Connect
To Top

Four Wines from Charles Joguet

Why the Chinon Estate Remains a Champion of Single-Vineyard Cabernet Franc

10 min read

Then, on my next trip to Burgundy, Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac told me he had recently returned from a tour of the Loire vineyards with a small group of Burgundian winemakers. One wine stood apart from the rest, he said, the Chinon of Charles Joguet.

–Kermit Lynch, Adventures on the Wine Route : A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France (Hardcover – Anniv. Ed.); 2013 Edition

There are moments when reading Kermit Lynch’s superbly crafted memoir that the parallels between wine and rock-and-roll smack you in the face. The sentence above is like reading about Daniel Fields getting tipped off on The Ramones (if only it was Led Zeppelin who tipped him off).

Lynch goes on to describe driving to the village of Sazilly where he cannot find Charles Joguet’s domaine. A hunched, gnome-like figure leads him to a small house door, and Joguet answers, stooped over himself by a metal back brace.

“My God, I thought, there is a whole colony of them,” Lynch muses. Turns out, Joguet was recovering from a car accident. As Lynch notes later: “the magic? He has it.”

Charles Joguet was a painter and sculptor by trade when, in 1957, he returned to his family’s estate in Chinon and took over. He opted to estate-bottle the wines, rather than sell the grapes to négociants, and soon he began to emphasize single-vineyard wines for his Cabernet Franc grapes. It is still a hallmark of the winery today, long after he has stepped aside.

In Chinon, Cabernet Franc has its home. The oft-forgotten father of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the grape produces wines of strange duality. They have a spitfire character and a firm tension, yet enough elegance to dance on the palate. Whereas Cabernet Franc makes little more than a cameo in many of the world’s Bordeaux-style blends, in Chinon the grape stars in a one-grape show. The best estates serve as the script writers and directors behind the scenes, getting the best performances from their star actor each year.

Joguet’s tenure at the helm of the estate began to end in 1985, when he sold half of the estate to the Genet family so that he could pursue his passion with art more fully. Today the Genet family owns the estate outright. However, what remains is a winery devoted to Joguet’s ethos: to coax the singular magic of a very ancient grape growing in very ancient soil.

“Charles has always been making wines that truly respect the profile of terroirs,” current winemaker Kevin Fontaine told me in an email interview. “Through the years, an increasing knowledge of the soil’s structure, its strength and weaknesses — [plus] vineyard work achieved organically since 2008 — has allowed us to go even further in the identity of each of our wines.”

Preserving the continuity of any estate — let alone one with a reputation such as Charles Joguet — has to be a tricky endeavor. But many years on since the handover, these wines show that the Genet family is equally committed to celebrating the soul of Cabernet Franc in Chinon’s soils. They are precise, wily and delightfully unpredictable wines. They are also massively delicious.

What follows are four 100% Cabernet Franc wines of distinct personality, and a few questions on each one for the winemaker.


Tasting Impressions and Interview

2017 Charles Joguet Cuvée Terroir Chinon ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle

2017 Charles Joguet Cuvée Terroir Chinon ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle

2017 Charles Joguet Cuvée Terroir Chinon

Opening a Bottle: This is an oddly simple question, but some friends and I were discussing stemware and the Cabernet Franc wines of the Loire. Some said a Bordeaux glass is preferred because it is Cabernet Franc, yet others (like me) said a Burgundian glass because of the Loire’s delicacy with Cabernet Franc. In your opinion, what is the ideal glass for serving your wines?

Kevin Fontaine: A Bordeaux glass could be used for the Cabernet Franc in its youth when the wines are still pretty structured. Then, as the wines gain in age, I would slowly move to a Burgundy wine glass!

