2016 Domaine des Roches Neuves – Thierry Germain Vigneron, Saumur-Champigny “Cuvee Domaine” Loire Valley, France.
Thierry Germain, who relocated to the Loire from Bordeaux in the early 1990s, and soon fell under the spell of his spiritual father, the legendary Charly Foucault of Clos Rougeard. Thierry, like Nicholas Joly before him, would ultimately convert his entire domaine to biodynamic viticulture to pursue the quest of pure terroir transmission and becoming one with his vineyards or the land in a holistic way. I love these wines, especially the Cabernet Franc bottlings, like this Cuvee Domaine, they always show fresh, clean lines, energy and pretty aromatics with the older vine parcels and crus showing deeper concentration and power. Germain’s goal, as Lynch puts it, is to produce Cabernet (Franc) with purity, finesse, and drinkability, while avoiding rusticity, vegetal character, and hard tannins, which in my experience he does often and well. The Domaine des Roches Neuves, whose vineyards are planted in the Saumur (Blanc) for the Chenin and Saumur-Champigny (Rouge) for their Franc per the appellation and as importer Kermit Lynch notes, has rightfully become one of the stars of the region.
The Cuvee Domaine comes from a mix of parcels ranging from 5 to 70 years old set on classic sand, clay and Tuffeau Limestone, which drives the vibrancy and lifts the floral bouquet, with 100% de-stemmed grapes fermented in all stainless steel tanks with a minimum of lees contact and just under six months total of elevage in a combination of tank and large neutral wood casks. Like the Les Roches (blue label) the Cuvee Domaine is meant to be a quaffer, but still serious in character and surprisingly with enough structure to age for a decade or more, especially in a vintage like this 2016, with its concentration of fruit and natural acidity, since Thierry picks on the earlier side. The Cuvee Domaine’s Cabernet Franc, like all the Rouge at Domaine des Roches Neuves, is only native yeast fermented and the vines are in both Chaintres de Varrains and Saumur, in the heart of AOC, which are, as mentioned, all biodynamic, making for a very natural expression with a dark and earthy personality. Uplifting layers of black cherry, plum and mulberry fruits lead the way with a touch of crushed raspberry, minty herb, a classic pyrasine green bell pepper note, crushed chalk, a faint hint of cedar and loamy earthy wrapped in a ripe form and soft tannins, this is an impressive medium bodied Cab Franc to enjoy sooner versus later, be sure to look for this fine effort.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive