(Aubrey Stout) 1. Domaine Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme A.O.C Touraine Sauvignon - $16.99 - To get a sense of the kind of vibrant, uncomplicated, soulful wines the Loire can produce, pop open a few bottles of the Bonhomme wines. They are emblematic of the middle Loire regions of Touraine and Cheverny, an area known for its fresh and zesty Sauvignon Blanc that are more affordable than Sancerre and Pouilly Fume to the east.
The Bonhomme operation displays how the business of making and selling wine evolves and expands across family ties and history and takes on a life of its own. Originally Clos du Tue-Boeuf, a darling of the natural wine community, was a family operation run by the Puzelat brothers, Thierry and Jean-Marie. In the 90's Clos du Tue-Boeuf was faced with many years of tiny crops caused by late frost, mildew, hail or general bad weather. Revenues were tight, and Thierry, the younger of the two brothers, wanted to to expand the estate by renting or buying more vineyards.
Jean-Marie, in his late forties at the time, did not want to add more vineyard and cellar work to his already heavy schedule. So Thierry started a négociant business, set up a winery in the village of Monthou-sur-Bièvre, and sourced excellent vineyards and vine-tenders from which to buy grapes. Thierry, ambitious and enthusiastic about every aspect of the wine business, opened a wine bar in Orléans and an wine import company. The négoce project had gotten bigger than he'd anticipated, and he needed a partner. In this he found Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme, a young high school drop-out who had helped work a few seasons at Tue-Boeuf. Pierre-O, young and motivated, found himself a partner in his early 20's, and the company was re-named Puzelat-Bonhomme. Jean-Marie wanted to retire from the Tue-Boeuf and Thierry knew he would have to reshift his focus back to their family estate. A plan was then hatched to have Pierre-O continue the négociant operation under his own name. Pierre-O is now the head of the former Clos du Tue-Boeuf, and still makes all the beloved cuvees with their original labels, including the iconic Daschund label "Telquel" rouge.
The wines are vinified naturally as always, with no additions and only minimal sulfur at bottling. This Sauvignon Blanc is even more vibrant than your typical Touraine, with freshly squeezed grapefruit and grapefruit zest, pungent green herbs like chopped chive and parsley, and white pepper. Drink it with rich white fish seared to buttery, flaky perfection and topped with butter and fresh green herbs.
2. Olga Raffault A.O.C Chinon "Les Barnabés" - $18.99 - If Pierre-O Bonhomme is the poster child for breezy, irreverent, playful (and yet perfectly correct) Sauvignon, Gamay, and Romorantin, Domaine Olga Raffault shows a more austere, proper side of the Loire valley--less tangled wilderness of natural wine paradise and more buttoned up, in line with the nobles Chateaux lining the banks of the ancient Loire river. Chinon is a prestigious appellation for the Cabernet Franc grape, parent to Cabernet Sauvignon. In the Loire it finds its truest form, allowed to express itself in all its rugged earth, herbal, and floral funk, without excessive new oak to mask it or beef it up.
Since Olga's death a few years ago, Domaine Olga Raffault is currently run by her granddaughter Sylvie and her husband Eric de la Vigerie.The winemaking is most traditional. The grapes are handpicked and fermented in stainless-steel. The wines are then aged in larger, neutral oak and sometimes chestnut - a traditional barrel wood in the region. "Les Barnabés" is an elegant and structured Cabernet Franc with lithe cherry fruit, orange zest, spice, and loads of minerality on the finish. The tannins are soft but provide nice backbone to the bright fruit and light texture of the wine. Drink this with a simple roasted chicken with citrus zest, olives and herbs, or braised beans with fennel and sausage.