Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon Rouge Les Chiens-Chiens 2016
Noblaie sits at one of the highest points of the Chinon appellation and is essentially two long, sloping hillsides covering 24 hectares. The soil is mostly limestone (some of it quite deep) covered with clay and limestone shards. The property is certified organic by Ecocert and has been working this way since about 2005. All harvests are carried out by hand (rare in Chinon) and in multiple passes through the vines. Unlike many other properties that hand harvest, Noblaie has the same team year after year and the vineyard and winery triage is quite severe. The point is not to produce green or vegetal Cabernet Franc but to find that perfect razor’s edge maturity that privileges the earthiness and spiciness of the varietal while showing off the fruit and elegance at the same time.
As opaquely named lieu dits go, Chiens-Chiens ranks near the top of the list. This site has borne this puzzling name for as long as anyone can remember, and what, “Dogs-Dogs” could have originally meant is pure conjecture. What it means today however, is an elegant Chinon from sandy tuffeau soils sporting dark-fruit flavors and a silky texture –hardly what we’d call a dog.
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The 2016 Chinon Les Chiens Chiens is pure, fresh and steely on the nose, with concentrated red fruit aromas (sour cherries!) intertwined with floral and some meaty notes. Silky, fresh and very elegant, this is an energetic, straight Cabernet Franc with a long and spicy, wonderfully tensioned finish. An excitingly pure and salty wine. Serve with cooked or stewed meat (even fat) or cheese, of course. The wine was bottled in April 2018.
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.
An important red wine appellation in the Touraine district of the Loire, Chinon produces fanciful, light-bodied reds from the Cabernet Franc grape. Chinon also makes charming rosés from the same grape as well as white wines from Chenin blanc. But the reds give the area its fame. Often scented with fresh herbs, black tea and violets, Chinon reds show a lovely combination of fruit and acidity. However, styles have become more concentrated and ripe in recent years from improvements in vineyard management. Modern methods include planting grass between vineyard rows, using higher trellises and deleafing to increase sunlight to berries and therefore improve ripening. Even still, red Chinon is intended to be a light to medium bodied, refreshing wine to be enjoyed in its youth.
Fuller-bodied Chinons come from vineyard sites on the clay and tuffeau limestone slopes, usually from the southern exposed slopes of Cravant-les-Coteaux, and the plateau above Beaumont. Lighter styled wines come from the sand and gravel vineyards near the Loire or Vienne Rivers with the most refined examples coming from the area around Panzoult
Cabernet Franc, a proud parent of Cabernet Sauvignon, is the subtler and more delicate of the Cabernets. Today Cabernet Franc produces outstanding single varietal wines across the wine-producing world. Somm Secret—One of California's best-kept secrets is the Happy Canyon appellation of Santa Barbara. Here Cabernet Franc shines as a single varietal wine or in blends, expressing sumptuous fruit, savory aromas and polished tannins.