It is a challenge countless restaurant diners must confront each day: What wine is versatile enough to pair well with a wide range of dishes? In our case it was pan-roasted salmon, grilled brook trout, roasted chicken — and a cheeseburger.
The hoped-for answer soon arrived at our table at a well-known New York restaurant: a red from France’s Loire Valley that I thought might just do the trick.
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Béatrice & Pascal Lambert’s 2017 Chinon “Les Terrasses” turned out to be one of the best wines from the Chinon appellation I have tasted in recent years.
The variety here is Cabernet Franc, and in Chinon and nearby appellations like Bourgueil and St.-Nicolas-de-Bourgeuil, it finds its greatest cool-climate expressions, giving us lean, complex wines of character and finesse that come alive in their interaction with food.
Lambert’s “Les Terrasses,” which is farmed organically, is classic Loire Valley Cab Franc, a medium-bodied wine with ripe dark and red fruit notes, a touch of black licorice, and a slightly green quality that’s characteristic of these wines.
The latter can sometimes be a bit too pronounced, but not in Lambert’s wine; the wonderful fruit keeps it all in balance. Light tannins and ample acidity complete the wine and make it such a good partner to a variety of foods, as we found out. Its relatively low alcohol of 12.6 percent is not uncommon, and Loire Valley Cab Francs like this can be enjoyed slightly chilled, if you like.
In the restaurant, the wine was $67, which is not bad (I guess) as restaurant prices go these days. The good news is that you can buy it at retail for about $18 — a real bargain for a superb, original wine that’s in its element with just about anything that arrives at your table.