2020 Famille Bougrier Gamay Noir

Can’t resist a glittering gold medal sticker, particularly on a cheap Dan’s import. Must confess to being uninspired by the lack of new things on the shelves to raise enough enthusiasm for a six bottle discount buy this month. Cabernet Franc seems more plentiful along the Loire but there’s been quite a few Gamays I’ve enjoyed. From the Côtes du Forez, near the river’s origin, all the way to Anjou it’s been a maybe crisper, less lush alternative to the Beaujolais versions. Bit cheaper too. There’s no real clue as to where this was grown but there’s quite a bit of Gamay to the east of Tours where the maker’s based. In the glass and it’s very clean, whole berry bright red fruited. Crisp with a snap of mouth wetting acidity and a dab of skin tannin. The fruit’s just a brush of summer berries nicely perched thereon. As Spandau Ballet would, Gold, or errr, bronze.

12% alcohol. Screw cap. $14

88 points and very nice to drink.

A just opened 2021 version is as fresh and crisp and again just enough sweet summer berry to keep up. Savoury too. Simple but nice balance.

89 points.

2018 Charles Joguet Chinon Les Petites Roches

Despite some horrendous memories of this producer’s wines from the early nineties, they taught me a lot about dirty barrels and mercaptan, I followed up an enthusiastic recommendation from a talented taster who values clean winemaking when choosing their imports. Crikey, they’re right, this sparkles brightly with deep and pristine fruit. The smell of pencil cases adds a savoury note to sugar dusted raspberries. Rich almond paste too. All controlled by ripe, mouthwatering acidity and a brush of fine grape skin tannin. Essence of tart Loire Cab Franc that’s taken a holiday in the sun. Absolutely delicious is all I can add apart from another hearty recommendation.

14% alcohol, not something you would have seen in the Loire last century. Cork, oh well. $46 RRP but worth searching for discounts.

93 points but maybe 94 for pleasure.

2019 Domaine des Closiers Saumur Champigny Expression

A newish enterprise with wise investment across vineyard, viticultural and winemaker input it seems. 15 hectares of oldish Cabernet Franc on good limestone and clay soil. A viti expert from Roche Neuve, one of my favourite reliably clean producers and winemaking input from the famous Clos Rougeard. No small investment or expectation then. The added recommendation from Randall’s, simply put as effing amazing, tipped me in. Made with no recourse to oak suggested there could be an absence of the oft encountered Loire horse stable held together by a dirty band aid…er…terroir. And joy, spotlessly clean powerful but even aromas of great Cabernet Franc. Raspberry, leaf and fruit. Darker fruit and sparkling pale limestone in the rain. Initially seemed to show a bit too much gloss of slippery ripeness but as air worked its magic, the fruit cooled to a fresh mouthful of perfectly ripe raspberries, sweet green leaves and chalky minerals, that word again. Inadequate but… Concentrated and intense. Long and measured. Power supported by a wave of ripe grape skin tannin indistinguishable from a tug of sweet ripe acidity. Beautiful grapes and no mucking about.

14% alcohol, quite something for the latitude. Cork. $55ish.

93 points and hooray for medium weight delicious purity.

2016 Frédéric Mabileau Les Roullières Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil

Cabernet Franc from a modern producer who made wine still with a great sense of place. Sadly, Frédéric was killed in microlight plane crash last year. This was made, I think, just using stainless steel to ferment and rest, none of the dodgy old oak which can so often mar Loire red wine. Terrific freshness, there’s scents of crushed sweet green leaves, raspberries and sweet strawberry juice. So fresh, it seems like a season frozen in time. Only just medium bodied but rich in the mouth with loads of just ripe red fruit, focused well by mouthwatering acidity and a brush of just so skin tannin. Focus and precision. Lovely Loire.

12.5% alcohol. Cork. $32 from auction.

93 points.

2019 Famille Bourgrier Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil Les Cailloux

A few new French vins on the shelves of Dan Murphy’s at prices that may help the budget. Experience does suggest some may not quite please this jaded palate sufficient to empty the bottle into glassware rather than the plug hole. This one is encouraging. Fresh, clean whole berry ferment lift. A couple of days airing and it resolves to bouncy raspberry and leaf, very Cabernet Franc. A bit of cool earthiness too. Sure, the extraction has been pushed a bit hard but there’s enough fruit concentration, sweet tannin and fresh acidity to cope. In fact the fruit’s so good, it was best on day three when it looked like the sort of thing you’d love in a carafe, scoffing something good in a quintessential French bistro, one day.

13% alcohol. Screw cap, zut alors. $16.90.

Started 88 and got to 90.

Nearly a year later and with not much inspiration on old Dan’s shelves, I thought there must be a new vintage to try. No. Proves how Loire reds are still not exactly a trend. Yes, it’s still good, clean and tasty in that red fruit and leaf way of cool Cab Franc. Still $16.90 in a six. If you accept points are a brief but important measure of relative quality, then 90 for the price is very good. If not, there’s worse for the money.

