Couly Dutheil La Baronnie Madeleine 2008
by Cynthia Hurley
"Rock solid". - James Molesworth, The Wine Spectator, 90 Pts.
Baronnie Madeleine is a red Chinon cuvee from famous Domaine Couly Dutheil, made from the best parcels selected in only the great wine years.
That's a mouthful and so is Baronnie Madeleine. This wine is made from 100% Cabernet Franc, as are all finest reds of the Loire Valley. But this is an exceptional example of Loire Cabernet Franc. The wine is complex with intense aromas with a seductively silky palate of ripe red fruits. It is round and charming, crafted with much thought to honor Madeleine Dutheil, daughter of Baptiste Dutheil who founded the estate in 1921.
Of course, the vineyards were making grapes for hundreds of years before this. Domaine Couly-Dutheil owns the most venerable vineyard in all of Chinon: Clos de l'Echo. Formerly owned by the King of France, it has been a vineyard for close to 1000 years.
I've been to Chinon many times; it is one of the most beautiful villages in France and that only enhances the pleasure I get from the wine. I cannot taste a Chinon without a vivid picture of the village popping into my mind. For a quarter of a mile in each direction along the River are charming stone houses built right into the hillside. The land rises steeply from the bank and on its highest part sits a chateau, noble though in ruins.
Baronnie Madeleine is a special cuvee and made in a special way, only in the best vintages. The family conducts a blind tasting to identify a parcel of a vineyard or a blend of parcels that will be named Chinon Baronnie Madeleine. The family looks for a style that represents the "feminine ideal" e.g. richness and elegance - round, charming with complex tannins that will have good ageing potential.
The grapes always come from the best plots where the vines are the oldest. The vineyard work at the Domaine is based upon organic principles using treatments that are good to the environment. There is a manual harvest and strict grape selection. Yields are well below the average for the region. The juice is aged in barrel with full de-stemming. All of this yields a silky and seductive wine.
This is one of the loveliest Loire wines you can put in your glass. Have you started to love them yet? You know, the longer I drink wine, the more reds from the Loire end up in my glass. These wines have a purity about them that I love. There are no sharp edges. They are not heavy yet they are substantial and bursting with berry flavor, to say nothing about their affordability.