In a summer heat wave, a chilled rosé is my go-to wine choice. As the temperature last week hovered in the 90s, I sat in an air-conditioned local restaurant much enjoying this crisp, spicy 2012 J-M Raffault Chinon Rosé alongside a creamy cold coconut milk and mango soup and salad of goat cheese, prosciutto, grilled peach halves and a heap of greens. Its savory berry-fruit and watermelon flavors, with hints of violets and herbs, perfectly complemented all of the above. The succulent finish makes you crave another glass.
Elin McCoy's Wine of the Week
Region: Loire Valley, France
Grape: 100% Cabernet Franc
Serve slightly chilled: With just about everything from picnic fare to goat cheese to salads.
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While I love the pale onion-skin-colored rosés from the south of France in Provence, I also find lively, slightly darker salmon pink rosés from the Loire Valley compelling, especially those made in the Chinon appellation, where Cabernet Franc is the main grape. They’re wonderfully expressive wines, with aromas of berries and tobacco. They have some of the same character as the red Chinons that make up about 90% of the wine in the appellation. The other 10% is rosé.
Castle in Chinon provides backdrop
The Raffault family’s roots in Chinon go back 14 generations, but it was Jean-Maurice who really built up the estate, expanding it from 11 acres of vines to about 124 spread across seven communes. Some of them overlook the brooding and well-worth-visiting Château de Chinon, a medieval castle once inhabited by English King Henry II. Set on a rocky outcrop above the Vienne river, it was a strategic site for an important fortress.
Jean-Maurice was the first in Chinon to bottle the wines from different vineyard parcels separately, so as to highlight different soil types and microclimates.
Now his son, Rodolphe, presides over the vines, where no chemical fertilizers and herbicides are used, and the enormous cellar cut into limestone cliffs. The grapes for this rosé come from 10 hectares (25 acres) of vines growing on sand and gravel soils, which produce lighter-bodied, more elegant wines. Rodolphe ferments using only native yeasts, and bottles the wine about six months after harvest to keep the fruit bright and juicy.
Happily, rosé has shed its once poor reputation and has gone beyond a fad to become a summer staple, especially for those hot sizzling nights when you crave refreshment. This 2012 J-M Raffault Chinon Rosé definitely offers that, but wonderful aromas and flavors, too.
Top photo composite:
Rodolphe Raffault and the label for 2012 Domaine Jean-Maurice Raffault Chinon Rosé. Credit: Images courtesy of Domaine Jean-Maurice Raffault