Chinon AOC, France 🇫🇷
Grapes: Cabernet Franc (100%)
Alcohol: 13%
Ratings: ★★★★ 3/4 (out of five)
Food-friendliness: Impeccable
• Value: Exceptional

Tasting notes: This wine is mighty impressive, especially given its mid-$20 price tag. So reminiscent of Pinot Noir, with its cherry-red color, low opacity, and lightly tannic, juicy feel. However, on the nose, it conveys the wild, old soul of Cabernet Franc with real clarity. I suspect even newcomers to wine could detect it. Aromas strongly recall plums, raspberries and bell pepper, with faint edges of cinnamon stick. Quenching on the palate, its lightness is an invitation to a host of cuisine pairings: roast chicken, salmon, burgers. The peppery tones and laser-precise acidity give this wine excellent momentum on the palate. Becomes more herbaceous as it opens up. An “entry level” wine in price only.

Serving suggestion: This is a wine you buy by the half case or case “just to have on hand.” Introduce it to friends. They’ll never look at “Cabernet” the same way again. Superb value.

Support the content on opening a bottle
Shop for Charles Joguet’s Wines


2016 Charles Joguet Les Varennes du Grand Clos Chinon

2016 Charles Joguet Les Varennes du Grand Clos Chinon ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle

2016 Charles Joguet Les Varennes du Grand Clos Chinon ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle

Opening a Bottle: I noticed that this wine seemed to be fuller and more concentrated than the Clos de la Dioterie and the Clos du Chêne Vert. Does this have to do with the vineyard, or was 2016 just a warmer vintage?

Kevin Fontaine: This full feeling you have when tasting the 2016 Les Varennes du Grand Clos is mostly due to the profile of vintage, as the terroir of Varennes du Grand Clos is just aside Clos de la Dioterie, but on a lower level with clay and limestone but [it does] not reach the mother rock limestone as Clos de la Dioterie does. [The] 2016 vintage was a vintage in which we faced all excessive weather conditions a year can bring — frost, hail, heavy rains, very hot and dry during summer — and as a matter of fact, the structure itself is pretty powerful and rich with a beautiful line of acidity.

Chinon AOC, France 🇫🇷
Grapes: Cabernet Franc (100%)
Alcohol: 13.5%
Ratings: ★★★★ 1/2 (out of five)
Food-friendliness: Selective (in this vintage)
• Value: Very good

Tasting notes: While this wine has its majestic moments — particularly its wonderful aromas — it felt like an outlier from the other three, with a sterner, more closed-off feeling to it. In seeing Kevin’s reply on vintage, I’m certain this is likely because of 2016’s weather. The fuller body and heightened astringency of the wine speak to this, but what’s impressive is how deftly the wine navigates this power without losing its character. The aromas are forward, savory, herbaceous and most of all, peppery, recalling red bell pepper, leather and iris before revealing its fruity tones underneath. In fact, on a few sips, I didn’t notice the fruitiness of the wine until the finish, which lingered like a long note of raspberry, watermelon and black pepper. As someone who prefers wines with more subtlety and delicacy, I’d love to revisit this wine in a different vintage.

Serving suggestion: Of the Chinon wines I tasted, this one could benefit from more robust, fattier dishes as a pairing partner.

Support the content on opening a bottle
Shop for Charles Joguet’s Wines


2015 Charles Joguet Clos de la Dioterie Chinon

2015 Charles Joguet Clos de la Dioterie Chinon ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle

2015 Charles Joguet Clos de la Dioterie Chinon ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle

Opening a Bottle: The wine from Clos de la Dioterie is quite different from that of Clos du Chêne Vert. Do you think this has to do with differences in the soil, or does the difference in vine age have a bigger impact on the final wine?

Kevin Fontaine: The vines’ age definitely has an impact on the concentration of the juices — but apart from the grape variety, everything is different between Clos du Chêne Vert and Clos de la Dioterie. Clos de la Dioterie is situated on the left bank of the Vienne River, with a north exposure and clay and white chalk/limestone [soil] — which is very specific in Chinon as only Les Varennes du Grand Clos and Clos de la Dioterie benefit from this very old terroir (it is among the oldest in Chinon). Clos de la Dioterie will always be offering wines on the powerful side of Cabernet Franc, with dark fruit aromas and spicy notes, powerful structure and a finish with white-chalk mineral acidity. With its southwest/west exposure, on the right bank of the river, [as well as] clay and yellow limestone, Clos du Chêne Vert will always have very fine and elegant tannins, juiciness, floral and red fruit notes. We will begin the harvest with Clos de Chêne Vert and finish them with Clos de la Dioterie — two very different terroirs offering different balances but same ageing potential.

