Better to drink than pack, 9/60: Saumur-Champigny

It’s official. I’m moving. I was given 60 days to vacate, and the wine is definitely coming with me, inside me, probably. Memories and tasting notes are easier to store and transport.

In yesterday’s instalment of drinking not packing, 8/60, I wrote the word Saumur three times more often than I did Irancy, and it was an Irancy wine that was being drunk, not packed. Lack of focus?

Today it’s Saumur-Champigny being drunk. So, to even things out, let me just write this: Irancy, Irancy, Irancy, Irancy. Now we’re even.

To cut to the chase — after all the rumination about wine and mystique yesterday—the Domaine Des Roches Neuves Saumur-Champigny 2013, which is Thierry Germain’s perennial entry of basic Cabernet Franc, seems to get more predictable and cookie-cutter with every passing year. To cut to the chase more quickly: Mystique? Not much. Dependable and true, sure.

Wherein lies the crux of today’s faltering AOC designation system. Do AOC stipulations smother winemakers, limiting them to producing a predictable wine from their grapes? Or, for a quality wine made under the confines of an AOC, is “cookie-cutter” a kind of a compliment?

This is not adventurous, and hardly new (even though an introduction in 1957 makes it one of the more modern additions to Loire Valley wine designations). But it is quality wine that echoes with an established wine style. It’s rendered true to ancestral tradition, and is only predictable because it doesn’t aim to deliver more than what it delivered last year: A Cabernet Franc reflecting minerals of local soil and the fruit of the grape grown in it. Little interference, other than Mother Nature’s big gestures, affects how those things get expressed.

Samey? Maybe. Am I judging a wine that I’ve known and tasted year after year more harshly than today’s vin de France novelties and vin naturel nouveautés? Definitely maybe. It’s an unavoidably drawback unfortunately, especially when mystique is high on the list of things I prize in a wine.

But with a meal hinging on mozzarella, green olives and ripe tomatoes, the mystique of this wine suddenly comes racing out. The fruity profile deepens further, the wine’s structure arcs with purpose. How can a wine, simply by being food-paired, dazzle so much more than it does solo?

The corner French bistros mass stockpiling good Loire red wines already know something about this. I can see why they’d not elect to change. Winemakers like Thierry Germain shouldn’t either.

13% alc/vol, $21.95

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