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Clau de Nell Cabernet Franc 2011
De-stemmed harvest, native yeast, 20 day maceration without extraction, gentle cap punching, limited pumping over, infusion techniques, at a temperature between 18 to 25°C. Slow and gentle pressing in a pneumatic press. 18 months on fine lees in Burgundy casks used 5 times before in troglodyte cellars.
Praised for its stately Renaissance-era chateaux as well as its diverse variety of wines, the picturesque Loire valley produces elegant and underrated red, white, and rosé as well as sparkling and sweet wines. Just south of Paris, the appellation lies along the river of the same name and stretches from the center of France to the Atlantic coast. Geography and climate differ greatly along the Loire’s vast length. Furthest inland, the climate is continental, becoming classically maritime as it reaches the ocean. Accordingly, the Loire Valley is perhaps the most diverse wine-producing region in France—this region does a little bit of everything, and it does it all quite well.
The Loire can be divided into three main growing areas, from west to east: the Lower Loire, Middle Loire, and Upper/Central Loire. The Pay Nantais region of the Lower Loire is focused on acidic, saline whites that beg for fresh seafood. Muscadet, made from the Melon de Bourgogne variety, is the most noteworthy appellation here. The Middle Loire contains Anjou, Saumur, and Touraine. In Anjou, Chenin Blanc reaches its zenith, producing outstanding dry and sweet wines reminiscent of crisp apples dipped in honey. Cabernet Franc dominates red and rosé production here, supported often by Grolleau and Cabernet Sauvignon. Sparkling Crémant de Loire is a specialty of Saumur. Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc are common in Touraine as well, along with Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay, and Malbec (known locally as Côt). The Upper Loire is Sauvignon Blanc country, home to the world-renowned appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Pinot Noir and Gamay produce bright, easy-drinking red wines here.
The subtler and more delicate of the Cabernets, Cabernet Franc is the proud parent of Cabernet Sauvignon and shares many of the structural elements of Bordeaux’s cornerstone variety. In Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc is often planted as an insurance policy against its later-ripening offspring, as it is more likely to thrive in a difficult harvest. But don’t mistake Cabernet Franc for merely a supporting player—this grape variety produces outstanding wines on its own or as the dominant component of a blend. It produces perhaps its most alluring wines in France’s Loire Valley, in the regions of Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur-Champigny, where brighter, riper wines can be achieved. Outside of France, Cabernet Franc has performed quite well in parts of California, New York, and Virginia.
In the Glass
Paler, lighter, crisper, softer, and much more aromatic than its progeny, Cabernet Franc typically tastes of red raspberries, cherries, and herbs, with a stunning perfume of violets, tobacco, and spice.
Mouthwatering acidity makes Cabernet Franc an incredibly food-friendly wine, helping to cut through the richness of fatty meat dishes. It especially shines in tandem with lamb, and its affinity for the spice cabinet allows it to pair perfectly with Chinese dishes prepared with Szechuan pepper and five-spice.
Under-ripe Cabernet Franc can be leafy and green with harsh tannins and mouth-searing acidity, so it is best to avoid highly spiced curries and fiery chili dishes.