The longest river in France, the Loire provides the setting for some of the great wines of the world. Starting in the Massif Central, it runs for over 1000 kilometres, first heading north through the Auvergne (Gamay country) before reaching the Central Loire and the famous Sauvignon Blanc appellations of Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Reuilly and Menetou-Salon. Here it turns west, flowing into Anjou and the Middle Loire where Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc reign supreme, before finally reaching the Atlantic coast in the Pays Nantais, the home of seafood loving Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet) and Folle Blanche.
Today our focus is on two outstanding producers of the Middle Loire, one whose reputation for wizardry with Chenin Blanc (and the relatively rare Pineau d'Aunis) is well established, and one whose adventures with Cabernet Franc, though just beginning, promise very big things.
Jean-Pierre Robinot (Jasnières)
Opéra Blanc: Chenin Blanc from twenty five year old vines planted over clay and limestone in Anjou. Bottled young and brimming with energy, this is the most immediate expression of the grape we have tried from JP. Straw yellow in the glass, it draws you in with gentle notes of stone fruits and minerals before a whistle clean finish.
Opéra Rouge: A fascinating take on Cabernet Franc from the master of Pineau d’Aunis. This comes from a sixty year old parcel of vines grown over clay and limestone in Anjou. The grapes were fermented on the skins for a fortnight, before being pressed off to barrels for a short rest. Pairing bright, brambly fruit, pepper and spice, this is incredibly compelling.
Les Années Folles: Wonderful sparkling rosé made from a direct press of Pineau d’Aunis that began fermentation in cuve, spent ten months on lees in bottle and was disgorged by hand. A beautiful, vivid pink in the glass, this really impresses with varietal notes of wild strawberry and white pepper and no shortage of energy.
L'Iris: Chenin Blanc from some of JP's oldest vines, up to ninety years of age. This was pressed straight to barrel and spent fifteen months in élevage, rendering a wine of rare complexity. Compact and elegant, the nose bears the unmistakable imprint of silex, whilst the palate possesses the kind of intense, stony minerality that this noble grape possesses at its zenith.
Charme: Chenin Blanc from a vineyard around forty years old, picked a little later and pressed straight to old barrels for fifteen months of élevage. With an inviting nose of orchard fruits and crushed stones, this pairs its plush fruit with a lingering line of acid that really resonates. A wine of rare energy, it has a long life ahead.
Lumières des Sens: Pineau d’Aunis is always a thrill when Jean-Pierre is involved and this is no different. It comes from a forty year old parcel and is fermented on skins in whole bunches for two weeks, before being pressed off to barrel to rest for fifteen months. The nose is laden with spice and reflecting the vintage, the palate is a little deeper and darker than usual. Savoury and intense.
Nocturne: Pineau d’Aunis from vines between fifty and one hundred years of age. This was fermented on skins with whole bunches for three weeks and aged in old barrels for a year. As always it is the deepest and darkest of his reds with complex aromas of minerals and spice. Beautiful now, but it will age with aplomb.
Clos Kixhaya is the project of Beatriz Papamija and Étienne Le Blanc in Chinon. Planted exclusively with Cabernet Franc on sandy gravel over clay and limestone beside the river, their vines are between 30-90 years old. With their first vintage in 2020, Beatriz and Étienne are now in their third year of organic conversion, but are working above and beyond the minimum requirements for organic and even biodynamic certification. Biodiversity is the priority here, promoting life as much as possible, and disturbing as little as necessary.
Blanc de Noirs: A unique wine and most certainly the first blanc de noirs Cabernet Franc we've come across! Elegant and pure fruited with violet, blackcurrant leaf, citrus blossom and spice aromas.
Le Clos: Beatriz and Étienne's top red made from their oldest vines - up to 90 years old. Fermented long and slow for 40 days before 12 months ageing in oak, this is a deep and vivid Chinon with blackcurrant, liquorice, smoke and bay leaf aromas.
Pet By Nat: Hand harvested Cabernet Franc that is basket-pressed over 4 hours and fermented in stainless steel before bottling where it rests on the lees for 12 months before disgorging. Lifted, breezy and packed with delicate summer berry fruits.
Check out the wines of JP Robinot, Clos Kixhaya and many other superlative wines from this wonderful region in our dedicated Loire Valley collection.