Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Waiting for Joguet

It’s been a while since I’ve looked in on the work that François-Xavier Barc is doing at Domaine Charles Joguet in Chinon. FX worked at Domaine Joguet for a brief period in the late 90’s and then returned in 2003 as head winemaker. I’ve been on a bit of a Loire Cab Franc kick of late, so I figured it was about time to check back in on one of the theoretically more precocious offerings from one of FX’s first years at the helm, the benchmark vintage of 2005.

Chinon “Les Petites Roches,” Charles Joguet 2005
$20. 13.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, CA.

I love the color of young, freshly poured Chinon, like crushed violets, bubbling with purple and blue highlights. In the case of Joguet’s 2005 “Les Petites Roches,” however, those colors quickly morphed to a dark, earthy red once settled in the glass. The immediate shot of weediness it delivered on the nose didn’t prepare me for the density that followed on the palate. Smoke, tobacco and log pile aromas emerged soon enough, matching more obviously with the wine’s overall impact. Gravelly, raspy yet relatively gentle tannins speak of the wine’s terroir – young vineyards planted on the southern bank of the Vienne River. And that texture, as so often with Chinon, cries out for food. Chinon almost always makes me hungry. But this is not your casual bistro-style Chinon. It’s too dark and deep for that, too serious.

That seriousness though, as impressive as it comes across, might just be the wine’s own worst enemy. Thirty minutes in the glass helps to brighten up the wine’s nose and bring out a touch of freshness that was masked at first. But the wine still lacks the crunch, energy and liveliness that I expect and hope for from a younger vine expression of Chinon. I want this to be fresh and pure. Instead, it’s shrouded and foursquare.

Perhaps it’s the vintage at work. 2005 was a warm year that gave wines of greater than usual concentration in the middle-Loire, something that’s reflected not just on the label of “Les Petites Roches” – 13.5% alcohol (13.8 actually, per my original notes) – but also by the touch of heat displayed on the wine’s finish.

Or perhaps winemaking decisions are masking the wine’s natural expression. Its combination of color tone, concentration and relative lack of aromatic finesse – even if additional scents of rhubarb, cinnamon bark and cigarette tobacco did emerge on day two – suggest a fermentation that may have been allowed to run too hot or too long.

Or perhaps, just perhaps, it’s only in a dumb phase right now.

Whatever the case may be, though, it’s not good raw materials or talent that are lacking. There’s definite potential here and I’ll hold my remaining bottles for another year or two in hope of positive evolution. It’s only a lack of transparency – something Brooklynguy wrote so pointedly about in his recent piece on the Chinon of Bernard Baudry – that’s holding this wine back from clearly expressing its place, from being all it could be.


TWG said...

Enjoyed a partial bottle of Breton 2005 Clos Senechal this evening. I'm inept at describing the flavors but it was quite good and looking forward to finishing it tomorrow.

Managing Principal, Labstuff said...

I've taken my ungrafted 05 Les Varennes and buried them in a time capsule in my backyard. Maybe they'll be ready in a decade or two.

I also tasted the perhaps inappropriately named blended Cuvee Terroir from the vintage and found it muddled comparable to the manner you've described. As it is the poor man's Petits Roches, maybe that's not surprising.

J David

David McDuff said...

We did the '05 Clos Sénéchal with turducken not long ago. Definitely good stuff. If I was a better on-line shopper, I'd be out trying to rustle up some more.

Careful there or you'll have wine prospectors digging holes in your yard.... I've stashed away a little Varennes myself.

For my next look at the '05 Petites Roches, I think I'd like to do a side-by-side with the same bottling from a "smaller" vintage.

Managing Principal, Labstuff said...

That is exactly the kind of experimental ethos we like to see!

TWG said...

I've tried to locate the '05 Clos Senechal online to no avail. It's also out at Dressner, but the '06 is on the way. Finished the bottle tonight and it was still enjoyable, wish I had more. Any word on the 2006 vintage for the Loire?

Joe said...

I am very curious if this is a new winemaker making his mark or a reflection of the vintage - I really liked some of Joguets offerings in the past

David McDuff said...

Thought you might like that.

For detailed information about weather and harvest conditions in 2006, you may want to peruse Jim's Loire. I've already drunk a decent number of '06 wines from Chinon, Bourgueil and St. Nicolas de Bourgueil. The overall impression is of a lighter, livelier and more fruit forward expression, with excellent transparency in many cases. Not that there aren't any keepers but, in general, they're wines to drink while you let your '05s rest in the cellar.

In all likelihood, I expect it's a bit of both. The lineup of '05s I tasted last year, all made by FX, show definite potential. Sometimes, the simplest wines can be the hardest ones to get right, as small flaws will be more prominent/noticeable in the overall scope of the wine.

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