Chinon red wine is made from Cabernet Franc only, a variety which is also traditionally used in Bordeaux blends along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. In fact, Cabernet Franc is a parent to Cabernet Sauvignon (and the conjugal partner was Sauvignon Blanc, which basically means Cabernet Sauvignon's existence as a noble red grape was just a horticultural fluke). In Chinon however, we get Franc in its magnificently crisp and fragranced pure state.

There are three good reasons to try this wine (in fact any of Alliet's three Chinon reds):

1. Coolness: 
To most of us a familiar sensation in red wine is 'warmth', which is a result of an amalgam of things like high-ish alcohol content, warmer growing regions and a certain ripe glacé-fruitiness that could only come from certain grape varieties. Chinon red wine isn't this, instead it tends to have a 'cool' sensation. Without actually tasting like menthol there is the same experience of coolness in the mouth (which isn't to say the grapes weren't ripe and ready, they just don't bear the dopey, heavy, warmth of a heat drenched climate). This might sound counter-intuitive in a red wine but until one's tried a good example of it then it might be hard to convince one of its virtues. Well, here lies a virtuous example. The wine is still remarkably intense and concentrated, powered by fragrant peppery fruit, pippy tannin and fresh acidity instead of the warm and unctuous sensation of alcohol. It does need to be decanted and sat around for a bit first though to lose some edgier elements.

2. Terroir: 
Cabernet Franc grown in the Loire Valley's decomposed limestone 'tuffeau' earth (which in-part is quite simply old sea shells) might just be the best starting point to understand the sometimes beguiling concept of 'terroir' (so much so that there is absolutely nothing conceptual about it at all). You can quite directly taste the saline and marine-y remnants of oyster shells. The cool herbaceous undertone common to Franc itself also adds that delightfully sweet and  earthy coffee bean character, just like squeezing a new bag of coffee and sniffing its little breather hole thingy.

P Johnson Wine Review France Map


3. Grapes:
It sounds stupid but you can actually taste the grapes here. Not everyone has had the experience of walking through a vineyard and tasting berries just prior to harvest. They're absolutely delicious. We've all had big pulpy table grapes but wine grapes are small, concentrated, juicy, more acidic, more sweet, with tougher skins and lots of puckering tannin and hopefully lots of powerful flavour and aroma. This wine seems to retain this crunchy-fleshy-pithy-juiciness of the grape which is so often foresaken, replaced by the general 'vinous' character of wine. The result is a very pure and fresh expression of the variety and the place, which is something, sadly, that the region has battled with over the years. Alliet however seems to have no trouble and is on the front edge of a renaissance in the Touraine.