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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
18 Aug 2017

From €8.90, £9.99 

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I don't know about you but I have a very clear vision of my red Loire ideal, my ideal red Loire. It is a pure expression of the seductive pencil-shavings fragrance of Cabernet Franc with just enough fruit to make it appealing – not a concentrated monster, and certainly no hint of obvious oak. 

I found such a wine when tasting my way through this summer's offerings from Virgin Wines, a home-delivery (mail-order to you and me) wine retailer based in Norwich, England. This is the company set up for Richard Branson by Rowan Gormley, who, after it was taken over by Laithwaites prior to a management buyout, went on to found Naked Wines and, now, also runs Majestic.

That you can find such a wine at under £10 in the UK seems pretty miraculous to me (Virgin tout it online here as reduced by £3 from £12.99). But then with a few exceptions such as Clos Rougeard cult reds, Huet Vouvrays and Cotat Sancerres, Loire wines are in general ridiculously undervalued.

They seemed to get left behind during the recent era when everyone was looking for oak and power and have not since been sufficiently re-evaluated, even though they tick all contemporary boxes such as those marked:

  • Refreshing
  • Expressive
  • Authentic

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This 2015, just 12.5% alcohol, fulfils all my criteria. When I wrote a tasting note on it, I suggested serving it quite cool. It would make a lovely summer red. And I also suggest drinking it over the next four years, but they make more serious, ageworthy wines too.

In 2012 my fellow UK wine writer and massive Loire enthusiast (and part-time resident) Jim Budd was treated to a tasting in the deep limestone caves at Lamé Delisle Boucard of Bourgeuils going back to 1893 with the wines in superb condition. You can read about it on his blog and here. Some of those bottles are pictured above.

See also my recent account of a fabulous wine dinner devoted to mature Chinon, Chinon being the neighbour and twin of Bourgeuil (cue fainting on behalf of Touraine locals – but think of them as being a bit like Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé). Purple Pagers may like to check out this map of the two appellations.

The estate was one of the first to plant grafted vines after the phylloxera crisis in the late nineteenth century; it dates back to 1869 and was systematically enlarged. The first vintage to be bottled on the estate was the legendary 1947. Jim raves in particular about a 1947 rosé in his 2012 tasting.

Domaine des Chesnaies is described as the 'boldest' cuvée produced by Philippe Boucard and his wife, the most precocious. Grown on gravelly soils in a range of lieux-dits, it is bottled in March after the harvest to preserve its youthful fruit. You can check out the Boucards' rather charmingly personal blog.

I urge you to strike now as the 2016 is already on the French market and Virgin Wines will be moving on to the 2016 vintage in a couple of months. The wine is also available from cavistes in France, and of course the best way to buy it would be to roll up at their door in Ingrandes-de-Touraine, although they seem to have moved on to the 2016. The 2015 Vieilles Vignes bottling is available, as are various vintages of their Cuvée Prestige, from 2014 back to 1989 – corroborating organiser of the Chinon dinner Thomas De Waen's claim that one can pick up mature red Loires for a relative song.

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