Domaine de la Noblaie Les Chiens-Chiens Chinon 2004
Domaine de la Nobaie has been producing wine from its property near Ligré in the Loire
region of France for 400 years. Given the region, I don't know if I am supposed to be
impressed by the provenance, but I am impressed by the wine. “Les Chiens-Chiens” refers to
a part of the property that seems to have something to do with dogs (two of which frame the
label). The wine is 100% Cabernet Franc (called Breton in this region), produced from vines
that are at least 40 years old. Forty or four hundred, these are numbers, but the wine speaks
in non-numerical terms, and speaks quite well. Francois Villard, a respected oenologist, owns
the property, but his 24 year old son Jerome, who has international experience, takes care of
the everyday winemaking.
I do not give numerical scores, but despite what I just wrote, there is a numerical factor to the entire Loire region: it is not many kilometers from Paris, which means knowing Parisians—individuals and restaurateurs—go out every weekend and scoop up these wines, all for themselves. When (and if) the wines get to us on the other side of the Atlantic, they are better values than many other French wines—Bordeaux and Burgundies—that get much better press. That includes the many whites; the Loire region, a large one, presents fabulous variety, red and white, dry and sweet. As any economist will tell you, provided the economist is a wine lover, supply—the cost of producing—is only half the price equation; the other part is—duh—demand, and the result with Loire wines is almost invariably a value. This particular wine is $14.
But on to the lovely purple Cabernet Franc. Straightforward plum, cherry, strawberry and red
currant are carried forward to quite respectable lengths. The acidity is in balance with the
tannins and all the fruit, but while it keeps its place it also shows remarkable stamina. There
is a vegetative element, with grass and bell pepper, but the kind that belongs rather than the
kind that indicates under-ripe fruit. Behind all else, the result of a year's aging in two to
three year old barrels, you get whiffs of cocoa and vanilla, a nice taste of leather, not too
much, and yet a perfect complement to this offering that is smooth indeed. I expect this wine
to cost more in the future, and why not let these people put some cash aside, once demand
catches up with supply.
Out-of-favor regions and wine types often can yield a value, especially when you get to know them well.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman