Olga Raffault "Les Picasses" Chinon 2006

Today at our Southeast restaurant we say hello to the Olga Raffault “Les Picasses” Chinon 2006 as a new addition to our wonderful line-up of wines by the glass. We’ve worked with Olga Raffault wines in a variety of forms in the past: from her library Chinon releases such as the ’89 and the ’90 “Les Picasses” bottlings, to the younger and sprier 2002 and 2005, and now the 2006. She also happens to make one of my favorite rosés, I’m sure you will see it by the glass again this summer at both restaurants. She also has a white Chinon which is 100% Chenin Blanc, but it’s currently not available in the Portland market. What I love about Olga Raffault wines is their purity. They aren’t dressed up and pretending to be anything but what they are: beautiful, terroir-driven Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. The wines are also not rushed to be released; this 2006 is the current vintage.

Olga Raffault took over her husband’s domaine in 1947 when he passed away unexpectedly. With two children to support and a love of her land in Chinon, she took control of the domaine. Olga Raffault passed away a few years ago, and it is her granddaughter Sylvie with husband Eric who oversee the all aspects from vineyard management to wine making. Sylvie and Eric follow the traditions passed on from her grandmother, and the domaine is adamantly old school. The “Picasses” bottling comes from 50 year old vines on a steep riverbank slope. The vineyards are farmed according to “luttle raisonnée” methods, which is essentially a way of preserving the health of the vineyard without herbicides or pesticides nor the strict oversight of biodynamic or organic certifications. Fermentation is with native yeasts found on the grapes and in the winery. This wine spends 2-3 years in neutral oak barrels to soften the tannins, and then is held further in bottle.

So what does it taste like?
It’s rather seductive aromatically, with a combination of red fruited, woodsy leafy aromas, and a distinct smokiness that makes me think of a classy Audrey Hepburn type smoking a cigar in a 1950’s man-cave. What?! Aromas of red raspberry, black cherry, fresh wet dirt, a touch of fresh tobacco, with a subtle woodsy note like a pile of branches in a forest. It’s medium bodied with a lush juicy texture, bright crisp acidity, and just enough tannin to know you should probably eat some meat with it. Flavors are reflective of the aromatics, with a distinct floral note and a black tea finish.

What should you eat with it? 
I strongly feel that Loire Valley Cabernet Franc’s are hands down one of the best wines with our salami. They have enough acid and tannin and flavor to stand up to them, without the sweet fruitiness that often clashes with our salami. I dare you to try some Sauccison Sec and this Chinon and tell me it’s not delicious! For this reason, Cabernet Franc is a consistent guest at my picnic outings. It’s also a great wine for roasted game birds, bitter vegetables, grilled salmon, and even roasted or braised beef. A diverse wine indeed! 

Will you like it? 
Loire Valley Cabernet Franc isn’t for everyone. Those accustomed to drinking California Cabernet Sauvignon and even California Cabernet Franc might be put off by the leaner earthier character of this wine. That being said, Cabernet Franc is the father (or mother?) of Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Loire Valley is the epitome of classic Cabernet Franc. The best way to know is to try, so come find it by the glass at our Southeast restaurant! Alternatively, you can ask your favorite wine merchant for it. If they haven't heard of it, let them know Louis/Dressner is the importer and that should help them find it for you! Santé!

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