“Ask and you shall receive.” After an outpouring of praise (and requests for more!) that followed our offer of the brilliantly rich 2015 “Les Clos Lyzières” from Le Petit Saint Vincent, we went back to their importer and pleaded for more. And while the ’15 was indeed bold and beautiful, we wanted to go a little deeper—namely, back to ’14, where, as in Burgundy, the wines may not have been as rich but were, on balance, more profound.
Loire Valley specialist Charles Sydney dubbed 2014 the “five smiley vintage:” It resulted in spectacularly classic wines across the board. Now just imagine a 2014 from (a) the hands of a masterful vigneron who has farmed organically for a quarter century and (b) from a single vineyard that is contiguous with one of the region’s most celebrated. The result, as you’ve likely guessed by now, is a stunning representation of pure Cabernet Franc. Hailing from a single parcel situated mere steps from Clos Rougeard’s famed “Les Poyeux” vineyard, Dominique Joseph’s “Les Clos Lyzières” doesn’t stop drawing comparisons at proximity: Despite its mind-bendingly low price, it’s one of very few Cabernet Francs that compete with Clos Rougeard’s high-flying levels of perfumed aromatics, intricate minerality, and sublime purity of fruit. As Clos Rougeard’s prices have skyrocketed, I urge you to secure a small batch of today’s wine—its seamless melding of Burgundian elegance and Bordelais depth will stun you.
From the crisp, intensely mineral Muscadets in the Pays Nantais, through the Cab Francs and Chenin Blancs of Anjou-Saumur and Touraine, to the easterly appellations crafting Sauvignon Blanc, the Loire Valley is home to incredible history (reaching back to Charlemagne); a wildly diverse collections of wines; and superb values across the board. One of the appellations of note here is Saumur-Champigny—ground zero for some of the world’s most classic expressions of Cabernet Franc, thanks to the dominant presence of tuffeau in the soils. While there are other factors in play, there’s wide agreement that this soft-textured, yellowish limestone lends Saumur-Champigny reds their exceptional brightness and perfumed aromatics. On the whole, these wines tend to be archetypal expressions of intricate Cabernet Franc with emphasis on dark fruits and high-toned floral aromatics.
Fourth-generation owner and winemaker Dominique Joseph was an early convert to organic farming and has held a certification for many years. Known locally as ‘Pélo,’ he has run the family operation since 1990 and works out of a stunning, multi-chambered cellar carved directly from the local tuffeau. Pélo’s parcel in “Les Clos Lyzières” soaks up the sun in its southeast-facing position and today’s 2014 is a choice selection from 55-year-old Cabernet Franc vines. In the winery—only minutes away—grapes are 100% de-stemmed and undergo an extremely lengthy four-week maceration (it makes sense once you see the deep concentration and color of the wine). During this time, he keeps the wine moving via punch-downs and pump-overs in order to achieve maximum integration. Unlike his “Les Poyeux,” which rests in oak, this ages entirely in concrete vessels.
In the glass, Le Petit Saint Vincent’s 2015 “Clos Lyzières” reveals a deep ruby-crimson moving out to a bright magenta rim. In our offering of the 2015, the wine was full of rich, ripe fruits and high-toned aromatics. The 2014 certainly is equipped with those explosive aromas, but the fruits are leaner and overall, the wine shows more structure. The nose is beautiful, erupting with currants, boysenberry, black and blue plums, red licorice, lavender and roses, black raspberry, leather, freshly picked herbs, tobacco leaf, and forest floor. The palate is just over medium-bodied and silky smooth with a higher level of acid and grippier tannins than the 2015, indicating age-worthiness. The acidity comes through brilliantly (this is Cab Franc, after all) on the mid-palate, creating wonderful tension between fruit, earth, and minerality. Those of you more familiar with Chinon can expect this Saumur-Champigny to be a more supple, bright, and silky take, while preserving the earthy savor and piquancy that comes with the best examples of Loire Cabernet Franc. Wine doesn’t get more classic than this, so be sure to stock up and uncork your bottles throughout the next decade, as it will certainly continue blossoming in the cellar. After a 30-minute decant Serve in Bordeaux or Burgundy stems around 60-65 degrees and enjoy with crispy pork belly. Put its fat-cutting acidity to work! Cheers!
Loire Valley / Anjou-Saumur
Cabernet Franc 100%
Burgundy or Bordeaux Stem