Our tasting impressions
If you want to calibrate your taste buds to Loire Cabernet Franc, drink this wine. Deep garnet color with a floral and spice nose. It tastes of earth, spice and green pepper (trust me, this is a good thing!). Quite subdued yet persistent with a long finish. The tannins are plush and the acidic spine plays out in a finish that is considerably longer than a wine at this price should boast. Very appetizing! It's ready to go but don't be surprised if this holds up to medium term cellaring.
About this wine
100% Cabernet Franc from vines averaging 20 years planted on hills comprised of sand, clay and silt. Yields are about 45hl/ha. Fermentation is over 12 days.
About the grape
Cabernet Franc, an ancient variety, thrives in cooler climates because it ripens best slowly. This allows its green, vegetal flavorings to be balanced and nuanced. Green bell pepper is a frequent flavor descriptor of these wines.
Cabernet Franc tends to produce lighter, softer, more acidic and less tannic wines than Cabernet Sauvignon (the latter is an the offspring of the former crossed with Sauvignon Blanc). The style of Cabernet Franc wines, which are made all over the world, can range from simple and easy drinking to dark, brooding and substantial. The best can age for decades.
About the vintage (Domaine perspective)
2014 had a long growing season. The winter was mild and a dry March led to an early bud-break. The summer was wet but September was magnificent - sunny days sweetened the fruit and cool nights preserved acidity. A late Indian summer assured perfect maturity. The harvest concluded October 10, one day before the start of prolonged, torrential rains. The wines of 2014, reminiscent of the great 2005’s are delicate, rich and full-bodied.
On your table
There is a very good Turkish/Middle Eastern restaurant near me that charges $2/person corkage. I plan to open a bottle of Les Varennes the next time I visit. The deep and exotic flavors of this cuisine should pair nicely, be it vegetables, chicken or lamb. Serve a touch below cellar temperature.
Suggested Glassware: Grassl 1855
The brothers Nau are (L-R in the photo) Patrice (manager and winemaker), his brother Bertrand and his brother-in-law, Abel. The latter two are semi-retired. They operate this 20 hectare domaine that produces about 40-50,000 bottles annually. The property that originally was a poly-farm now grows only grapes commercially.
All grapes are hand-harvested and de-stemmed. They use gentle extraction known as jus de goutte (free-run wine as opposed to pressing). Vinification is done in large concrete tanks at a controlled temperature.
We seem to bump into family members all over this sprawling estate. They all are cheerful, gracious and hospitable. A few remnants of the old farm remain and we were offered fresh picked cherries after strolling through the vineyards.
This photo is from a few years back, but we couldn’t resist It so wonderfully depicts the whimsical, good-natured, down-to-earth character of this family who seem to impart so much joy in their wines. Don’t make the mistake though of thinking they aren’t serious about wine. One taste and you will recognize they are world class.