I am fortunate to taste more than one man’s fair share of special wine every month. Tonight, in the context of a business dinner at Momofuku Ssam Bar with a young, smart, scrappy, web marketing guru from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, we experienced the most compelling red wine I have tasted this year, and most probably one of the top ten recent release wines that have ever touched my lips. It comes from the Loire, in limited quantity, and more specifically, is the entry level bottling crafted at the venerable estate run by brothers Nadi and Charlie Foucault. This bottle served as vessel to an expression of Cabernet Franc I had never dreamed possible. Meet the 2005 Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny.
While my interest in the Loire has intensified during recent years, I had failed to wrangle even one bottle of the Foucault brothers’ wines. On the edge of my seat this Thursday evening in the East Village, after a few twists of the screw and the pop of one small cork, I entered that rare space of wine enthusiast heaven where aroma and flavor memories are born to stay with dedicated winos for life. How can a wine this rich and thick, produce a mouth feel so light and velvety? How does a wine so pointedly flush with sweet and bright black cherry juice, approaching the richness of liqueur and the elegance of kirsch, stay so seamlessly packaged in its web of soft tannins? And, how can a wine as silky and fruity as the 2005 Clos Rougeard marry up with the earthy, smoky, herbal tones that create nothing short of a multi-dimensional liquid wonder? If ever a classy, sex bomb of a wine existed, here it is.
Just our luck.
We have a cult estate. Every three-star restaurant in France hustles to get a small allocation. No one in America, outside of the lucky few, has heard of it.
This estate has been in the family for several generations. Basically, the Foucault brothers (Nadi and Charlie) tend exceptional vineyards, harvest at small yields, vinify in barrel, let the wines bubble for a couple of years in a glacially cold cellar and bottle without filtration.
And what you get is the some of the top red wines of the Loire Valley and in the very top of France as a whole. Charles Joguet, the great winemaker of Chinon, once said: “there are two suns. One shines outside for everybody. The second shines in the Foucaults’ cellar.”
And guess what? While you can find the 05 Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny here for about $50, I would not hesitate spending $100. While I recommend a lot of wine, this one rises to the top of the chart, and for $50, it is an intense value.
Have you ever tasted these wines? What do you think?