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The wines of Couly-Dutheil, Chinon

12 Rue Diderot, 37500 Chinon, France Tel: +33 (0)2 47 97 20 20

Some wine lovers I've met have had in-built prejudices about Loire reds, but this excellent line up from Couly-Dutheil would surely change anyone's conception of what the Cabernet Franc grape is capable of in good vintages and from favourable sites. I was really impressed by these wines, which combined ripe fruit with firm, chalky tannins and careful use of oak.

Chinon Rouge 'Baronnie Madeleine' 1997
A wine I am familiar with from the 1995 and 1996 vintages, and which is a real bargain at just 5.49 in the UK. Bright red purple, this is quite an intense wine, with rich, lively cherry and raspberry fruit underlaid by substantial chalky tannins. Well structured and ripe, although a little more approachable than the 1996. A super food wine. Very good.

Chinon Rouge 'Clos de l'Echo' 1996
A concentrated deep purple colour, with a firm tannins -- this is a real toothstainer. Still fruity and ripe, but with complex smoky and herbal undertones, and huge structure. This wine has seen 30% new oak, which adds a bit of spice and yet more structure. Super stuff, but quite frightening at the moment: it will be interesting to see how this evolves.

Chinon Rouge 'Clos de l'Echo Crescendo' 1996
From the same vineyard comes Couly-Dutheil's flagship wine. The vines selected for this cuvee were subject to closer attention, with lower yields and work on the canopy to increase sun exposure to the grapes. It is more of the same, but more highly extracted and even denser. This is an excellent wine. I've not seen this in the UK market, but it is definitely worth a try if you see it around.

(Tasted November 1999)