Domaine La Tour Beaumont Haut-Poitou Cabernet Franc 2019
After last week’s foray into south-west France for a glass of Tursan – check out my report on the 2015 Château de Bachen Tursan if you’re still in the dark on that vinous rarity – I feel obliged to turn the spotlight towards a similarly abstruse appellation in the Loire Valley. The more peripheral and rarefied Ligérian vineyards can throw up some real gems; while I might drink more Chinon, Savennières and Vouvray than I do Cour-Cheverny, Jasnières and Saint-Pourçain (well, who doesn’t?), the diversity these smaller and less well-known appellations bring to the region is a large part of the Loire Valley’s endless ability to fascinate. I think if you really want to know the Loire Valley and its wines, then exploring these little-known vineyards is a must.
Haut-Poitou is one such appellation, an isolated island of viticulture close to Poitiers, about 60 kilometres directly south of Chinon, which makes it the most southerly of all the vineyards of Anjou and Touraine. While the first vines were probably planted here during the Gallo-Roman era, it was during the 12th century that the great vineyard of Poitiers was established, under the direction of Guillaume X (1099 – 1137), Duc de Guyenne and Comte de Poitiers. Guillaume was a complicated character, who married the daughter of one of his father’s mistresses, a union which produced three children, the best known being the eldest, Aliénor d’Aquitaine (1122 – 1204). It was her marriage to Henry II (1133 – 1189) which brought Bordeaux under the rule of the English crown. And from that point onwards many of the wines made around Poitiers were shipped across La Manche to the English market.
During the many years that followed the vineyard grew to an enormous size, so that by the 19th century there were 43,000 hectares planted. As with France’s other ‘lost’ vineyards – such as the vineyards of the Auvergne – it was phylloxera that brought the region to its knees. The 20th-century recovery has been very limited, driven largely by the co-operative and a handful of dedicated growers, such as the Morgeau family of Domaine La Tour Beaumont. Their 30 hectares of vines constitute a significant slice of the appellation, one-third in fact, as today there are in total only 90 hectares planted. Pierre Morgeau, a fifth-generation vigneron, has the usual collection of Loire varieties planted, led by Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc of course, and he has just planted his first few rows of Malbec. Or Côt, I should say.
This weekend’s wine, the 2019 Haut-Poitou Cabernet Franc from Domaine La Tour Beaumont, comes from 8 hectares of vines planted on clay limestone soils. The vinification is traditional, kicking off in temperature-controlled stainless steel cuves, followed by a fairly short élevage. In the glass it starts off showing a little sweaty and flinty reduction, but given a little time in a decanter it metamorphoses into an exemplar of freshness and tension. The aromatics are all fruit and fragrance, with blackberry and black pepper to start, then peony, dried violets, red pepper and cranberry. It comes in a tense and dry style, with delicately acid-sour and mouthwatering fruit partnered with a lightly grained lick of tannin and precise acidity. The style is juicy, energetic, taut and bright. It will make for delicious summer drinking – just add sunshine. Or maybe a platter of charcuterie. The declared alcohol is 13.5%. 91/100 (9/8/21)
Read more in:
- My guide to the 2019 Loire vintage
- A profile of Domaine La Tour Beaumont
- My guide to Cabernet Franc in the Loire Valley