I was recently introduced to Francis and Annick Jourdan by one of our new team members who had worked with them in the past. Regardless of what you think of Organic and Biodynamic winegrowing, you can almost always rest assured there is some conscientious farming/winemaking going on.
And, sure enough, these wines impressed across the range; however, I really felt you guys would appreciate the Icon-level, L'Arcestrale cuvee's the most, as they combine the classic earthy, elegant funk of Chinon's Cabernet Franc, with the richness and power of the best limestone plots and 25% new French oak.
Cabernet Franc is the father of the world's most widely planted variety, Cabernet Sauvignon, making Cabernet Franc quite literally the daddy of red wine. And this is one of the best I've ever tasted. My guess is those of you who like the more ethereal, higher-elevation, mountain-derived Napa Cabernet's and the Bordeaux-lovers on the list are going to get a total kick out of this.
And, a 2014-2017 vertical to boot? Come on, what a fantastic opportunity! All of this for just $329/Case DELIVERED...I mean, you can't even buy these here in the states much less assemble a four-vintage vertical!
First, a little history to get the vibe...
In 2012 Francis and Annick Jourdan left their home in Normandy to start a new life in Chinon. Cereal farmers and grain brokers with a passion for the vine, Francis actually tried to get the rights to plant a vineyard near Caen but could not persuade the authorities to let him (he admits that he has two feet in the soil but a head sometimes in the clouds). However, an opportunity soon came along in the form of Philippe Pichard, the fifth generation to run his family’s domaine in Chinon. But he had no heir, and when the Jourdans offered to buy into the domaine as partners, he agreed.
Pichard went organic in 2000, and, after the Jourdans came on board, the domaine received biodynamic certification from Demeter in 2015. The Jourdans embraced the philosophy—it was their wish to make wines as naturally as possible.
Today, the domaine farms 44 acres divided into 20 parcels. Nearly 80% of these vines are within a mile and a quarter of the winery, which lies in the eastern part of the Chinon appellation near the village of Cravant-les-Côteaux. This is the small Vienne River valley, and the domaine’s vines start pretty much at the river, range across the plain (or benchland, if you prefer), and extend up to the plateau above Cravant. At the river, the soils are sand and gravel; the plain is limestone and much more clay; and the hillside heading up to the plateau has clay with a lot of limestone. Each cuvée is grounded in its geology. All the vines are hand-harvested and the grapes are de-stemmed.
After working with the Jourdans for nine years, Philippe Pichard retired in 2021.
The top cuvée, L'Arcestrale, is an homage to fine Bordeaux, made only in good years. This comes from the domain's best Cab Franc vines, which grow in two parcels on the plain and the hillside, and the wine is aged in wood, 25% of which is new. The result is pure, concentrated-yet-elegant Cabernet Franc using organic principles from average 45-year-old vines. Perfume and fruit purity are the hallmarks of Pichard & Jourdan wines.
2014 L'Arcestrale Dark in the glass and pungent with earthy black cherry, savory graphite, earthen mineral (think fresh-turned black earth), roasted thyme and powdered rose petals. Muscular, chewy, ethereal and palate-staining, concentrated with black fruits and vanilla with dark chocolate hints and a huge finish. Still has huge ageing potential but opening up nicely now - quite approachable with a good decant. An absolute WOW wine.
2015 L'Arcestrale Fleshier, juicier and more energetic, more open-knit and accessible. Chewy on the palate, vibrant with a brighter fruit profile of blackcurrant, black cherry and racy strawberry. A prettier vintage for sure...2014 would be more like Napa in 2013, the 2015 more like Napa in 2015. Sexy juice!
2016 L'Arcestrale The 2016 falls structurally in-between the the 2014 and 2015 with a scintillating bouquet of umami leather and exotic spice with a ripe black fruit and earth amalgam underpinning high-toned peppery florals. Exquisitely balanced with chiseled mineral energy launching dark fruit, vanilla and chocolate with a lush rose petal retronasal blast. Fantastique!
2017 L'Arcestrale Another fantastic vintage similar in style to the energetic 2015...juicy, mouthwatering structure with rose petal florals, red clay, racy strawberry and black cherry fruit. Beautiful intensity, elegant aromas, silky texture and jammy fruit. Delicious now but definitely more to come!