the left.

Les Granges comes from a combination of sand and limestone (that limestone is famous in this region, and as you can see in these pictures – one, two – the Baudry caves are hewn right into the lime cliffs). It is the youngest vineyard that Baudry works with, but youth is relative here: these vines were planted in 1985, so they’re not far from their 30th birthday.

The wine is raised in a combination of cement and neutral barrels, and it’s bottled after just seven months, a play for youthful freshness and vigor. The aromatics are immediately compelling, with big floral topnotes above earth, poblano, and boysenberry fruit. The palate possesses that appealing Chinon combination of fruit and vegetable and soil, all lifted by persistent inner-mouth perfume. There is a mouth-coating intensity to this, rare to see at a sub-$20 tariff, but it’s the brightness, the vibrancy, the honest expression of Chinon Cab Franc that seals the deal.

2010 Baudry Chinon Les Grezeaux

From the youngest vines in the Baudry portfolio to the oldest, and because this is Chinon instead of Bordeaux, the tariff goes up by…

…eight bucks.

So the vines are older (65 years old), and the soil type is completely different: all gravel. Although not far away geographically from Les Granges, Les Grezeaux is a completely different expression of Cabernet Franc. It also sees a little more time in barrel (twelve months), and so the vintage is typically one year behind Les Granges (as it is today).

A deep, dank, earthy nose starts things off, musky and sultry and somehow a little naughty. The palate presents an ultra-intense mouthful of floral-inflected black fruit and black tea. There’s a real sense of leafiness here – tea leaf, tobacco leaf, etc. – and great depth and chew to the ripe tannins. What a fine alternative for Cabernet Sauvignon lovers! This carries much of the same structure, but perhaps with a more insistent sense of earthiness, and a leafier fruit profile.

Both of these wines represent outstanding value for money; both age beautifully; and both find their highest expressions on the dinner table. First come first served up to 12 bottles of the Granges. The Grezeaux is much more limited, so please limit order requests to 4 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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