2018 Jean-Francois Mérieau, Côt, Cent Visages, Loire Valley, France.
The Jean-Francois Mérieau label was brand new to me, and certainly I’ll be following these wines going forward after trying this gorgeous 100% Malbec, which is known as Côtin the Loire Valley where this wine comes from, it is a beautifully dark and floral wine with fresh mineral tones, spices and a light herbal note. Jean-Francois is based in the Touraine AOC and he is widely respected for his wines and he makes a collection of interesting things from Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, a Rosé of Pineau d’Aunis, Pinot Noir and Gamay, as well as a Cab Franc and Malbec blend, along with this one. The Cent Visages Cot is all native yeast fermented from mature sustainably farmed vines that is set on classic chalky clay and limestone soils and is macerated and raised in cement, all to to promote purity of varietal and terroir. This intriguing purple/garnet Malbec has loads of personality with crushed violets, earthy umami, blueberry, plum and cherry fruits on a supple full bodied palate with the mineral and stony elements accents, all making for an impressive and distinct red wine that is lovely with country style Fall cuisine. I tasted this wine blind in a tasting of Loire varietals and couldn’t quite place it, but I quickly became a fan and this wine is super value.

These Cent Visages, which translates to 100 faces, is the name Jean-François gives to this cuvée, hand crafted from 100% Côt (Malbec) from a single vineyard in St. Julien de Chedon, in the mentioned Touraine zone of the Loire Valley. These 50 year old vines, as importer Eric Solomon notes, are an old massale selection of Côt and ones which are the source for many of his new plantings, they add to the rich concentration you find in this wine. As mentioned above, the Cent Visage is fermented in concrete tanks with all natural yeasts and aged close to two years in the concrete before its bottling. The Cent Visages is an absolutely delicious Loire red that is quite unique and it shows that Malbec doesn’t need any oak to be smooth and hedonistic, it is very different from what we see from more popular Malbec areas, like Mendoza in Argentina or France’s Cahors region. Jean-Francois employed a long maceration period here with manual punch downs, lasting between 35-42 days to extract the full depth of character from these ripe grapes that have a sense of sweet tannins and give a fine structural quality that will allow this wine to age well for up to a decade. I am excited to explore the full range of Mérieau’s wines, included the wines noted above, plus his sparkling Chenin/Chard and the rare Rosé bubbly made from mainly Pineau d’Aunis and a splash of Grolleau Gris, which I don’t believe I’ve ever seen or tasted!
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

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