Château de Chaintres' Saumur-Champigny: Bring the Bistro Experience home
What is a ‘bistro’ wine? Usually we use it to point to a bottle you might find in a good neighborhood bistro on vacation in Paris or Lyon. It’s a reliable, food-friendly quaffer that’s light on its feet. Bistro wines need to be versatile, working just as well steak frites or boeuf bourgignon as it does sipped on its own.
Here, in America during the pandemic, we may be more likely to be looking at delivery of a burger and fries than meal out of steak frites, but the principle is the same: you want a glass of something that will be delicious with your meal and that will be just as delicious if you decide to have a second glass after dinner while you chill.
If that sounds good to you, check out the 2019 Saumur-Champigny Rouge “Les Sables,” from Château de Chaintres. It’s quintessential bistro red, and it’s gorgeous.
Chaintres, a small, Neal Rosenthal-imported family winery, has the terroir: classic tuffeau chalk, clay-limestone, and sandy soils right in the heart of the appellation. They have a new winemaker devoted to biodynamics, who worked on many of our favorite Loire Valley wines as the right-hand man at Philippe Gilbert.
The style of ‘Sables’ is not vin-de-garde, aka ‘wine intended to be drunk with decades of bottle age.’ No, this is a chillable, juicy Cabernet Franc that’s ready to brighten your weeknight. It tastes of red cherry, ripe blackberries, chalk and peppercorn, and will sing as sweetly at the table (try it with roast chicken or the aforementioned burger and fries) as it will enjoyed all by itself.
A lot of wine in Saumur-Champigny has gotten more expensive in recent years, mainly because the region’s top producer, Clos Rougeard, is a name coveted by the most serious wine collectors in the world. But there are still some great deals out there – and this might be the greatest.
Château de Chaintres, Saumur-Champigny Rouge “Les Sables”, 2019
Cabernet Franc can be so many things – here it’s bright, juicy, and floral (violets), with only a twinge of structure at the end. No noticeable green pepper pyrazines – it’s almost like a Cru Beaujolais from the Loire.