Domaine Olga Raffault Chinon ‘Les Picasses’ 2013
Winegrowers: Sylvie Raffault; Eric de la Vigerie
Region: Chinon (Loire Valley), France
Grape: Cabernet Franc
Shipping: September 2018
Domaine Olga Raffault is unquestionably the long-time reference point for top-quality traditional Chinon wines. Raffault is in the Véron, a wedge-shaped strip of land where the Vienne River intersects with the much larger Loire. Véron is temperate, humid and low-lying, with some small hills, and two main types of soil, one gravel-based and the other clay-limestone-based. Raffault farms parcels totaling 24 hectares of vines – 23 planted to Cabernet Franc and one hectare to Chenin Blanc. Their flagship Cabernet Franc comes from the renowned lieu-dit Les Picasses with its 60-year-old Cabernet Franc vines. This vineyard, located in the village of Savigny-en-Véron on a south-facing, limestone-rich slope on the highest hill in the area produces beautiful, dense and complex wines. Les Picasses is the most structured, powerful and age-worthy of Raffault’s wines.
Olga Raffault wines are some of our favourites. Twice a year we receive allocations from them and every time we offer their wines they quickly sell out. There is a lot of tasty Chinon available but most are what I call “bistro” wines – delicious, a little on the rustic side, but good with steak frites on a week night. Most are not, however, known for their refinement. Raffault, on the other hand, takes Chinon and its often ‘green-tasting’ Cabernet Franc grape to another level. 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. Today’s offer is balanced, of medium weight, and beautifully perfumed, and if properly cellared it will remain so for many years to come. At $39 it’s also arguably one of the most affordable red wines available for long-term aging. So, do yourself a favour and pick up a few bottles, try one now and cellar the rest for at least five years. I promise you’ll be happy you did.
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. 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 24 months before being bottled unfiltered and then aged more years before release. Domain 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.
The 2013 Raffault Les Picasses is a true, classic Chinon from the finest winegrower in the appellation. Direct from the winegrower therefore perfectly cellared, it has aromas of current, plum and huckleberry mixed in with wet stone, tobacco leaf, graphite and a touch of white pepper. The wine has medium body, tight tannins and acidity that will mellow with time. This is a delicious, spicy, fresh, savoury and lip smacking wine that bursts with energy and is the perfect foil for that fatty bistro steak I mentioned earlier, or better yet, try this excellent and easy to make beef stew. But this is now and I can’t stress enough that this 2012 will develop dramatically over the next two to three decades (yup, I said decades!) if only one has the patience. Counterintuitively, Raffault’s Les Picasses will become fatter and more fruit driven over the years; as time unwinds the tightly coiled mineral layers, the wine blossoms in both body and aromas. This 2013 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! However, if you are tempted to try it now decant it for 45 minutes then serve in a Burgundy stem at 16˚ to 17˚ and enjoy!