Saturday, January 1, 2011

WN: Charles Joguet 2005 Chinon Clos du Chêne Vert

There are some wines that simply are gripping for one reason or another. The Charles Joguet 2005 Chinon Clos du Chêne Vert was one such wine for me. It's everything I love about Chinon that can be summed up in two words: rustic elegance. As paradoxical as this sounds, I have no other way to sum up wines such as these. They are unassuming in weight and often funky, yet have a special harmony and complexity.

All the pieces are here: a great vineyard, a great vintage, and a top producer. The Clos du Chêne Vert (roughly translating to the Enclosed Vineyard of the Green Oak) is on the north bank of the Vienne River and has clay and silico-calcareous soil. There is a lot of characterful, yet simple wine made from sand and gravel soils in the Loire. But it's these sloped vineyards with clay and limestone that produce special wines that marry the regional and varietal character to depth and structure.

Interestingly, while this wine did show some of the characteristic "farmyard" stink--think horses and cow pastures--of the yeast Brettanomyces, in a certain way this enhanced the wine. I do not know the reason behind it, but this funk seems to be a regional expression. Brett can and does ruin many wines with what I'd describe as band-aid and antiseptic flavor that tastes identical regardless of varietal or region. Yet here it is different, and I'd argue it's an expression of terroir in some sense. While it is not the earth or countryside that is locked in the wine, some combination of the indigenous yeast strain(s) and chemistry of the Chinon fruit yields a typical funk to the finished wine.
  • 2005 Charles Joguet Chinon Clos du Chêne Vert - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Chinon

    Epic Chinon. It's not really a powerful wine, but needed a good hour in the decanter to open up. At first has barnyard, menthol and cassis aromas. (OK, there's some Brett here, but it is more fertilizer/soil than the band-aid/medicinal Brett typical in CA--seems to be a Brett strain or expression specific to the Loire.) Medium bodied with medium high acidity on the palate. Chalky tannins. A mix of blackcurrant, tobacco pomegranate and chalky mineral flavors. All of these just linger on the finish, and there's no heat or weird off flavors. Tobacco and minerality were more pronounced over time. This is not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but this is amazingly concentrated Chinon Cab Franc that is a straight beam of awesome in my book. Nowhere near mature, either, though it oozes class right now.

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