France’s Loire Valley is best known for its white wines, mainly Sauvignon Blancs and Chenin Blancs from such famous appellations as Sancerre, Vouvray, and Savennières. But this large and varied region is also worth exploring for its terroir-driven red wines, which typically have moderate levels of alcohol and often have highly attractive price tags.
These cool-climate wines range from Gamays and Pinot Noirs that invite comparisons to their counterparts from Beaujolais and Burgundy, respectively, to some of the best Cabernet Francs in the world.
While Cabernet Franc is most often used as a blending variety in Bordeaux and California, it is the most important red grape of the Loire, where it is generally bottled on its own and can produce complex, memorable wines.
Cab Franc is grown throughout the Loire but reaches its greatest potential in the Touraine region, perhaps no more so than in the Chinon appellation, named for the storybook village along the Loire River.
While young Cab Franc can often taste a bit “green,” there is just a touch of that in Domaine de Pallus’s delightful 2014 Chinon “Les Pensées de Pallus.”
Bertrand Sourdais, the owner and winemaker, ages his wines longer than most; hence the 2014 is the current release, and it is drinking beautifully right now, with lots of bright red and black fruits, including dark-red cherry, pomegranate, and plum. Touches of milk chocolate and graphite provide interesting accents, and tangy acidity keeps it refreshing.
It’s worth noting that Sourdais employs extended maceration in his winemaking, leaving the juice in contact with the skins and other solids well beyond fermentation (for up to 40 days), which provides deeper color, flavor, and tannic structure. While not everyone is a fan of the technique, for me it works well here.
This $23 wine will enhance all kinds of foods, including grilled chicken and meats as well as full-flavored fish like salmon. If you haven’t tried the Loire Valley’s signature red variety, Pallus’s Cabernet Franc offers a superb introduction.