Thierry Germain / Domaine des Roches Neuves, Saumur Champigny (Loire Valley, France) Clos de L’Échelier 2018

($70, Vineyard Road):  Thierry Germain at Domaine des Roches Neuves is one of the Loire’s young superstars.  He makes a range of reds from Cabernet Franc, as is the tradition in Saumur Champigny.  This one, one of his top cuvées, comes from a 4.5-acre terraced plot of 70-year old vines.  He is passionate about organic farming and biodynamics, and is convinced that those practices make an enormous difference, especially in a hot year, such as 2018.  There’s no doubt that his 2018 Clos de L’Échelier delivers ripe, succulent black cherry-like flavors you would expect from a warm growing season.  Yet, it is balanced, not overblown and weighs in at a modest 13.5 percent stated alcohol.  Mineral-like flavors, characteristic of the plot, emerge as it sits in the glass.  Brilliant acidity keeps it energetic and in focus.  Its extraordinarily suave texture bolsters my enthusiasm.  When I visited the estate five years ago, he told me that he attributed the polish of his wines to the detail he takes with the vineyard, using one man to care for five acres, as opposed to the usual one man to 25-acre ratio.  Still, even with its polished texture this is a youthful wine that is best cellared for a decade.  This unique expression of Cabernet Franc should dispel any notion about the grandeur of red wines from the Loire Valley.
95 Michael Apstein Feb 16, 2021