Cab a Bulles is Methode Ancestrale or what the Loire calls Petillant Naturel (Pet-Nat). Cab a Bulles is 100% Cabernet Franc. It is delicious. Loire Valley is quite capable of making great Sparkling. But Dominique’s Cabernet Franc mastery has made this something else. A Rose of great complexity and clarity, it is cherries, rose petals, spice, hints of lees, but super fresh too. Probably because Cab a Bulles is actually disgorged like Champagne to remove the yeast. The palate is light, refreshing and long. It is a joy to drink this wine.
Dominique Joseph, or Pélo to his friends, is at the very pointy end of Saumur-Champigny. His Le Petit Saint Vincent estate is 12 hectares, 55 parcels, of organically grown Cabernet Franc might even rival the rare Clos Rougeard. The style of wine finds the balance between the raw, acid and tannin drive of Franc, but finds a depth of fruit and complexity that is often missing. Comparisons with parts of Burgundy are more apt than Bordeaux. For me, the Le Petit Saint Vincent wines are exciting.
Methode Ancestrale, Petillant-Naturel, Pet-Nat. The wine finishes primary fermentation in the bottle rather than starting a secondary fermentation in the bottle. It means the bubbles are softer. It is a much cheaper way to produce sparkling but also a bit of a dark art. The best examples are amazing. The wines often have a hazy look or have sediment as there is often no disgorgement process like Methode Traditionelle (the Champagne method).
People seem to know Chinon, the Cabernet Franc focused neighbour of Saumur. But they don’t know this appellation, which is much better in my opinion. 1500 hectares, the wines have to be 85% Cabernet Franc with the balance Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Pineau d’Aunis. The wines are elegant, velvety, almost Burgundian, with a strong mineral and savoury edge.
Loire Valley offers white wine lovers a treasure trove of great wine. Sauvignon Blanc that can rival white Burgundy. Chenin Blanc that can age forever. Muscadet which is the real oyster wine of merit.
Can any white wine rival Loire Valley Chenin Blanc for elegance, grace and poise in the cellar? Definitely some Rieslings would give it a run but not much else. Chenin, whether sweet or dry, produces wines with a lovely balance of taut, unrelenting acidity and pillowy soft fruit that sits on top. The best wines, think Savennières, Vouvray and Montlouis, can age for a surprisingly long time (25, 50, 100 years even). Only surprising due to the amazing balance the best producers can find in the wine. Then you get stuck into the stunning sparkling wines that are such great value too and the reds from Cabernet Franc that will make lovers of Burgundy or Bordeaux swoon.
Is actually one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon… along with Sauvignon Blanc (oh! The name makes sense now!). It is most famous for being the third most important grape in quality Bordeaux. But also excels in the Loire Valley (where it lived before it went to Bordeaux), especially Chinon and Saumur. The wines are bright red in colour, highlight aromatic with raspberries, rose petals, violets along with tobacco, cassis and some herbal elements. The best examples can live as long as any great wine.