What a better way to enjoy the vibrant colors on the trees and appreciate the last days of warm weather than to drink a bottle of fresh and fruity wine al fresco? Fall picnics have become one of my favorite weekend activities especially since I’ve moved to the countryside. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy cozy blankets and sweaters, a good cheese board, and delicious wine.
For today’s picnic, I was inspired by the red wines of the Loire Valley made of Cabernet Franc, an aromatic varietal with ripe fruit notes reflecting the fruity sensations of fall.
About the Loire’s Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc, also known locally as “Breton”, is the most important grape of the Anjou-Saumur and Touraine region of the Middle Loire. It is an early ripening variety which makes it perfectly suited to the cool climate of the Loire.
Let’s dive into these three appellations and compare them side by side…
Cabernet France ranges in style from light to medium-bodied, but always has a distinct fresh tang of acidity. It is an aromatic variety with ripe fruit notes and savory undertones. Less tannic than many other varieties, refreshing and youthful many Cabernet Franc based wines are ready to drink soon after bottling. However, at best years some appellations can produce vigorous and complex Cabernet Franc wines that are capable of aging over many years. A young Cabernet Franc has the aromas of red raspberries, cranberries, and cherries, vibrant acidity, and crunchy tannins. As the wine ages, it develops more complex aroma and flavor characteristics, silky texture, and will feel rounder and smoother on the palate.
Anjou has been traditionally known for its sweet wine wines, and even though soils here (dark schist) seem generally better suited for whites, Cabernet Franc has its place here too. This region produces lovely ruby red wines with gorgeous red raspberry and black currant aromas, often followed by notes of fresh paprika and smoke. Slightly chilled, they pair well with white grilled meats, charcuterie, stuffed baked vegetables, and mushrooms.
Saumur makes highly aromatic generous Cabernet Franc wines, occasionally stiffened by Cabernet Sauvignon (Saumur-Champigny). Cabernet France grows happily on the chalky limestone soils of Saumur, known here is tuffeau. These wines tend to be more tannic and have better aging potential. With time, they become more masculine and complex. Served slightly chilled they pair wonderfully with stir-fried chicken, roasted red meat, or even game birds.
In Chinon Cabernet Franc makes vigorous wine with raspberry fruitiness, notes of fresh green paprika and violets. The style of wine varies within the appellation: vineyards on riverside sand and gravel make lighter, easy to drink wines, whereas yellow tuffeau (a type of limestone), east of Chinon, and the plateau above to the west tend to produce more robust wines with great structure.
Younger wines are light and delicate with pronounced aromas of red fruit. Serve them slightly more chilled with grilled white meat, eggs in wine sauce, goat cheese, and desserts. Older wines have more substance and structure and call for richer foods such as braised beef, meat in mushroom sauce, or wild game.
3 Delicious Bottles for your Picnic Basket
Domaine Regnier-David Saumur Le Paradis 2017 ($16,97 www.pjwine.com)
Le Paradis comes from a micro AOC within Saumur called Puy Notre Dame, with its unique terroir of sandy limestone at 50-100m. Biodynamically farmed this parcel has a southern exposure and is an old vine selection massale (an old way of propagating vineyards with cuttings from exceptional old vines). The wine is fermented in cement underground tanks with indigenous yeast.
Fresh and elegant, Le Paradise is brimming with pomegranate and black cherry flavors, some green bell pepper notes, and a spiced touch at the end. It is a light to medium-bodied wine with bright acidity and the right amount of tannin on the finish.
Marc Plouzeau Domaine de La Croix Chinon Rouge Les Lisons 2018
Les Lisons is a single 3-hectare parcel of vines farmed organically on the left bank of Chinon. Complex soils of flint clay and clay-limestone produce wines of great elegance and long aging capacity. This is a beautiful full-bodied version of Cabernet Franc with a compelling flavor combination of dark fruit, woody notes, and hints of coffee. Structured, with silky tannins the wine is very enjoyable to drink now, and would only get better with time.
2018 Le Fief Noir ‘Somnambule’ Anjou Rouge ($21,96 www.astorwines.com)
Somnambule is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Grolleau planted on black schist soils. The wine radiates aromas of strawberry and cranberry. It is fresh and lush on the palate. Subtle oak and the addition of Grolleau, boost the wine’s brightness and add complexity.
Enjoy Fresh, Fruity, and Friendly Wines of the Loire. Happy Fall!