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Last June we were very happy to receive a shipment of the sensational Bourgueils of Domaine de la Chevalerie, including many cuvées which are not normally available in the US. Arriving this week is Part Two, which contains a few additional vintages and features wines that can be drunk with great pleasure now, or after 10 to 30 years of additional aging. (Wines arrive 10/28, limited quantities, normal case/mixed case discounts apply)
Here is Pascaline Lepeltier's introduction to her superlative essay on the estate and the region, which appeared in this space last June (Click here to read the fantastic full article!)
The Loire Valley is full of incredible vignerons and vigneronnes with joyful personalities and even bigger hearts. Amongst them, the Caslot family stands out as one of the most engaging. Be it in Angers at the annual January fairs or at the Domaine in Restigné, Stéphanie and Laurie Caslot not only fill you with awesome wines, but also with an infectious “joie de vivre." I love tasting with them. I sometimes find myself visiting multiple times a year. I have to admit I went 3 times to the estate in 2019! Their humility, simplicity and kindness are a blessing in a wine world way too often driven by self-interest, scores and marketing! To quote Stéphanie: "Wine has no value unless it is shared." They will never admit it, but they produce some of the most delicious and sincere Cabernet Franc in the world, and at a fantastic price! Every time I open a bottle of Domaine de la Chevalerie, I can’t help but smile. When David told me Chambers Street Wines will be receiving some special back vintages from the estate I was ecstatic. So treat yourself, not by the bottle but by the case, as these wines are as highly addictive and delicious today as they will be with age! cc
The wines of Chevalerie possess a somewhat indescribable quality - a unique balance between fruit and terroir flavors, enhanced by firm, bright acidity, giving the wines a unique feeling of vibrancy and life that seems to echo the vitality of the family itself. From their new website (in English!) here are some keys to the quality of the wines:
Massale selection in order to promote biodiversity at the intra-varietal level; Pruning Guyot Poussard respecting the flow of the sap; Debudding for controlled yields and a fine aeration of the bunches; Phytotherapy (herbal plant remedies) in order to minimise sulfur and copper treatments; Biodynamic preparations to encourage plant growth in harmony with the environment; Natural and sown grass (cereals and vegetable) to promote the structure of the soil, with permanent cover in order to preserve the intrinsic biodiversity and the life on the surface; Addition of biodynamic compost to bring gradual and balanced organic matter to the soil; Agroforestry with the planting of more than 200 trees and fruit trees of different varieties and creating more than 2 kilometres of hedgerows. Respectful vinifications - Natural yeasts, minimal SO2, temperature control, gentle maceration and fermentations, maturing of the wine in demi-muids and large containers (400-500 litres) and terracotta and ceramic jars.
The vintages: 2014 and 2015 are excellent vintages for Loire reds! As Pascaline pointed out in her article, 2014 could be considered the last "classic" vintage for Loire reds - a difficult growing season saved by good weather in September giving wines that are beatifully balanced, fairly low in alcohol and very expressive of their terroir. 2015, a sunny and easy vintage for the winemaker gave riper, rounder wines that are particularly beautiful at Chevalerie, as the Caslot's great farming preserved the freshness and acidity that balanced the lush fruit. My personal preference leans towards 2014, however, as I love the subtlety of the fruit and the interplay between fruit, acidity and mineral notes, making these sensational food wines...
You'll find details about the wines and vineyards in Pascaline's beautiful notes. Wines arrive October 28, quantities are limited.
( Arrives 8/30, 12 btls available) Domaine de la Chevalerie's "Les Galichets" vineyard is on the lower part of the Turonian slope just below the "Chevalerie" plot, with clay -alluvial sand and gravel topsoils, rich in silex, giving a wine that is more open and easy for early drinking. The vines average about 60 years of age. The wine is aged in large old barrels, and bottled after 6 months unfined unfiltered. 2014 Galichets is an archetypal Bourgueil to enjoy now! This wine is a fabulous mix of fruit and minerals, perfectly balanced and with terrific length: dense black/red color, with aromas that blend soil, stone and blackberry fruit with hints of cocoa and violet. The palate is dense and supple and round without any heaviness - a blend of stone and ripe red and black fruits, continuing in the long, graceful mineral finish. This is a beautiful Bourgueil that can be enjoyed now with roast chicken, pork dishes, even a steak - or hold for ten to fifteen years for a mature experience. It's a fabulous value - congratulations to the Caslots! 100% Cabernet Franc. David Lillie / Pascaline Lepeltier (Re-tasted on Jan 3, 2022 - when opened it's very good, but on day 2 it's fabulous, a beautiful mouthful of earth and minerals , a bit of musk and gorgeous dark fruits. I'm buying a case, I suggest you do the same!)
