2016 Sylvain Dittiere, Saumur-Champigny Rouge, La Porte Saint Jean, Loire Valley, France.
One of the Loire’s rising natural stars, Sylvain Dittiere, works his 4 hectares all organic, and as his importer notes, comes armed with formal schooling and a remarkable “un-training” from some of the best natural winemakers in France, such as Marc Tempé in Alsace, Gérard Gauby in the Roussillon, Thierry Germain and Antoine Foucault in Saumur, of Clos Rougeard fame. Sylvain Dittière struck out on his own in 2010, at the ripe age of 25, when he acquired a 2.5 ha parcel of Cabernet Franc in Saumur-Champigny that had already been farmed organically and a gem of “jurassic” cellar that was carved out of the rock. This environment enables him to work without temperature controlled tanks or or vats and it is all fed by gravity flow for ultra gentile handing of the grapes and wine.
I have been a fan and follower of Dittiere’s wines, especially this bottling since his 2013 vintage, this La Porte Saint Jean Saumur-Champigny, 100% Cabernet Franc, is a Loire classic in the making, with subtle earthy and gamey tones and amazing depth of flavor and complex layers of fruit, texture and savory notes. This 2016 is deep with a touch of reduction and leathery notes, maybe from a bit of brett (Brettanomyces)?, though the fruit comes through to cover it making for a classic, old school style Cab Franc. Layers of currant, black cherry, plum and earthy blackberry fruits come through forcefully on the medium/full palate along with hints of spicy herbs, loam, cedar, dusty chalky elements and mineral notes. With air everything comes together in this young Cabernet Franc and the structural tannins smooth out allowing this Saumur-Champigny to show it’s best qualities, this is a beautifully authentic and well crafted wine of old world class.
($33 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive