Friday, October 02, 2009

Wine of the Week - Claux Delorme Valençay

Here is a bottle that represents a lot of what I love about wine from the Loire Valley. It is absolutely delicious and easy to drink, although there is some complexity here too, it is robust and flavorful, but it compliments instead of overwhelms your dinner, and it has a definite sense of place, or terroir. And it is inexpensive, too - under $20.

I'm not saying things are perfect in the Loire Valley when it comes to wine, far from it. For example. this wine used to be called Clos Delorme (as you'll see on the label in the photo), but importer JD Headrick said "the name recently changed from Clos Delorme to Claux Delorme because the French wine mafia determined that they didn't own a "real" clos and made them change the name." They clearly have their bureaucratic issues, too.

Claux Delorme proprietors Albane and Bertrand Michin run an eestate called La Tour Saint Martin in Menetou-Salon, a neighbor of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. They bought a small amount of hillside land in Valençay, an obscure AOC to all but the most ardent of Loire Valley wine geeks, and they grow a variety of grapes that all go into one red wine. As in Cheverny, red wines from Valençay contain several grapes, typically some blend of Gamay, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Cabernet Franc.

Each time I drink this wine, the thing that impresses me most is the skill in blending. The 2006 vintage is 40% Gamay, 30% Malbec, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Pinot Noir. It is seamless wine - nothing sticks out, but the influence of each grape is clear. Importer JD Headrick said, "I take great pleasure in trying to identify the component parts. On a good day I can find it….the dark density that the Côt brings….the spiciness of the Pinot…the juicy "drink me" quality of the Gamay….and the earthy structure that the Cabernet Franc brings to the table."

2006 Albane & Bertrand Minchin Le Clos Delorme Valençay, $18, JD Headrick Selections. Dark purple to the core - looks like it's going to be one of those overly extracted, too intense wines, but it's nowhere close. A nose full of musky, meaty, dark black fruit, with a rich loamy soil character. Very energetic on the nose, and with some exposure to air there is a lovely core of fragrant violets. Completely smooth on the palate, finely grained tannins, fantastic acidity, very meaty and ample in the mouth, and perfectly balanced - the alcohol is a mere 12.5%. Again, with some air, the finish is quite long and takes on a nice smokey character.

I would love to drink this with duck breast and confit, with any kind of pâte or charcuterie, alongside pasta with Brussels sprouts and bacon, or with a juicy hamburger. It would be pretty hard to go wrong pairing this wine - it might even do well with the famous goat cheese of Valençay (Valençay is the only place in France to have AOC status for both wine and cheese). The wine is great on its own, too. If I owned a restaurant or wine bar this would be on the list so fast, it would make your head spin.

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