2019 Réserve de la Famille Drouet Loire Valley Cabernet Franc

An Aldi exclusive for less than ten dollars which helps the illusion of keeping to a budget. So clean it’s almost sanitary, bright raspberry, tart red cherry and a Loire leafy lift give the impression of grape and place. Glossy and forward, there’s a suggestion of that whole grape ferment bubblegum which helps the fruit push forward, perhaps so much that the flavours do pull up a bit short. Nonetheless there’s a waft of berry perfume right up the retro nasals, a clip of ripe settled acidity and a brush of good skin tannin that distinguishes the fruit quality from the plodding ordinary. Maybe a bit too extracted like an over squeezed tea bag, but you do seem to be getting a twenty dollar bottle for much less, no bad thing really. Makes the Aldi shopping adventures even more exciting.

12.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $8.49.

89 points and delicious.

The 2020 version is clattering those Aldi roller coaster shelving. Bit of a disappointment. Just ripe, touch of bitter green on the end, dilute and lacking the energy of 2019. Sort of anodyne mass produced Loire that used to clog the Paris supermarket shelves. Just about tastes like it should. Just about worked our way through the bottle.

86 points.

2018 Pierre et Rodolfe Gauthier Jour du Soif Bourgueil

Maybe jour du soif is French for an AFD, whatever that may be? This is far too good to just quench a simple thirst. Stainless steel only I think and it’s so clean and pure bar a little reduction in the first small glass. Ripe and dark for a Loire red, there’s bright raspberries, sour cherries, almost plum and a satisfying build up of gravelly earth as it slips away. Just as it does, a waft of that sweet green leafiness pops up to remind us it’s Cabernet of the Franc sort. These fleshy evenly ripe flavours have great support from silky ripe skin tannin and comfortable acidity. It proved its worth by staying much more than just thirst slaking over three days. At last, a Loire red wine not spoiled by a dirty barrel.

Following a bit of a google, it seems the producer is also more widely known a Domaine du Bel Air, Gauthier Père at Fils and have been certified organic since 2000. The back label on my bottle was just Pierre et Rodolfe Gauthier. Their more expensive cuvées are finished in oak, hmmm.

13% alcohol. Cork. Think it was about $36?

92 points.

2018 Marquis de Surblet Chinon

To be truthful, I’ve found it difficult to find versions of Loire Cabernet Franc which are technically well made and not blighted by dodgy old oak or bitter sulphide reduction. It’s a beautifully expressive variety, an ancient parent of the assertively tough Cabernet Sauvignon and extremely disappointing when it ends up down the drain. A recent, acclaimed version from the famous Saumur Champigny Les Poyeux vineyard was filthy with both brett, sulphide and a lingering mousiness. Sad really that the most enjoyable efforts have been the more mass produced and commercial. This is a supermarket chain direct import from the cooperative, La Cave des Vins de Rabelais, who it seems enjoyed a good glass of wine himself. Probably made in an all stainless steel, safe yeast and whole berry ferment way for brightness but deliciously glossy from a pretty warm season. There’s bright red fruits, a touch of bubblegum and a sweet green herby drag of ruffled acidity. The first day, there was a balsamic breath to finish that raised doubts about its ability not to collapse by day two. Happily, it actually got better, more fruit weight, more even length and structure. When the Loire’s not being decimated by increasingly common spring frost, it seems global warming is certainly helping with ripening the fruit destined for the everyday table. Just about qualifies as being typical of place and grape which is impressive for the price.

13.50% alcohol, lush. Screwcap, quelle horreur. $13.99.

90 points.

The 2019 has appeared and it’s just as interesting. Probably fresher and herbier, there’s a real raspberry fruit and lots of leaf perfume. Shining bright acidity leaves a sweet reminder of surprisingly decent fruit for the price. Very Loire just ripe enough for me but perhaps not all.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $12 members’ special.

90 points again.

2016 Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur Champigny

Another clean, svelte and tasty red from the Loire. Cabernet Franc in all its raspberry leaf and bright red fruit. Tangy berries and some sweet green herbals show just over the line ripeness. There’s no sourness to the green flavours and the well mingled tannin and acid are mouth-wateringly ripe. A lovely compact palate, fruit and texture held tight and more interesting after three days of oxygen exposure. Great pedigree.

13% alcohol. Cork. $48.

93 points

2016 Jean-François Mérieau Cent Visages Touraine Côt

100% Malbec or Côt as they say in the Loire Valley. Pungently clean perfume of Turkish delight, woody spices veering into star anise, startlingly so. Below are some bright cherries and berries. Terrific flow of spiced fruit with silky tannin and acidity. Floats in the mouth, leaving a gentle waft to linger. Fine and whistle clean. Those lovely obsessives at the City Wine Store certainly know how to tickle my fancy.

12.50% alcohol. Cork. $41.

93 points.