Les Cailloux du Paradis Racines 2008
Perhaps it was last week's Real Wine Fair that did it. Or perhaps it was just the feeling that I have strayed too long from the Loire, looking instead at wines from Condrieu and Banyuls in recent weeks. Whatever the reason, this weekend I really felt as though a return to the defined, bright and crunchy fruit of the Loire Valley would do my soul some good. I like Viognier, especially when it shows a rare, minerally tautness, and I like Grenache too, especially when it comes with a sweet, heady, bright, cherry-fuelled intensity which so often seems absent from the baked, points-seeking wines of the Southern Rhône. But there is nothing quite like the perfume and crunch of Côt and Cabernet Franc from the Loire.
Regular readers will surely be familiar with the wines of Claude Courtois and Les Cailloux du Paradis, as I have featured them before, including such esoteric delights as Quartz, a Sauvignon Blanc not wearing the usual aromatic guise of the variety (is this a style specific to the Cher Valley, I wonder?) as well as a rather appealing Romorantin (no question mark here - this is a style very true to the region). Racines is another cuvée from Claude, and the most consistently appealing in my opinion.
The wine in question is, as I have suggested above, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Côt, as well as some Cabernet Sauvignon. It may actually include any number of other varieties, as Claude isn't one for getting too bogged down by such minutiae as identifying or describing the vines he works with. The wine therefore represents the vineyard expressed through a multitude of different varieties, although to my nose and palate it is always the Cabernet Franc - and perhaps the Côt which can often demonstrate a very similar violet-tinged perfume - that shine through the strongest. The fruit is harvested at anything between 20 and 25 hl/ha, all picked by hand, destemmed and fermented by indigenous yeasts, followed by an élevage lasting between 18 and 24 months, in used oak.
As in previous vintages, the vintage here is not openly declared, but comes instead from the lot number, in this case Lot 08-3. In the glass it has an attractive, vibrant but dark red hue. It is very perfumed, with some really fresh, crisp, bright fruit beneath the floral upper layers, alongside a dark, slightly sooty confidence. Overall the aromatics suggest a really good sense of harmony, and plenty of conviction too. The palate has finely perfumed violet tones on the start, intensifying through the middle, with a melange of cherry skin and plum skin, and a bright, crunchy fruit definition. There is a nice harmony to it, and a low-key tannic backbone, with rather fine acidity. It's the purity and scented fruit skin character, surely a trait of Cabernet Franc more than the other varieties, that really makes this wine special to my palate though. Very good indeed. 16.5/20 (25/3/13)