The picturesque, fortified, medieval market town of Chinon on the Vienne tributary of the Loire makes a great base for sampling the wines of Touraine and the prose of Rabelais whose pensive form is immortalised in atowering statue overlooking the river. This is Cabernet Franc country the grape was introduced from Bordeaux by Cardinal Richelieu's steward Abbé Breton in 1631. It has since thrived on the region's free-draining soils of sand, gravel, clay and limestone. Production here is focused overwhelmingly on red wines, although small amounts of rosé and a modicum of white wine are also made.
The Desbourdes family, based in the hamlet of Panzoult on the northern bank of the Vienne, 10 kilometres east of Chinon, is one of our longest-serving suppliers and their popular 'L'Arpenty' bottling is invariably fruit-accentuated and ready to enjoy on release. With a purple robe, inviting aromas of berries and cherries and a bright red fruit palate offset by a fresh acidity it is delicious when lightly-chilled with charcuterie or a 'chevre chaud' salad.
The rarity here is Rudolphe Raffault's Chinon blanc as white wine accounts for just 1% of the appellation's output. It has a bouquet of green apples and a palate of ripe orchard fruit and nervy, mineral notes. Recent vintages have been depleted by frost and hail so order with alacrity if it is a something you are keen to sample.