Domaine Olga Raffault Chinon ‘Les Picasses’ 2011
Please note: Shipment for this wine will be May 2017.
Happy New Year! We start 2017 with determination and optimism – determined to drink well and optimistic that we can do so at a great price. Today’s wine keeps us on that righteous path. Our first offer of the year is a perfectly cellared Cabernet Franc directly from Domaine Olga Raffault of the Chinon region in the Loire Valley. This is as good as Cabernet Franc gets.
Sommeliers and wine writers often describe the reds of the Loire Valley as among the world’s greatest values in wine. There are many Cabernet Franc winegrowers in the Loire but Domaine Olga Raffault in Chinon has earned, over four generations, a reputation as one of the most outstanding and consistent in the region. Ten-year verticals of Raffault grace top wine lists around the world and most sommeliers, wine writers and collectors agree that this is a timeless, region defining estate. We also like to stress that Raffault is as close to a bankable ‘sure thing’ as exists in wine – once these bottles reach the 15 to 20 year mark they triple or quadruple in price. This very affordable 2011 vintage is a great, effortless opportunity to begin or continue to grow your very own cellar. So while this wine has decades of improvement ahead it’s perfectly delicious now, or you can save it as an appreciating, blue-chip investment. It’s a win-win!
Though Olga Raffault passed away a number of years ago her granddaughter Sylvie Raffault and her husband Eric de la Vigerie carry on the family’s impressive winegrowing legacy. Sylvie stays true to the traditional style and classic approach that has drawn generations of sommeliers and collectors to the family’s wines. There is nothing modern or trendy here – this is Old School wine all the way. Farming is done without herbicides or pesticides on the clay-limestone soils of the slopes of Beaumont-en-Veron. All vineyard work is by hand, and whole clusters with stems are fermented using indigenous yeasts. The wines are then aged in ancient 40-hectolitre neutral barrels for 12 to 14 months before being bottled unfiltered and then aged more years before release. The world market is flooded with 2015 Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley but Raffault does everything at a slow, even pace and often releases its wines three, four or even ten years later than other producers. We applaud this patient, deliberate approach and the timeless wines it produces.
Raffault’s best wine comes from one of Chinon’s top crus ‘Les Picasses’ in the village of Savigny-en-Véron. This is important particularly for the 2011 vintage where the hillside crus had the potential to produce outstanding wines while those that were flat and low lying along the Vienne River were nowhere near as good. The high, steep slopes of alluvial clay on chalky limestone of Les Picasses, with its 60-year-old Cabernet Franc vines produced beautiful, dense and complex wine which will develop for decades.
The 2011 Raffault Chinon Les Picasses is a true, classic Chinon. Aromas of current, plum and huckleberry mix in with wet stone, tobacco leaf, graphite and white pepper. The wine has medium body, tight tannins and acidity that will mellow with time. This is a peppery, fresh, savory and lip smacking wine that bursts with energy and is the perfect foil for a fatty bistro steak. That is now, but we can’t stress enough that this 2011 will improve dramatically over the next two to three decades, if only one has the patience. Counterintuitively, Raffault’s Les Piccasses will become fatter and more fruit driven over the decades; as time unwinds the tightly coiled mineral layers, the wine blossoms in both body and aromas. Even off vintages like 1993 or 2001 are memorable stunners. The 2011 is a true ‘vin de Garde’ and anyone who has the patience to set aside a few bottles in the coolest corner of their cellar will be rewarded beyond their imagination!