The Last Saumur I (Drank) 09/26/11
This weekend I played host to my cousin, webmaster and (believe it or not) frat brother, Jeff. Although we only drank two wines, they were delicious, but appropriately enough, they also suffered from two noteworthy flaws: first, they were white, and second, they cost $30 apiece. And what with the economy and all, I’ve been making a real effort…well…not to avoid drinking wines beyond my means, but certainly to avoid talking about them as much. Everyone’s been hurting, after all.
So! Today I come before you with a little gem from the Loire, a sizeable region in France not quite as well known as Bordeaux or Burgundy but better known than, say, the Jura. Within the Loire are a few regions that specialize in Cabernet Franc, one of my all-time favorite varietals. Probably most famous for its role in red Bordeaux blends, Cab Franc nevertheless deserves a lot more respect than it’s getting, and its wines deserve a lot more attention. I’m not alone here either; for proof, just check out this video produced by the folks at Tinhorn Creek up in Canada – they actually make wine, so they probably know what they’re talking about.
Anyway, the wine I’ve chosen is the Domaine des Hauts Sanziers 2009 Saumur. Saumur is one of the Loire’s Cab Franc-centric regions, along with Bourgeil, Chinon, and several others I haven’t committed to memory. You may be surprised to learn that in spite of its name, Saumur is even more notable for its wines than for the high level of skill with which the local vintners wield katanas.
I actually tasted this wine twice within a month-long period: the first time, it was my cool, rebellious pick for Cabernet Day, a holiday of questionable necessity created by Rick Bakas in honor of Cabernet Sauvignon, the world’s most popular wine grape. Apart from the thrill of defying the establishment which Cabernet Franc afforded me,the fruit and mineral notes left me wanting more, and so I purchased it again ($16 at a PA state store, by the way) only to find myself drinking a wine that was even better than I’d first realized.
In the glass this was a translucent garnet, lightening to maroon around the edges. The nose showed hints of mineral, as well as black cherry which became more and more pronounced as the wine breathed. The second time I tried it, there was an additional component of bell pepper that I couldn’t believe had eluded me the first time (maybe it had something to do with my new Riedel glassware). It reminded me of a similar note in a local wine: the Crossing Vineyards Cabernet Franc I love so much.
On the palate, the Saumur was light and silky but substantial, with a gravelly mineral note that wasn’t even attributable to tannins, because there were practically none to speak of. As the wine breathed, more notes of cherry and pepper shone through, but it retained a long, rocky finish. If you’re wondering, I fully expect to buy this a third time.
I award the Domaine des Hauts Sanziers Saumur thumbs up. And I encourage you all to drink Cabernet Franc, as often as possible whencesoever it may have come.