24-year-old Jerome Billard doesn’t make your father’s Chinon. After work at both Château Petrus in Bordeaux and Dominus in California, two of the
world’s most prestigious estates, who would expect him to turn out Cabernet Franc like anyone else in the area?
Domaine la Noblaie is one of the oldest family estates in the Chinon
appellation. With 18 hectares of holdings on hillside vineyards in Ligré, the property sits at almost the highest altitude in the entire AOC with commanding views over the river and the 600 year-old Chinon fortress. To say that Noblaie is a magical place doesn’t even come close to doing it justice.
The property is owned and run today by Francois Billard, an oenologist and former professor of viticulture. Many of today’s hottest winemakers were his former students including the immensely-talented Vincent Ogereau. However, after his son Jerome wrapped up the afore-mentioned internships in Bordeaux, California, and Australia, Francois
has handed over most of the winemaking responsibilities to his extremely able son.
Learn More About Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc (cab-uhr-NAY frahnk)
Right Place, Right time
You won't often find this grape bottled as a single variety as it can lean towards
earthy, vegetal tendencies (think green pepper & olives). Its typical place
is in a blend with Cabernet
or both. Cabernet Franc's home is the right bank of
It is an integral part in the blends of
adding structure and backbone to the softer Merlot. Yet some feel its potential
has been overlooked. If Cabernet Franc has the right soils and it's harvested
at the right time- it can produce a delicious wine all by itself.
Luckily, certain areas are creating wines that let this grape shine on it's
own. Cheval Blanc, one of the top Bordeaux wines in St-Émilion, consists
of 60% or more of the Cabernet Franc variety. Loire Valley red wines made with
Cabernet Franc often come from Chinon and Bourguil - they are deliciously balanced
and subtle examples of Cabernet Franc at its best, showing smooth tannins and
good fruit with herbaceous undertones. Long Island and Virginia have also had some success
with this grape.
Summing it up
Successful sites: Bordeaux, California (mostly for blends), Loire Valley,
Long Island, Virginia
bell pepper, violet, raspberry, cherry, cedar
Learn More About Loire, France
It's unfortunate that this region is so under appreciated and overlooked - the wines from the Loire Valley are outstanding. They are delicious examples of varietal and soil expression and the wide range of wines is so refreshing. Dry, sweet, sparkling, red, white… all represented here in the Loire. The main white grapes are Chenin Blanc, Muscadet and Sauvignon Blanc. For reds, Cabernet Franc takes center stage but the region also has plantings of Pinot Noir and Gamay. The AC of Cremant de Loire is popular – these are the sparkling wines of the Loire, usually made with Chenin Blanc.
As for which grapes you find in which regions… Starting on the Atlantic Coast and moving east - Muscadet hails from the region of the same name, within the larger Nantes district, right on the Atlantic coast. The wines are dry, citrusy and pleasant, but rarely powerful or intensely aromatic. Just inland from Nantes is Anjou-Samur, home to Savennières, an excellent source of dry Chenin Blanc. To the east is Touraine, where you'll find the popular white region of Vouvray - Chenin Blanc shines in Vouvray, which can be dry, off-dry or sweet – the majority of those found in the states are a lovely and food-friendly off-dry. In the same district, Cabernet Franc makes delicious, delicate and elegant reds from Bourguil and Chinon. Finally, in the Upper Loire area, Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé turn out Sauvignon Blancs of razor sharp acidity and minerality.