2005 Cabernet Franc: Bel Air Bourgueil

2005 Domaine du Bel Air Bourgueil les Vingt lieux dits
Red Wine; Cabernet Franc; Loire;
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NOTE: Peter and I will be talking wine at a Subculture Dining Event in March. For details, see the link and explanation at the end of this email. Another hot ticket here, but you’re in luck, because this wine is difficult to pronounce. I won’t go on about a wine with a funny name, but it does merit mentioning that both this appellation and Saumur Champigny (and plenty more) suffer from difficult pronunciations and therefore do not have the same exposure as Chinon. This makes them harder to find, and it makes for lower prices. Like Peter always says, Sancerre is easier to say than Pouilly Fume, and it sells twice as fast. Let’s take advantage of that. This is $15.98, a great price for the quality set forth, and it is yet another example of how this region was blessed by the 2005 vintage.By now the secret is out that I have a thing for Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. I haven’t told my wife yet, but I think she suspects. She hasn’t confronted me, but I suspect that might have something to do with her thing with peanut butter. Loire Franc has the ability to offer what I like about both Bordeaux and Burgundy while also remaining quintessentially Loire. Especially in 2005, I find the flavors that I like in Bordeaux and the softer texture and seductive aromatics reminiscent of the Burgundy experience. Not that Bourgueil is anything like St. Emilion or Volnay, I’m not selling rugs, but there is a sort of best of both worlds thing going on here. Plus I have to respect a wine that can age so well in the absolute absence of oak. Patrick and I were wondering whether Pinot Noir could ever achieve greatness without the spice of wood, and I posed the same question to Bob Varner who said he has contemplated bottling a case or so of some Pinot he is raising in a stainless steel tank. We’ll have to wait for those results, but I can speak to the Loire wine right now. I have drunk outstanding examples of Loire Francs more than 10 years old whose only exposure to a tree was the cork that enclosed them. They were wonderfully complex, aromatic and pure. I can only imagine that wood would have muddled the experience. The amazing thing to me is that if you adjusted for inflation, they would have cost somewhere around $15. That’s pretty good for a 15+ year old wine.

There is a strange tendency in the wine industry to move on to the next vintage as quickly as possible. Actually it is not so strange if you remember that it is an industry. We all do it, maybe because we’re afraid we’ll be beat to the punch. Though it’s a little silly, because with the exception of those chasing hyper-allocated wines, I think the consumer would prefer not to buy immediately following bottling and would rather purchase a wine that is drinkable. I say this because I saw 2006 Loire Franc on the market six months ago! If 2005 was a dud and people were trying to move on, that would be one thing, but as long as wines like this are still around, I’m going to give preference to them. I’m sure 2006 is fine (haven’t tasted many), but soon that’ll be all there is, so I see this as a limited and golden opportunity. I’m betting that 2005 Loire will beget many a proud “I bought this for nothing back when gas was only $3 a gallon” moment.

Looking back I’ve written about at least 8 wines from the 2005 vintage in the Loire. This is because I am convinced that it offers an unusual combination of depth and quality as well us unparalleled value. I am taken with the wines, and this is especially true of the reds. Many of them have an edge on Bordeaux and Burgundy in that they are delicious now, while also having the depth and (hidden) structure to age well. You can take this home now and drink it. You don’t have to extrapolate or keep it open for five days to see its virtues. Yet you’ll kick yourself if you don’t put a portion of your purchase away for the years to come. It’s one of those ‘yes’ wines, and I love stumbling onto them. – Ben Jordan

2005 Domaine du Bel Air Bourgueil les Vingt lieux dits
Red Wine; Cabernet Franc; Loire;
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Tasting Notes from Stephen George
Sometimes my tasting notes veer away from actual tasting notes toward whatever I’m thinking, and I don’t beat myself up about that, but when the opportunity arises to give you real descriptions of the wine, I take advantage. A customer who enjoys Loire Cabernet Franc tried this bottle last week, and informed me he thought it was delicious. I know he always keeps good notes, so I asked him if we could borrow them. He said ‘yes’, his name is Stephen George, and I’ve posted them below. Mine follow.“Recommended by Ben. Deep garnet color. Bouquet of dusty cherries, earth, bright spice, and deep red fruit flavors. Sexy nose. Palate is smooth, layered, and rich all at once. Starts with brooding fruit, followed by waves of black pepper mingled with brambleberry, with tannic grip on finish. Mouth-filling velvety texture. Good amount of zippy acid, coupled with nice structure, medium tight tannins, and rich fruit suggest a wine to lay down or drink happily now. Delicious, seductive wine. A delight.” – Stephen George
Tasting Notes
It was difficult to drink this wine in the 2nd day, because we almost drank it all on the 1st. What little was left was great, and better than the first day. It’s always nice to have an improvement on delicious. This has that added layer of richness that caresses the palate much in the way a good Pinot does. The silkiness hides the tannins. The all important (to me anyway) Loire acidity sits at that perfect point that you can acknowledge if you like, but otherwise will simply harmonize and act as a piece of the greater whole. This is a wine to smell (especially on the 2nd day) which prompts another comparison to Burgundy. The flavors are darker berry and earth prompting the thoughts of Bordeaux. I am very happy with the price of this, by the way. $15.98 is a steal. In case alcohol matters, this is actually 13%. I suspect the jpeg of the label was taken from the 2004.

Subculture Dining Event
On March 14th and 15th, Peter and I will be dining and presenting wine at an “underground” evening with the Dissident Chef and Subculture Dining. In addition to dinner and wine, the folks at Recchiuti will be on hand to discuss and present their chocolate and confections. While I can’t say much about the specifics, I can provide you with the links below, and also tell you that it sounds like a whole of fun. Anyone with an adventurous spirit looking to add some true spice to the dining out experience is encouraged to make a reservation. Peter will present one evening, and I will present the other. Note: We are appearing on a volunteer basis, and all donations given will go to Subculture Dining.

SubCulture Dining WebSite

To order tickets/make reservations.

Questions about any of the many things mentioned in this email? Email me at ben.winehouse@sbcglobal.net. For orders, please use our main email: winehouse@sbcglbal.net.


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