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Fabrice Gasnier Chinon Les Graves 2018

Fabrice Gasnier Chinon Les Graves 2018

Back to Chinon this week with a domaine which I have not had the opportunity to feature on these pages before. The Gasnier family have been tending vines around Cravant-les-Coteaux (which is to Chinon what Chavignol is to Sancerre – hopefully that means something to somebody) since the late-19th century. One hundred years later, when I first passed through the region, responsibility had fallen to Jacky Gasnier, a third-generation vigneron, but these days it is his son and daughter-in-law Fabrice and Sandrine Gasnier, the fourth generation, who man the press.

The domaine is located in the hamlet of Chèzelet, which is little more than a small gathering of a handful of vignerons’ houses and their associated cellars situated on the valley floor, on the right bank of the Vienne close to Cravant-les-Coteaux. The soils here are naturally alluvial, with sandy gravel dominating, but as you might imagine Fabrice has several hectares on the limestone slopes and plateau as well, giving him a range of terroirs to work with. He started alongside his father in 1990, but soon took over the running of the domaine in entirety, eventually converting it to organic viticulture before in 2008 he committed to biodynamics, certified by Demeter.

Fabrice Gasnier Chinon Les Graves 2018

The domaine’s signature wine is arguably Les Graves, which as the name suggests comes from the gravel soils located on the terraces of the valley floor, close to the cellars. The vines are as old as forty years, their fruit picked by hand. The berries are vinified whole in small cement vats, fermented by indigenous yeasts, and the new wine is aged on the lees in the vat (with no oak for this cuvée at all) for a few months before being bottled the following spring. It’s a fairly typical recipe for a gravel cuvée intended for drinking young or after just a few years, rather than committing to the cellar for a long period of time.

Coming from a superb vintage for the region’s reds it is no surprise to see the 2018 Chinon Les Graves from Fabrice Gasnier showing off with a dark and richly pigmented core and a vibrant violet rim in the glass, although it is far from opaque. The aromatics, despite the wine’s evident restraint, scream with the character of the vintage, throwing out scents of black cherry skin and cherry stone, backed up by a curranty substance and notes of black olive. These sit within an evident tension and frame though, suggesting a taut structure, and indeed the palate immediately displays both direction and tension, mirroring the style on the nose. It has a modest texture, looking true to the gravelly terroir in this regard, supported by rather delicate and fine-boned tannins and some fresh acidity. Overall it majors on restraint, freshness and vibrancy, although it does have a little length to give us. While ready for drinking now, this will age nicely for five years at least, although I think I might find it hard to resist the fruit sapid structure for that long. 93/100 (7/9/20)

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