Cabernet Franc is a grape that doesn’t get much respect. I put various Cabernet Franc based wines in tastings from time to time and folks are underwhelmed. The wines usually represent solid producers in good to great vintages, but to no avail, people are not impressed.
In cool climates the grape often produces wines with strong under ripe characteristics: green, stemmy with bell pepper and green olive notes. High acid with a pronounced tartness, the wines take contemplation to see the merits within. In warmer climates the grape ripens more fully, but the wines still lack the jammy lushness of its progeny – Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc demands concentration and a willingness to look deeper inside the wine.
“Yeah, thanks, but no thanks. I don’t need to struggle with my wine to find the greatness within. I want something that is obviously and quickly pleasing to my palate. I don’t want to spend 20 minutes contemplating my wine trying to find that elusive image of Christ hidden in the window.” So say most folks.
As you might expect, I feel a tad differently. I will give more time to a wine that demands it, because I believe the rewards are worth it. Now that doesn’t mean that every tough, under ripe, mouth-puckering wine can be redeemed. Sometimes bad wine is just that: bad wine.
However, when a wine with provenance and potential emerges from the mist, I will happily spend the time required to allow the wine to seduce me. Such is the case with many of the wines from Lamé Delisle Boucard, a 5th generation, family run winery in Bourgueil, France. Bourgueil is an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) for wine in the Loire Valley, and produces primarily red wine from Cabernet Franc grapes. Lamé Delisle Boucard was founded in 1869 by Pierre Guyot. Pierre’s son Jules Lamé took advantage of the lessons learned during the phylloxera epidemic, planting some of the first fully-grafted vineyards in France. Through numerous wars and other hardships, the winery passed through the hands of successive generations, each one adding vineyard land and a reputation for quality wines. Today the great great grandchildren of the original founder manage and run the operation, infusing their wines with the passion of five generations of French vignerons. The winery is relatively small, with approximately 100 acres of vineyard parcels peppered within the commune of Bourgueil. The vineyards are each on choice parcels with a good variation of the region’s unique soil types. The soils are a mix of clay, silica and limestone, which is evident on the palate. The average age of the vines is 35 years, which contributes to the immense complexity of the wines.
I have been following Lamé Delisle Boucard since I stumbled across their magnificent 2005 Cuvée Prestige, a tremendously brooding Cabernet Franc that has fantastic aging potential and layer upon layer of complexity. I recently picked up two more wines – the 2009 Cuvée Prestige and the 2011 Cuvée Lucien Lamé. Both wines have great potential and demand time and concentration, which will be rewarded handsomely.
My tasting notes:
2009 Lamé Delisle Boucard Cuvée Prestige Bourgueil AOC $12.99
Ripe, cherry nose with floral and mineral hints. Medium-bodied with moderate acidity and firm, dry tannin – good balance. Sour cherry on the palate with mint, fresh herb and chalk notes. Moderate length with a dark and brooding finish. Smooth. Drinking well and will improve with another 3 to 5 years in bottle and quite possibly beyond. Great value.
2011 Lamé Delisle Boucard Cuvée Lucien Lamé Bourgueil AOC $11.99
Ripe, jammy nose with bright fresh cherries, wild flowers and fresh mint hints. Medium-bodied with moderate acidity and firm tannin – well balanced. Tart, sour cherry palate, structured with red currant, bramble and wet stone notes. Moderate length – smooth. Not as complex as the Cuvée Prestige, but very pretty. Drinking well and will improve for another 2 to 3 years in the bottle. Great value.
Both wines are great values, with enough structure to age for several years, further rewarding the person with patience.
By the way, I had their 2010 Rosé last year – in a word – stunning!