Couly Dutheil Chinon Rene Couly 2005

Storage in the ancient Couly Dutheil cellars

Here is what The New York Times Wine Columnist Eric Asimov said this morning :
"A Great Year Lifts an Unsung Region"

"And make no mistake: 2005 was a great year...we [the wine panel] all found the Chinon tasting thrilling."
"While Chinon can be found in countless Paris bistros and wine bars, they are rarely seen in American restaurants...which is too bad because they pair so well with food. Not just French food, either. They are delicious with casual American burgers, steaks and chops and I find that, because of their refreshing acidity, they go particularly well with Asian cuisines." -
Eric Asimov, wine critic, The New York Times March 19, 2008

"Expect a Line for 2005 Loire Wines. Great vintages are few and far between in the Loire, and while 2002 was one, 2005 may be even better because of the combination of concentrated flavors, extraordinary aromatics, and crisp acidity and minerality." -Robert Parker April 2007

This is a wine that brings me all the tastes and pleasures of France in all of its glorious manifestations. The rich curranty, berry taste, and pure, deep red fruit flavor reminds me of every bistro I have visited in the French countryside. This is what is great about French country wines. They are affordable, delicious, not too serious, but when well made reflect the unique place where they come from. In fact, I've been to the birthplace of this wine many times. It is one of the most beautiful villages in France and that only enhances the pleasure tenfold.

A lot of people fall in love with Chinon the village before they fall for Chinon the wine. I think that's the way it happened for me, but it's been so long now I can't remember. I do know I've been drinking Chinon for a long time and it's one of my favorite French red wines. I cannot taste a Chinon without a vivid picture of the village popping into my mind. I think about crossing the small bridge over the lazily lapping River Vienne. The bridge splits Chinon in half and puts you right down in the middle of town.

For a quarter of a mile in each direction along the Vienne are charming stone houses built right into the hillside. The land rises steeply from the bank and on its highest part with a lot of vineyards in between sits a chateau, noble though in ruins. All up and down the river are France's signature plane trees, stumpy and squat from rigorous pruning in the winter and bursting with shade-giving leaves in the summer. It's an ancient place of beauty where Joan of Arc convinced Charles VII to put on the French crown and drive out the English.

There is an open-air market once a week. You can sip your noir double in the morning and watch the trafficking of ripe Loire Valley peaches and aromatic melons and cheeses and feel a few million miles away from anything flashy and artificial and second-rate.

The Couly-Dutheil (Coolie-dew-toy) family makes my favorite Chinon. There are a lot of people who feel that way, which is why it was a real coup to corner an allocation of their wines. It all came about because I sat next to Jacques (pere) and Arnaud (fils) Couly-Dutheil at a big Bordeaux dinner several years ago.

It was serendipity because even though I had Bordeaux on the brain at that moment, I'd been lusting after a truly sublime Chinon for a while, and there I was sandwiched between the makers of the best Chinon in the world.

Well, you know those Bordeaux parties....everyone at the table got to be fast friends before the last glass was tilted (around 3 AM) and Bob and I stayed in touch with Jacques and Arnaud over the years. Yes, years. You see, befriending great Chinon doesn't mean you can import it. There are these long-standing exclusive importing contracts, which sometimes keep you from your goal. BUT, often, if you are patient, success will come knocking.

Eventually, luck turned my way. Jacques decided to break with his importer. He contacted me. I drove down to Chinon from Paris and submitted to a full-bore tasting of the entire Couly-Dutheil lineup, which is submitting yourself to more than a few drops. After all, Francois Rabelais, the 15th century satirist, is the town's mascot and spiritual guide. There are few people in town who do not follow his sage advice, "Beuvez toujours, vous ne mourrez jamais" i.e. Drink all the time and you will never die.

Do I have to tell you Chinon is a town where your glass need never be empty?

One of my absolute favorite Chinons is the cuvee Rene Couly. It is made from 100% Cabernet Franc. It is a round, ruby-colored wine with wonderful fruit coming from a vineyard where the Rivers Loire and Vienne meet. Jacques Couly-Dutheil calls this a noble cuvee - charming and harmonious, and I'm not going to argue with the boss. I loved the purity of the taste - from the first contact with the tongue all the way to infinity and beyond. I got quite a buzz out of it, in fact. The balance is exquisite and the smoothness may lead you quite effortlessly from one glass to the other. In 2005 they made the best Chinon in probably 10 years - they say since 1989!. Don't miss it.

Of course, it's hand-harvested. The yields are low and there's a little oak, but not enough to overwhelm the rich fruit. This wine has depth. Rabelais would have loved it. Cheers! Here's to a long life! Cynthia Hurley


Couly-Dutheil Chinon Rene Couly  2005

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