When I was recently in France, I had the pleasure of visiting two of the Loire Valley’s red wine growing regions, Bourgueil and Chinon. Both regions produce wine from the red grape Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Franc is one of the five traditionally blended red varietals in Bordeaux along with the main two, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon and has some very distinct peppery aromas. Up North in the Loire, Cab Franc has a special freshness and acidity that the cooler climate provides. These wines are easily approachable at a young age and pair extremely well with food due to their great acidity.
On a rainy last day of harvest I arrived at Nau Fréres, a small producer in Bourgueil. They produce about 2,500 cases of wine yearly from 30 year old Cabernet Franc vines. The man behind the wines is Abel Nau. After greeting Abel and trying some tank samples, he hurried outside to greet the last truck of grapes to be dumped and into the destemmer. Once the load was finished we headed inside to taste some of his wines. He broke out a log of local goat cheese and started pouring wine. What amazed me was while everything was going on with the harvest he still wanted to taste and let us hear his story. In the past, most Cab Franc’s I’ve tried have had at least some oak influence. Abel is completely against oak. Even their cellar is packed with bottles instead of barrels. He wants to reserve the fresh fruit notes that his grapes have and feels that oak will ruin the natural elements of his wine. After tasting several of his wines I can’t help but to agree with him. His wines have fresh red fruit notes with some tannin and my favorite, a peppery nose. The most interesting thing was when he brought out one of his wines from the early 90′s. It was still so fresh tasting and with a nuance of oak. He explained that the oak notes naturally occur in his wines after they have been aged for a while. The connection Abel and his family have with their wines, truly make you appreciate what you are drinking. They let the wines speak for themselves by practicing organic farming and using little outside influence.
Since it was harvest, the entire family and staff were all at the winery once the morning harvest was over. Food was being prepared inside by the women in the Abel’s family. They insisted we stay for lunch. It was an offer that I couldn’t refuse. Several courses were brought out starting with tiny star pasta and left over broth from last nights pot-au-feu. Next was a potato salad made from all local ingredients followed by a serving of lentils. Dishes kept coming including boeuf bourguignon, fried eggs, and loads of bread and cheese. I had no idea but a fried egg on top of lentils and a deep boeuf bourguignon was incredible. This amazing rustic meal went down great with all of their Bourgueil including an easy drinking rosé. For desert there was more cheese and a simple rice pudding which hit the spot. The conversations were great and everyone tried to speak English as much as possible. The entire staff and especially Abel are truly great people. They are very warm, caring and generous. Needless to say it was a meal I would never forget.
At Mike’s Wine Dive we are offering Nau Fréres by the glass for $8 and $40 by the bottle. It is definitely one of my favorite wines on our list and a must try if you haven’t had a chance to experience it.