Blanc de Franc (100% Cabernet Franc), Couly-Dutheil, NV (but really 2008), Loire Valley
The magicians at Couly-Dutheil have performed a trick that baffles the eye.
They pulled back their cloak, placed a bunch of red Cabernet Franc grapes behind it, said an incantation to the spirits of the Loire, and, walla kazaam, a le vini, out popped an innocent looking glass with a liquid in it as clear as water.
Hypnotic notes of strawberry cream peppered with yeasty, Champagne notes beckoned me ever closer to its grasp. My eyes kept deceiving me, as I looked in awe at the clear wine in my glass. Was it a red? A rose? Surely not a white wine.
“But you’re made from red grapes,” I shouted! “What the hell has gotten into you?” It sat motionless like a confident harlot knowing her appearance alone was strong enough to keep me riveted.
This is the Couly-Dutheil Blanc de Franc, a white, still wine made from Cabernet Franc, the predominant red grape of the Loire Valley and an illustrious grape of the highest caliber.
As a grape’s juice is clear, a wine’s color comes from the grape skins, which are often described as the “dye packets” which gives wine it’s color. But leave the skins out and you’ve got the soul of the red grape without any of its pesky color. Perfect for me to be beguiled by in the East Village.
The village of Chinon lies on the left bank of the Vienne River, at the heart of the Loire Valley. The Loire is a wondrous region of castles and caves (wine cellars) carved directly into the riverbanks made of tuffeau, a marine sedimentary rock formed by fossilized organisms that once swam through the area. The stone labyrinths allow for perfect storage temperature and you will find countless wine barrels stashed all alongside the river’s path. Look even closer, and you may find a magic mummy.
Couly-Dutheil is a powerhouse in the Loire Valley. One of the most well-known maisons in Chinon, they have a range of wines made from the white and red grapes the Loire calls it’s superstars: Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
In fact, they play with them like a child does the toys in it’s toy box. A range of still and sparkling wines round out their portfolio and it’s clear that the wine growers are under the spell of the wondrous soils of Chinon.
The Blanc de Franc is a radical wine. French AOC laws don’t allow a still, white wine to be made from Cabernet Franc in Chinon, but Couly Dutheil stood undettered. They released it with a lesser designation and therefore were unable by law to mark it with a vintage. Word is, only 25 cases came into the US.
How’s that for a disappearing magic trick?