Chinon AOC, France 🇫🇷
Grapes: Cabernet Franc (100%)
Alcohol: 13.5%
Ratings: ★★★★★ (out of five)
Food-friendliness: Versatile
• Value: Exceptional

Tasting notes: “Dear God, this wine is exceptional” I wrote in my notes. In fact, I was at a loss for words on a few sips from this magnificent wine. Darker and more concentrated than all of the other wines from Charles Joguet, the wine showed a mischievous yet charming character that was defined by its peppery tones. Challenging at times, it is likely to be a decisive wine in some circles. But for those of us who taste a lot of wines, its standout character and wild allure are indelible. On the nose, I was reminded of black raspberry, ripe plums, musk, peppercorns and eventually — a note I’ve never experienced in a wine — mild pepper jelly, a condiment I haven’t thought of in years. Somehow, it all made sense. “This wine is like a wily fox,” I finished in my notes. Whatever that might mean, it still feels like an apt descriptor.

Serving suggestion: You could get away with some aging on this wine. It certainly has more to say in the future than now, but also drinks beautifully at present, especially with roasted chicken or squab, or duck breast.

Support the content on opening a bottle
Shop for Charles Joguet’s Wines


2015 Clos du Chêne Vert Chinon

2015 Clos du Chêne Vert Chinon ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle

2015 Charles Joguet Clos du Chêne Vert Chinon ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle

Opening a Bottle: What makes the Clos du Chêne Vert such a special vineyard? How do these wines age?

Kevin Fontaine: Clos du Chêne Vert is situated on the right bank of the Vienne river, on a southwest/west exposure, benefiting from the warm evening sun, [and a] strong slope up to 18% [gradient]. Its clay and yellowish limestone/sandstone soils ensure great balance in the wines in every weather condition we face. It naturally produces low yields, favoring concentration, but always with fine tannins and freshness.

Through the years, the evolution of the Clos du Chêne Vert is pretty constant. It always tends to have the finesse of old Burgundian wines. It should be kept some 10 years to fully start revealing itself.

Chinon AOC, France 🇫🇷
Grapes: Cabernet Franc (100%)
Alcohol: 13.5%
Ratings: ★★★★ 3/4 (out of five)
Food-friendliness: Versatile
• Value: Very Good

Tasting notes: Of the four wines sampled, this one struck me as the one that could benefit the most with more time in bottle. Four years after vintage, it was still compact, wound tight and at times, guarded with its secrets. Decanting would have helped, because what showed up with the second glass later in the night was majestic. Reminiscent of blackberries, ripe red plums, red flowers, green bell pepper and slate, the wine struck a beautiful balance between power and finesse. The texture of the wine has considerable grip: while the tannins need a little more time to mellow, Clos du Chêne Vert’s structure seems more mineral than most. A compelling wine worth revisiting in future vintages and also with 10 to 12 years of age.

Serving suggestion: Coming into its prime, this wine felt like it still could use a little time in bottle, or at least a good 1- to 2-hour decant. Pair with a burger if you want bliss.

Support the content on opening a bottle
Shop for Charles Joguet’s Wines


Charles Joguet is one of the Essential Winemakers of France. View the full curated list and learn more about which French wines you should be buying.

Essential Winemakers of France ©Opening a Bottle

 


Note: Parts of this interview were edited for clarity and brevity. These wines were provided as a sample by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants. Learn more about my editorial and advertising policy.

Open a Bottle in Your Email

Subscribe to our monthly email digest.




More in Winemaker Interviews


Opening a Bottle is an independent online magazine focused on telling the story of unique wines, winemakers and wine regions.

All rights reserved. Photographs marked “©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle” are our sole property and may not be redistributed for any reason. Contact us if you would like to license imagery … we do love seeing our images used, but demand credit or compensation depending on usage.

You can also contact us if you would like us to review samples, participate in a press trip or review a sponsorship opportunity.

Copyright © 2019 / Kevin Day, Opening a Bottle & Headwaters Content. Design: HeyDay Creative