Chinon Rouge is typically 100% Cabernet Franc, with allowances up to 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. If you haven’t had a Cab. Franc before, this is the place to start. Cab. Franc actually predates Cab. Sauvignon, as Cab. Sauvignon is a hybrid of Cab. Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. When blended in Bordeaux, it rarely is the lead grape, and instead lingers in the background with its noticeable pine resin and medicinal aromas. Some Bordeaux producers even call the grape their “insurance” grape, if the weather turns out to be unfavorable for Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
Cab. Franc ripens earlier than its descendant, Cab. Sauvignon, which really allows it to shine in the cooler climate of the Loire’s Chinon. The Loire Valley is best known for its white wine (Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume & Vouvray), but I have to say that discovering my first Chinon was a real treat. You can really taste the rocky soil known throughout the region, and while I understood the wine to be rather light in body, I was pleasantly surprised by its depth and tannic quality.
This is really an over-generalization and I’m sure there will be plenty of people out there who scoff at this, but here it goes: a Chinon Rouge, while having nothing to do geographically with either Bordeaux or Bourgogne, feels like an easy meeting place between the two. It has a wonderful, silky mouth-feel like a polished Pinot Noir, light in body and very expressive of the terroir, but also the meaty spiciness we love from those great Bordeaux vintages. An added bonus: while it can age very nicely, it is often ready to drink much sooner than a Bourgogne or Bordeaux, which takes some of the risk out of trying one.
You can find the pictured Chinon Rouge here at FG for $14.95, which is noticeably more affordable than many of its rack-mates. It truly is a treat to enjoy on its own, or pair it with a range of flavors from cheese to our Chicken & 40 Cloves of Garlic or our Beef Bourgogne.