We’ve offered a couple of Le Petit Saint Vincent’s wines in years past and they seemed to have struck a harmonic chord. It’s hard to say who enjoyed them more—you or me—but either way, I’m constantly on the hunt for their standouts, and we’ve finally stumbled upon the ultimate bottle.
I heard through the grapevine they they started a tiny 300-case production of “Les Poyeux” back in 2011, but until last month I had never tasted (let alone seen) it. “Les Poyeux” is one of the most famous vineyards in the Loire Valley: it’s the site behind a $300+ bottling from Clos Rougeard, a producer widely regarded as the ultimate interpreter of Loire Cabernet Franc. Le Petit Saint Vincent’s version, meanwhile, costs exponentially less for what we’d argue is the same quality. With only two acres owned in this prestigious vineyard, winemaker and owner Dominique Joseph oversees his tiny lieu-dit with the utmost organic care. The result is a Cabernet Franc at its most elegant, aromatic, and pure; you’ll find yourself lost in the bottomless depth that it offers. There is nothing petite about today’s Le Petit Saint Vincent—it’s an incredibly serious wine without one harsh edge. At the moment, this eminently collectible red is still extremely affordable, but who knows how long that will last—it feels like a wine on the verge of major international stardom, so grab some now before word gets out!
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. Boasting tiny, quality-conscious producers that rarely leave their native France, they deliver pure, complex, mind-blowing wines in the right hands.
A distinguishing characteristic of Saumur-Champigny—in comparison to Chinon and Bourgueil, the more famous Cabernet Franc-based appellations of the Loire—is the more 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 more delicate expressions of Cabernet Franc, with more emphasis on dark cherry fruit and violet/rose florals and less on the meatier, bell-peppery characteristics of the grape.
Fourth-generation owner and winemaker Dominique Joseph was an early convert to organic farming and has been certified for many years. Known locally as ‘Pelo,’ he has run the family operation with his personal touch since 1990 and works out of a stunning, multi-chambered cellar carved directly from the local tuffeau. This wine is sourced from a two-acre lieu-dit (named vineyard site) within the esteemed “Les Poyeux” cru. Dominique’s family has owned this golden nugget of land for several generations, but only began making wine here in 2011. Grapes from these 55-year-old vines are harvested by hand and 100% destemmed in the winery. They undergo a four-week maceration in concrete vats before being transferred into neutral, 225-liter barrels (2-4 years old) for one year. The final wine is bottled unfined with an extremely light filter.
In the glass, the 2014 “Les Poyeux” reveals a brilliant crimson-ruby core with flashes of purple moving out to a magenta-hued rim. It is seductively aromatic, bursting forth with red and purple flowers next to a savory blend of wholesome fruits. Expect black cherry, wild plums, black raspberry, violet, rose petal, huckleberry pie, undergrowth, wild herbs, crushed stone, wet earth, and just a hint of baking spice. “Les Poyeux” is structured and supple at once, with soft tannins and a building rush of acidity as it moves toward the back of your palate. The wine is just under medium-plus bodied and showcases vibrant freshness alongside the sweet mix of dark fruits and flowers listed above. Additionally, it finishes with savory notes of meat and freshly cracked pepper. It’s a delectable treat that offers up enticing notes of Burgundy and northern Rhône, but make no mistake: Saumur-Champigny is a wholly unique wine, and it has so much life left. I believe it will perform at its best between 2020-2030, but decanting for one hour today is a perfect alternative. Serve in large Burgundy stems around 60-65 degrees and enjoy next to a succulent pork tenderloin topped off with a dark fruit sauce—the attached recipe is the way to go. Bon appétit!
Cabernet Franc 100%
Tuffeau & Sand