Wednesday, October 14, 2009

WBW #62: Catherine et Pierre Breton 2007 Bourgueil Le Galichets

With the theme of this Wine Blogging Wednesday being "A Grape By Any Other Name," my natural inclination given that my blog is Cabernet Franc based is to write about Breton from the Loire Valley in France. My wine choice: Catherine et Pierre Breton 2007 Bourgueil Le Galichets. Just to clarify, Cab Franc is called Breton in the Loire, while the Bretons are well-respected vintners based largely in Bourgueil, a village in the Loire. Even if I don't get bonus points for this double, certainly the Bretons do for working with their namesake grape. And just to add another potential layer of confusion, the wine is labeled by the Bourgueil appellation where only Cabernet Franc is grown. Although Cabernet Franc is written on the label of this bottle, typically Bourgueils are simply labeled by their appellation, not their varietal.

In many ways this is a typical Loire Breton/Cabernet Franc, but it is not necessarily the best exponent of the varietal. Its most obvious difficulty is its bracing acidity. While this paired nicely with goat cheese (spread on the Breton crackers pictured above, leading to a rare Breton producer/wine/food triple play)--creamy foods and acidic wines generally have a nice synergy--by itself the wine has a sour streak. I'm no huge fan of cocktail wines that are meant solely to drink without food, but a food-only wine is equally limiting in its own way. On the other hand, the dry finish, lighter body and dusty tannins do make the wine fairly approachable and versatile as a partner to food. Another barrier is not-so-subtle herbaceousness on the nose. While there are complex cured meat and subtle cherry aromas, a distinct weediness going beyond dried herbs or even bell pepper is prominent. Jeff of Viva La Wino enjoyed this particular cuvée from the Bretons, but this experience is more similar for me to my other recent 2007 Loire venture. 2007 was a challenging vintage, and it does seem that perhaps the fruit is evanescent as others tasting the same wines found them less green several months ago. Thus, I'm rather pessimistic about the 2007s in general.

I must say I'm not a big proponent of this style of Cabernet Franc. Green is good, but without fruit or other complementary aromas, it is rather monolithic. Deeper, more structured wines seem capable of carrying more herbaceous qualities. But in a lighter bodied, crisp wine like this one, simple fruit is preferable. One other factor worth noting is that the closure used is a synthetic cork. I'm not a big fan of these as they're the worst option available for long-term aging due to high oxygen ingress. I don't see much benefit to aging this particular wine, though, so the point is rather moot. If the intent is a drink-young wine, then the rubber stopper is a good choice since there's no chance of TCA contamination.

Pros: Approachable Tannins, Light Body, Food-Friendly
Cons: Herbaceous, High Acid
Decant: Maybe
Price: $19 from K&L Wines
QPR: Mediocre (out of Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good or Excellent with Fair denoting expectations were met for the price point)

13 comments:

Jeff said...

Too bad that you didn't like this one from Breton. I think that in some areas, our palates may not be aligned...haha. Anyways, I don't remember too much about this wine in particular, but I do not remember liking it as much as the other Breton Cab Francs that I have had, all of which have been from either '05 or '06.

CabFrancoPhile said...

Yeah, I think there is good overlap in what we both like, but definitely not 100%. I've had enough cheap Chilean wine that weedy aromas get distracting even when the palate isn't corrupted in the same way. If this wine had a lot more stinky Brett, I would have liked it better. Or if it had been about $6 less.

I think both this and the Les Granges are gravel and sand terroir. Generally I have not liked these wines nearly as much as those from clay or tuffeau terroir. The lighter bodied sand & gravel wines just don't present a QPR for me if they are overly veggie. Too 1-dimensional and limited in utility.

Bell pepper is one of my favorite foods, while other veggies lag significantly behind. That may explain a lot.

Jeff said...

Yeah, see now that makes sense. I'm a vegetable freak.

CabFrancoPhile said...

Give me bell pepper and fresh fruit, which is common for the Loire in a warm vintage (the equivalent of a record cold CA vintage, it seems) and I'm a happy camper. Broccoli or jam miss the sweet spot on opposite ends.

What do you think of gamey aromas in Mourvedre or bacon/cured meat in Syrah? I'm a big fan of those. Leathery, smokey or meaty Brett aromas as well. Game and pork somehow seem to come directly from Rhone varietals, though.

