In my search for values, I've been diversifying into regions and grape varieties I don't usually buy. While browsing a wine retailer's catalog recently, I noticed a Loire red for $17 that had been recommended by my colleague James Molesworth, so I added a bottle to the mixed case I was ordering. When the wines arrived, I set them aside for a while until, rummaging about one evening for something different to serve with balsamic steak, I remembered I had a Cabernet Franc.
I don't often think to buy 100 percent Cabernet Francs, as I've had some that were too green and herbaceous for my taste, but I'm converted now. This one, from the Loire Valley's Chinon appellation, melded the variety's unique flavors with the ripe fruit characteristic of the warm, dry 2005 vintage in France. Sweet black cherry, currant and fig paste overlaid bell and black pepper aromas. A mouthful of dark fruits—figs again—was followed by unfolding layers of herbs, tobacco and a peppery note that dominated the finish, which showed firm tannins balanced by bright acidity. At first subdued, the wine became richer and more complex throughout the meal, and the steak helped soften the tannins. 91 points, non-blind.
The Gouron family has been making wine since 1946, but its wines only recently showed up in our tastings. So I had to look up the domaine to learn how its Terroir cuvée differs from its three other Chinon reds: It comes from the estate's gravelly soils, from vines that are 35 years to 50 years old, and is aged in stainless steel for a year, rather than French oak. Production of the Terroir is small, but at any rate, I'll be keeping an eye out for more great Chinon values in the future.
WineSpectator.com members: Get the original blind-tasting review for Domaine Gouron Chinon Terroir 2005 (91, $22).
• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently reviewed Loire reds.