Domaine de la Chevalerie's "Les Galichets" vineyard is on the lower part of the limestone slope just below the "Chevalerie" plot, with clay -alluvial sand and gravel topsoils, rich in silex, giving a wine that is more open and easy for early drinking. The vines average about 60 years of age. The wine is aged in large old barrels, and bottled after 6 months unfined unfiltered. The 2011 is drinking beautifully now showing complex ripe plum and berry aromas with earth and brown spice. The palate is supple and round, the tannns velvety and soft with a minty freshness supporting the ripe fruit in the finish. Serve slightly cool with a pork chop in creamy mustard sauce.
(Arrives 8/30) Bretêche is their easternmost vineyard, a rented plot on the border of Ingrandes-de-Touraine - (Domaine de la Chevalerie is the only estate claiming this vineyard name). On the southwestern exposed upper part of the mid-slope, the vines are planted on a meter-deep heavier clay with high mica content above the Turonian yellow tuffeau. The vines, biodynamically farmed are between 25 to 55 years old. More powerful than Busardières with broader tannins, the wine maintains a great freshness. Hand-harvested and destemmed, the grapes are macerated for up to 20 days and aged in large used barrels in the magnificent underground cave dug into the yellow tuffeau for roughly 8 to 10 moths. The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered. 2015 was an easier, more mastered vintage for the Caslot siblings, as the growing season was never extreme, and the harvests were peaceful. A little more concentrated than the 2014, especially in acidity, this a great vintage for the Domaine! Bretêche 15 is still a baby! Purple in the glass, the wine as usual has more freshness, tension and a little austerity. This is even more apparent here. The nose is a little restrained, showing progressively a lot of black and red currant and cranberry, hibiscus tea and black cardamon. In the palate, it is a superbly balanced wine, with some chiseled tannins enhanced by the lingering acidity. There is less flesh than other cuvées, and the texture is sleeker but absolutely charming and vibrant - and could please any Burgundy lover. You will pick up more herbal notes in the palate : tobacco, beet juice, pink peppercorn. A great bottle to keep 10 years and plus, as it is built to age! To serve it now, decant it a good hour at least or enjoy it over multiple days - a superb pairing would be with a roasted deboned pigeon stuffed with nettle and foie gras, but a slowly roasted pork loin with black garlic condiment would also be delicious. 100% Cabernet Franc. Pascaline Lepeltier
(Arrives 8/30, 24 btls available) Bretêche (Domaine de la Chevalerie is the only estate claiming this vineyard name) is the easternmost vineyard, a rented plot on the border of Ingrandes-de-Touraine. On the southwestern exposed upper part of the mid-slope, the vines are planted on a meter-deep heavier clay with high mica content above the Turonian yellow tuffeau. The vines, biodynamically farmed, are between 25 to 55 years old. More powerful than Busardières with broader tannins, the wine maintains a great freshness. Hand-harvested and destemmed, the grapes are macerated for up to 20 days and aged in large used barrels in the magnificent underground cave dug into the yellow tuffeau for roughly 8 to 10 moths. The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered. 2014 is considered a great classic vintage in the Loire for Cabernet Franc, and it is indeed very good at Domaine de la Chevalerie, with fruit a little darker than the 2015 (this opposite to a lot of other estates in the region). Ruby purple in the glass this cuvée as usual has more freshness, tension and a little austerity - 2014 enhances these typical quality of the wine! More open than the 2015, the nose has distinctive black cherry, elderberry notes, Chinese badiane and spearmint. The palate is still deliciously youthful barely showing any evolution, with lean and brilliant acidity, and oolong-like tannins. It is already very-well structured and poised, not angular at all. Decant it 2 hours and serve it in Bordeaux glasses, or keep it 20 years or so - I would say it will reach another plateau by 2025. Enjoy it with a duck magret, the juice reduced with a touch of raspberry vinegar, or sweetbreads in a madeira sauce. 100% Cabernet Franc. Pascaline Lepeltier