Jeff said...

I'm a big fan of the leather/bacon/meat/smoke complex. This weekend I was drinking the Mas Belles Eaux with my parents from the Languedoc, and I was really into that kind of funk in the wine. I definitely like some of the weirder aromas to be present--if it's just fruit, I find it to be a bit on the boring side.

CabFrancoPhile said...

I need to drink more Languedoc and CdR. CA wines are like the Languedoc (hot weather with variation in micro-climate) but without the QPR or complexity. I was tasting in Santa Ynez last weekend and so many expensive wines just lack complexity. Some were very refined on the palate, others were powerful (if not turgid, hot, jammy). But only several wines out of like 25 had any real depth.

Jeff said...

For my money, both CDR and the Languedoc are cheaper and better than California. I hate to say it, but my standard rule of thumb is California=pass/too expensive. I guess in a way, it sort of makes sense that there isn't as much complexity. After all, a lot of the wineries in France have been exploring elements of their terroir for hundreds of years. California is generally much younger than that. Also, I think that the French in general have more evolved palates, and that means that their good "cheap" wines that make it over here are generally at least passable. Not to say that they're all like that, but let's face it, America is a society where Hamburger Helper reigns for the masses. America is a little different...I think the wines are treated more like luxury brands and that there are a lot of people that will buy them because of how they're marketed, not how they taste.

CabFrancoPhile said...

I think what I've realized is that there are no CA wines that are great values. The basic wines are manipulated, homogenized and dull. The best producers can match the work of the French, but these never come cheap even though they can be a fair QPR at times. Meanwhile, inferior work is priced the same as the work of the best producers. You simply cannot buy CA wine without tasting it first.

Just as an example, I tasted an Santa Rita Hills Syrah (not Pinot!) that was 13.7% alcohol, extremely peppery & spicy, refined, pure fruit, perfect acid, long finish and could hold its own against a very good Northern Rhone Syrah. But this came from a cold climate in a great vintage (and the producer knew not to abuse it with new oak). This producer's other Syrahs & Grenaches were more overripe and hot, even being from 2007. One fair value, a stunner, but had to taste through everything else (Parker 90+ of course) to find it.

Jeff said...

Yeah, no surprise there. It's a little disappointing that in order to get good wine you either have to pay a ton or you have to have it imported...The last California wine that I had that I REALLY liked was from Adelaida Vineyards, but even with the discount from the winery, it was still like 30$, and was basically the same level of quality as a 15$ CDR Villages from a good producer in a warmer year.

CabFrancoPhile said...

These boutique wineries are a disaster in many ways. They try to do too many things, too many varietals from the same land. They usually get 1 or 2 things right, but make overpriced wine otherwise. Usually luck determines the correct placement of a vineyard. The smart ones are experienced: Longoria, Lafond, Alma Rosa. They make multiple cuvees from different vineyards or blocks with the same varietal, or source different varietals from suitable micro-climates. Still, it's mostly cool climates that succeed. There needs to be an evolution where the bad wineries and misplaced vineyards are eliminated.

The one thing I appreciate with CA is good fruit expression and texture. When I want that style, good CA wine is a definite win in that category. This is the ~30% new oak, 14% ABV, fresh fruit style I really enjoy. The better ones get a little funk or earth in there, too, but still express mostly fruit.

Jeff said...

Yeah, agreed. There are some good ones though. I don't know if you've ever had anything from Pax...it's very expensive, but they do something correctly, which is stick to one varietal.

CabFrancoPhile said...

Haven't tasted Pax, though I've heard of them. Looking at their wines, seem like they produce lots of low acohol, high pH Syrah. Very compelling since supposedly Syrah is supposed to be low acid, even with low sugar.

My current strategy is to identify producers I like, then watch for online deals or just for good things to appear at Costco. We're in the Longoria club, so that's a semi-deal with discount. That brings better QPR, but still that's usually in the $20-$30 bottle range, sometimes more.

Dale Cruse said...

I wanted you to know the link to my wrapup of WBW62 has changed. It can now be found at: http://drinksareonme.net/post/7850281656/wine-blogging-wednesday-62-a-grape-by-any-other-name & I'd appreciate it if you'd consider updating your link. Thanks!