The hunt for great wine is an incessant indulgence. Through one series after another of holy grail-like expeditions, once hidden wines are excavated and brought to new light in never ending streams of prized byproducts via diligent wine reconnaissance. As the years unfurl, the hunt shifts away from low hanging Bordeaux, Rhone Valley, Piedmont, and California fruit to smaller, new, and overlooked wine producing regions like inside Galicia, Sicily, or the Loire, as examples. The process is similar to hauling anchor on popular, well known fishing spots and sneaking off to hidden ledges, tiny wrecks, and overlooked areas that produce fishy rewards for curious and determined anglers. Recently, a personally new piece of holy wine grail was unearthed in the Loire Valley’s Bourgueil (pronounced boor-gay) appellation.
Dominated by Cabernet Franc production, Bourgueil is tightly related to neighboring Chinon, geographically placed just to the east of Saumur. Clos Rougeard, a benchmark Loire Valley Cabernet Franc producer just south of Saumur, releases the arguably finest Cabernet Franc made anywhere in the world. Discovering those Rougeard wines made by the Foucalt brothers years ago coughed up a significant personal chunk of wine’s holy grail. ***1/2 $15 Damien Lorieux’s 2009 Tuffeaux Bourgueil, retailing for 25% of Clos Rougeard’s $60 entry level Saumur-Champigny bottle designation price, provides a level of nuance and excitement that conjures up mighty Rougeard palate memories.
Juicy bright berry and cherry fruit, earth, meat, leather, fresh game kill, and riveting acidity link these wines together. If I were served the Lorieux wine double blind, I am almost certain I would have called it as Cru Beaujolais. If you like top Cru Beaujolais style, you will most certainly swoon over this wine. It goes beyond Gamay with additional funky licorice and leather aromas, but clean, bright, juicy Bing cherry flavor combines with shrilling acidity to make a structured fruity wine that leaves you salivating just like Beaujolais would. Actually, I tested a bottle by leaving it open for two weeks, going back to it every few days. The wine barely changes and I suspect I could have left it open for a full month with the same outcome. It is so tightly structured around powerful Cabernet Franc fruit that neither component will allow the other to fade in the face of oxygen. But as you sit with the bottle over time, the kaleidoscope of flavors and aromas that define its profile unravel for a really satisfying drinking experience.
These wines are not found everywhere and could be a little tough to source. Damien Lorieux, who took over from his father and did the usual new generation thing of introducing natural and modern wine making techniques to Dad’s 11 hectares of tired Cabernet Franc vineyards, doesn’t send a bunch our way. From Damien’s new but stingy vineyard landscape, two bottlings are produced; this Tuffeaux and Cuvee Graviers. I acquired my stash from Richard Schnitzlein at Sudbury Wine and Spirits. Rich has a curious and experienced palate, sourcing wines just like this Lorieux from all around the wine producing world. I can recommend a visit or at least a call to Rich to get added to the mailing list. It is worth staying on top of the regular sub $20 interesting wines Rich features from those hidden fishing spots around the world. And when you find something you love like I love this Bourgueil, go ahead and buy it by the case like I did, knowing you just may never see it again.