Our Longtime Pals In The Loire - The Barbous

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 4:31 PM

Our Longtime Pals In The Loire - The Barbous

A lot has changed since 1995,

but one thing hasn't changed: TWH continues to offer the wines from Véronique and Dominique Barbou's Domaine des Corbillières. That's a long time, though there are several good reasons this relationship has lasted as long as it has - good people, good growers, fine wines, and sensible pricing. They make several cuvées, including a sparkler; though we traditionally carry their Touraine Sauvignon (Blanc), Touraine Les Demoiselles (Rouge), and Rosé.

The domaine was purchased by Dominique's great-grandfather Fabel in 1923, and the current duo in charge represent the fourth generation making the wines in Touraine, right in the heart of the Loire Valley. Rumor has it that is was Fabel who first planted Sauvignon Blanc in Touraine by planting one vine and noticing how well it took to the terroir! The rest, as they say, is history.

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2005 Cabernet Franc: Bel Air Bourgueil

Tuesday, February 19, 2008 3:24 PM

2005 Domaine du Bel Air Bourgueil les Vingt lieux dits $15.98

NOTE: Peter and I will be talking wine at a Subculture Dining Event in March. For details, see the link and explanation at the end of this email. Another hot ticket here, but you’re in luck, because this wine is difficult to pronounce. I won’t go on about a wine with a funny name, but it does merit mentioning that both this appellation and Saumur Champigny (and plenty more) suffer from difficult pronunciations and therefore do not have the same exposure as Chinon. This makes them harder to find, and it makes for lower prices. Like Peter always says, Sancerre is easier to say than Pouilly Fume, and it sells twice as fast. Let’s take advantage of that. This is $15.98, a great price for the quality set forth, and it is yet another example of how this region was blessed by the 2005 vintage. By now the secret is out that I have a thing for Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. I haven’t told my wife yet, but I think she suspects. She hasn’t confronted me, but I suspect that might have something to do with her thing with peanut butter. Loire Franc has the ability to offer what I like about both Bordeaux and Burgundy while also remaining quintessentially Loire. Especially in 2005, I find the flavors that I like in Bordeaux and the softer texture and seductive aromatics reminiscent of the Burgundy experience. Not that Bourgueil is anything like St. Emilion or Volnay, I’m not selling rugs, but there is a sort of best of both worlds thing going on here. Plus I have to respect a wine that can age so well in the absolute absence of oak. Patrick and I were wondering whether Pinot Noir could ever achieve greatness without the spice of wood, and I posed the same question to Bob Varner who said he has contemplated bottling a case or so of some Pinot he is raising in a stainless steel tank. We’ll have to wait for those results, but I can speak to the Loire wine right now. I have drunk outstanding examples of Loire Francs more than 10 years old whose only exposure to a tree was the cork that enclosed them. They were wonderfully complex, aromatic and pure. I can only imagine that wood would have muddled the experience. The amazing thing to me is that if you adjusted for inflation, they would have cost somewhere around $15. That’s pretty good for a 15+ year old wine.

There is a strange tendency in the wine industry to move on to the next vintage as quickly as possible. Actually it is not so strange if you remember that it is an industry. We all do it, maybe because we’re afraid we’ll be beat to the punch. Though it’s a little silly, because with the exception of those chasing hyper-allocated wines, I think the consumer would prefer not to buy immediately following bottling and would rather purchase a wine that is drinkable. I say this because I saw 2006 Loire Franc on the market six months ago! If 2005 was a dud and people were trying to move on, that would be one thing, but as long as wines like this are still around, I’m going to give preference to them. I’m sure 2006 is fine (haven’t tasted many), but soon that’ll be all there is, so I see this as a limited and golden opportunity. I’m betting that 2005 Loire will beget many a proud “I bought this for nothing back when gas was only $3 a gallon” moment.

Looking back, I’ve written about at least 8 wines from the 2005 vintage in the Loire. This is because I am convinced that it offers an unusual combination of depth and quality as well us unparalleled value. I am taken with the wines, and this is especially true of the reds. Many of them have an edge on Bordeaux and Burgundy in that they are delicious now, while also having the depth and (hidden) structure to age well. You can take this home now and drink it. You don’t have to extrapolate or keep it open for five days to see its virtues. Yet you’ll kick yourself if you don’t put a portion of your purchase away for the years to come. It’s one of those ‘yes’ wines, and I love stumbling onto them. – Ben Jordan