La Chevalerie is located between the Galichets and the winery, slightly higher on the slope, with more clay on the top part. The Turonian tuffeau is not even three feet below. The oldest vines date from 1903 and 1922, the average being 75 years. The sandier part of the plot goes into the Galichets. This cuvée is a perfect introduction to the more “serious” tuffeau driven bottlings of the domaine. You still get the flesh and texture brought by the sand, you also pick up the racy, salty and fresh acidity typical of the tuffeau. The 2015 is now showing all its potential, after a quick decanting. An easier, more complete vintage compared to 2014 according to Stéphanie Caslot, the wine is showing concentration yet a lot of delicacy, with a noticeable floral bouquet, and more red berries as it ages. A little sweetness on the attack indicates a perfect ripeness, then you feel the limestone backbone on the terroir, with a juicy sandy flesh and lingering chalky tannins make it ultra appealing. The fruit is a nice mix of red and black plum and cherry, with Chinese badiane and coriander seed, finishing with a great mix of salt, smoke and leather. Without a doubt a great bottle at a terrific price, you can cellar it for 5 years and more, then enjoy until 2035, or serve it in large glass, quickly decanted, with any red meat with a poivre sauce, or a rack of lamb in Provençale herbs crust. 100% Cabernet Franc. Pascaline Lepeltier.
"Grand Mont" is one of the greatest sites in Benais - a high, south-facing slope on yellow Turonian limestone with shallow sandy clay soils, rich in mica. Wines from this vineyard are built to age and this rare bottling from Domaine de la Chevalerie is a beautiful example. "This plot is just below the forest, the top part being on eolian sands, with more clay at the bottom. The tuffeau is not even 2 feet below. Vines are around 55 years old. Grand-Mont means high hill. This is the cuvée de garde of the domaine, macerated and aged longer (but never more than 10 months). Picked last as there is a cooler micro-climate allowing for hanging time, this is a dense cuvée for the estate. The texture is full right upfront, tannins are stonier with a remarkable freshness. I always decant young releases of this wine, but I would recommend to wait and enjoy them after 10- 30 years, as this is the point at which the wine begins to truly reveal itself."(PL) Despite the ripeness of the vintage, the 2015 Grand-Mont is subtle, quite closed and tight at this point in its life. The aromas are complex and fascinating with some bright red fruits followed by blackberry, very earthy, with violet and hints of licorice and game. The palate is elegant and intensely mineral with firm acidity under silky blackberry, plum and cassis fruit, austere and stony, perfectly balanced and obviously built to age. This is quite special - I would agree with Pascaline, wait ten years then enjoy until 2050! David Lillie
"Grand Mont" is one of the greatest sites in Benais - a high, south-facing slope on yellow Turonian limestone with shallow sandy clay soils, rich in mica. Wines from this vineyard are built to age and this rare bottling from Domaine de la Chevalerie is a beautiful example. They started to produce it in 2009, and they consider it their grande cuvée. The wine ages in a one-year-old barrel and several older barrels for 7 months, bottled unfined unfiltered. 2014 Loire reds are superb - it was not an easy vintage for the winemakers, but the results were often fabulous, especially at Chevalerie, with a perfect balance of ripe black and red fruits with firm earthy acidity. The 2014 "Grand Mont" shows a very dark black/purple color with elegant aromas of black raspberry and blackberry with violet, earth, dark chocolate, citrus and game. The palate shows silky tannins and complex red and black fruits - beautifully balanced with bright acidity and mineral flavours. This is really elegant and Burgundian, very long and built to last, really a perfect Bourgueil that will become a profound mature wine in ten to fifteen years - then drink until 2045 and beyond. Open the day before if drinking now, paired with a confit rabbit with cardamon & juniper served with roasted celeriac, or a coq-au-vin. 100% Cabernet Franc. David Lillie / Pascaline Lepeltier.