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Cognard-Taluau St Nicolas de Bourgueil Les Malgagnes 2005

Cognard-Taluau St Nicolas de Bourgueil Les Malgagnes 2005Three weeks in the Loire has brought a wealth of gustatory experiences for me, not all of which were of a vinous nature - I tasted a few other epicurean delights along the way. There were some obvious culprits, such as a wealth of cheeses, and others that were not expected, such as a glass or two of some local home-brewed eau de vie. A mouthful of salt shared with Pierre-Jacques Druet, as we explored its effect on the palates sensation of tannins was perhaps not so pleasant on the palate but it was nevertheless highly memorable.

Nevertheless, without doubt the wines I experienced were the most memorable, not least because with the recent 2005 vintage being a huge success for the red wines of Anjou, Saumur and Touraine, there are a wealth of brilliant reds to be found. Obviously these take in a small smorgasbord of varieties, including Cot, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Pineau d'Aunis, but it was the Cabernet Franc-dominated wines of Chinon and Bourgueil that really excited me most. After tasting a few, it quickly became apparent that this is a truly magnificent vintage, maybe the once-in-a-lifetime event that viticulteurs are often said to be waiting for. As we talked one day, one such individual looked back over vintages he had experience of, through working them or through tasting the wines, trying to find a comparable year. He quickly skipped over the only great vintage for Loire reds of which I have any experience, this being 1989, reaching back to cite 1947 and perhaps 1921 as being perhaps of the same quality.

I have no knowledge at all of these ancient vintages, and so certainly wasn't inclined to argue. Besides, if I needed any evidence of the style of the vintage I had tasted it just the previous day, when I opened a bottle of the 2005 St Nicolas de Bourgueil Cuvée les Malgagnes from Lydie & Max Cognard-Taluau. I approached the wine with no trepidation, no huge expectation, hoping for nothing more than a some fruit, some balance, some substance, and preferably a fresh style. What I got was one of the greatest examples of Loire Valley Cabernet Franc I have ever experienced, and a wine that shot straight into my list of top Cabernet Francs from anywhere. On opening the bottle the wine releases a wave of fruit aromas, led by a vein of blackberry. In the glass it has a fine, dark, red-black hue, and the aromas continue to waft out in waves; the blackberries are followed by an array of crushed summer fruits, black cherries and a little cranberry, and then the non-fruit complexity follows. Sweet and smoky liquorice, sprinkled with white pepper. This is already explosive and plainly delicious, but the delights only continue on the palate, for here the wine displays a pure, seductive, silky-creamy texture intertwined with firm and charcoaly tannins. The balance is exquisite, and with that silky caress this wine has a set of qualities I would expect to find in much 'grander' examples of Cabernet Franc from a certain St Emilion estate. There is fabulous fruit richness here, and a superb, smoky, tobacco-infused finish. Pretty soon all that is left in the bottle is a sizeable spread of tartrate crystals, stained purple by the wine. This is undeniably one of the greatest examples of Cabernet Franc I have ever tasted, and a wine that I have stocked up on with the expectation that this will certainly do brilliantly in the cellar. 19+/20 (21/7/08)

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