Tasting Notes from Stephen George
Sometimes my tasting notes veer away from actual tasting notes toward whatever I’m thinking, and I don’t beat myself up about that, but when the opportunity arises to give you real descriptions of the wine, I take advantage. A customer who enjoys Loire Cabernet Franc tried this bottle last week, and informed me he thought it was delicious. I know he always keeps good notes, so I asked him if we could borrow them. He said ‘yes’, his name is Stephen George, and I’ve posted them below. Mine follow. “Recommended by Ben. Deep garnet color. Bouquet of dusty cherries, earth, bright spice, and deep red fruit flavors. Sexy nose. Palate is smooth, layered, and rich all at once. Starts with brooding fruit, followed by waves of black pepper mingled with brambleberry, with tannic grip on finish. Mouth-filling velvety texture. Good amount of zippy acid, coupled with nice structure, medium tight tannins, and rich fruit suggest a wine to lay down or drink happily now. Delicious, seductive wine. A delight.” – Stephen George

Tasting Notes
It was difficult to drink this wine in the 2nd day, because we almost drank it all on the 1st. What little was left was great, and better than the first day. It’s always nice to have an improvement on delicious. This has that added layer of richness that caresses the palate much in the way a good Pinot does. The silkiness hides the tannins. The all important (to me anyway) Loire acidity sits at that perfect point that you can acknowledge if you like, but otherwise will simply harmonize and act as a piece of the greater whole. This is a wine to smell (especially on the 2nd day) which prompts another comparison to Burgundy. The flavors are darker berry and earth prompting the thoughts of Bordeaux. I am very happy with the price of this, by the way. $15.98 is a steal. In case alcohol matters, this is actually 13%. I suspect the jpeg of the label was taken from the 2004.

Subculture Dining Event
On March 14th and 15th, Peter and I will be dining and presenting wine at an “underground” evening with the Dissident Chef and Subculture Dining. In addition to dinner and wine, the folks at Recchuiti will be on hand to discuss and present their chocolate and confections. While I can’t say much about the specifics, I can tell you that it sounds like a whole of fun. Anyone with an adventurous spirit looking to add some true spice to the dining out experience is encouraged to make a reservation. Peter will present one evening, and I will present the other. Note: We are appearing on a volunteer basis, and all donations given will go to Subculture Dining.

Questions about any of the many things mentioned in this email? Email me at our main email: info@wineSF.com

Wedding Reenactment Wine

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 11:20 PM

Did I promise, around a month ago, that I wouldn’t write any more about my wedding/bachelor party/honeymoon? If I did, it looks like I’m a liar, but I think it was one of my New Year’s resolutions to stop looking like I’m lying, so that should be fixed soon. My wife and I told everyone at our reception that next year we were going to have a wedding reenactment. It would be exactly the same, except bigger with more people. It was one of those things we said when we didn’t know what to say, and it was really funny. Though not everyone laughed. Like my aunt who did the reception flowers.

Why in the world am I telling you this? We just got our second (and final) shipment of the 2005 Touraine Rouge from Domaine des Corbillières which, as you may remember, was my wedding red. I must say it worked quite well. Everyone loved it, and it was flexible across the meal, just like I’d hoped. I’ve posted my original write-up below, but I have a few new things to say about this Cabernet Franc from that beautiful vintage. One of my proud wedding planning moments was that I purposefully and successfully over-ordered the wines. We had a budget, and since this was so well-priced, I was able to order more than anyone could possibly drink at the wedding. Especially with the open bar. I even asked my co-workers to try to focus their imbibing on the liquor and beer, so that there would be wine left over. And there was. Excellent. I’m happy to report that for the past two months this has been our house red. We’ve done a lot of entertaining lately, and it has come in very handy. Plus we used some as gifts, took it to Christmas in Dallas, and have enjoyed it whenever we so pleased. Which is good, because I don’t think I got more than a sip at the wedding. I put down and lost track of more drinks that night than I probably have in my life. The wine has been everything I thought and wanted it to be. It smells great, it has that soft warm-fruited charm that makes friends wherever it goes, and it has acidity and structure to keep it lively. I’m glad we (The Wine House) ordered more, because we (the Jordans) sprinted through those cases this holiday season.

One warning. Because we had such a good response on the first shipment from our retail customers, we didn’t really present it to restaurants or retailers. Part of the reasoning for the second shipment was to give our wholesale folks a crack at it. If a buyer runs with this, it will be as good as gone.

It is not my practice to repeat wines in these emails, but this one is a little treasure of a find, and now that I have spent so much time with it, I feel I need to remind everyone how good/versatile this wine is. Plus I have to note towards the end of my last batch, the wine was starting to show promising bottle development. It’s still too young to claim significant bottle age, but my extrapolations tell me to put some of this away. Not forever, but long enough to have a little fun. Those of you who have had this and enjoyed it, I recommend you get seconds (or thirds, fourths) while you can, and those who missed it last time should see what this vintage does for our “everyday” wines. $11.46 a bottle? The Euro hasn’t bested us yet. – Ben Jordan

Original Email From Last Year

As I’ve mentioned in previous emails, I’m getting married soon. I’m lucky to be engaged to a woman who is very much on top of things and has allowed me to take on relatively few responsibilities. Which is important because if I don’t practice my banjo every day, Chris and Peter are never going to want to play with me. It’s also in her best interest as I can be a klutz at planning beautiful ceremonies. Intelligent woman that she is, she has been very careful in her delegation.You know where this is going, don’t you? I am in charge of the booze. High Five! At first I was excited, daydreaming: I’ll serve amazing wine at the wedding and people will whisper, “This is delightful. You can tell he’s in the wine business. How romantic!” People will remember this as the wedding where the wine was wonderful. They’ll say, “Remember that wedding with the wine? That was delightful.” Then I started getting nervous. How can I possibly please everyone? So many tastes, and we’re serving 3 different entrees, and my reputation depends on this. Don’t panic. I’ll just have 10 different wines to choose from. Then I started getting real. You can’t have a wine list at your wedding. One red. One white. That’s it. But make sure they’re great. Then I remembered money. Weddings in San Francisco are expensive, and since I’d like to avoid looking for a cheaper apartment on our honeymoon, I can’t spend all of our money on wine. I can’t spend all of our money on wine. I can’t spend all of our money on wine. I ran this by my fiancée, and she confirmed: I can’t spend all of our money on wine. For months I was pre-occupied by finding the magical, mystical wine that everyone will love, that will pair with our menu, that will fit our budget, and most importantly that will make us famous as the wedding that served the most delicious wine ever.

I found it, and would you believe it’s Loire Valley Cabernet Franc? Yes, because it’s 2005. They simply put “Cabernet” on the label as Franc is the only Cabernet of any significance in the Loire. We offered a wine from this region/vintage/variety last month, and while both show the success of the vintage, this one is cut from different cloth. The Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny is good now, but really wants more time in the bottle. This Touraine, the wedding wine, will certainly age, but it’s delicious now (see my tasting notes below), and avoiding a wine, when it is drinking so well is self-restraint I rarely practice.

So back to important life decisions. I said to myself, “Ben, this is an important life decision, this is your wedding wine, what do you know about this Touraine Rouge?” “Well,” I responded. “You tasted it in France, and you loved it. We ordered quite a bit of it because David and John liked it a lot. You tasted it when it landed in California, and you loved it again. That lady bought a case for a dinner party, and the next day the guests came back and bought five more. That guy with the underground restaurant poured it, and the diners tracked us down to buy it by the case. You recommend it and people always come back for more. What more do you want for your wedding? People love it, and it’s a fraction of the price of other options. And another thing. You’ve been drinking quite a lot of it. ”

And that was it, I had my wine. It’s perfect. It smells nice: Ripe yet still floral as it should be. The fruit is rich, but not heavy, no oak, and it is incredibly easy to drink. It’ll do chicken, it’ll do lamb, and it’ll do just fine by itself. It’s one of those wines you look for to purchase in quantity, as it works with just about anything, and it pleases just about everybody. It’s one of those wines that cost $10.70 per bottle if you buy a case, and therefore it’s one of those wines that is hard to come by in this day and age. Anybody ahead of the game enough to stock up for the holidays? If not, I’d recommend you stock up for now. And later. Do you own 2005 Couronneau? This’ll help you stay away from that. Personally, I hope that my wedding guests get into a tequila shooting contest, thereby distracting them from the wine so we have some of this left over. My fiancée does not agree about the tequila, but she would love to have some left over. Tasting notes follow. – Ben Jordan

Tasting Notes

Tasted 3 ways. In my effort to always be professional and objective, I tasted this under many different circumstances. Here are three.

1. Apartment temperature: There’s so much fruit here, it’s just plain delicious. There’s that violet, floral quality in the nose, but once I get it in my mouth all I can think about is the plush red fruit. Just a touch of herbs in the finish adds complexity. No wonder I drink this so often.

2. Slightly chilled. Wow. Also delicious. This tempers the fruit a bit and allows more nuance to show through. The floral, Loire character shows itself a little more now. The fact that you can change the temperature just makes the wine more flexible. I’m taking some of this to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in GG Park. When are they going to announce the lineup, anyway?

3. Cold, like white wine. This was an accident. I meant to chill it just a touch so I could write the previous tasting notes, but I forgot about it and left it overnight. I don’t usually recommend drinking red wine at this temperature as it can bury the fruit and accentuate the tannin. But you know what? It has so much fruit, those tannins don’t stand a chance. This wine is good cold! You might find it a little weird to taste red wine this cold, so you’re probably best served at room temp or slightly chilled, but if you accidentally over-chill, and you’re impatient, your first glass will be just fine.

P.S. To my soon to be wife who wishes to remain unnamed: I know that wine is not the most important part of our wedding. I’m trying to be funny, while also representing my excitement for the wine. I also know that you already know this, but I thought it might also be fun to send a postscript to you. I’ll drink anything as long as you are there to drink it with me. Even that grocery store swill they were trying to sell us with the catering package. It’s cool though, we don’t have to drink that swill, because I found this great wine from the Loire Valley! (See above.)

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