Wines of the Year Begin! Joe's Pick is...

Posted by Joe Salamone

Wine of the Year #1: Joe's Pick
2005 Lenoir Chinon Les Roches
In Praise of Purity, Honesty

Most Loire producers are selling their 2010s. Jérome Lenoir is just getting around to releasing his 2005s. This is just one thing that makes this unapologetically old-fashioned domaine stand out.

Above all, Lenoir's Chinons are without flash, without artifice.

They are wines of beauty and, most importantly, honesty.

It feels crazy to be able to offer a wine at this level, from a great vintage, and with bottle age on it at such a gentle price, but here it is.

The pricing isn't the only thing that feels out of place with Lenoir's wines. The wines themselves feel like they're from a different era. There's nothing showy or otherwise extracted and dressed up about them. To return to the word again, they just seem honest.

It's for this sense of genuineness and for the value that I picked Lenoir's 2005 Chinon Les Roches for my wine of the year. It's exactly this sort of bottle that I'm happy to put into people's hands. Frankly, I'm thankful that domaines with this kind of sensibility still exist and aren't painfully priced.

Lenoir's are some of the purest, most subtle expressions of Cabernet Franc that I've encountered.

Pop the bottle, pour a glass: One of the things that stands out is how light the color is. There's no effort made to push extraction. Instead, the intention is to render Chinon that's elegant and full of haunting perfume and minerality.

Even in the warmest vintages, Lenoir's wines are in the 12-12.5 range for alcohol. They always remain fresh and nimble.

The wines have a harmony and balance and this is what they age on. Lenoir has a deep cellar of older vintages. Recently released bottles from the eighties are still drinking amazingly well today.

Given how good the vintage is for Loire reds, the 2005 will age for another decade easy and will almost surely see its 20th birthday and beyond. The 2005 vintage produced reds of such structure and depth of concentration that it will be remembered as one of the best vintages of past couple decades.

In their cellars, which are somewhere around five or six hundred years old, the wines spend three years mostly in old foudres (there are some old Bordelais barrels as well). Once bottled, the wines rest in Lenoir's icy cellars until they begin to reach early drinkability. Then, they are released.

Holding onto wines for seven years is a huge commitment for a winemaker, especially in the cash flow department. However, for Chinon, it makes a huge difference.

Cabernet Franc is a grape that really benefits from aging. When Cab Franc begins to become expressive, it's a thing of great complexity and beauty. The tannins have softened. Herbs and minerals become integrated into red fruits with aromatics that are just gorgeous. Notes of sandalwood and flowers become unlocked.

Lenoir's Chinon comes from the 3ha Les Roches vineyard. It's a vineyard of mostly old vines with very little top soil over the hard tuffeau, a limestone rock that produces the most structured Chinons.

The issue is that with 3ha of vines Lenoir's wines are always in short supply. I took all that was available to me and still I doubt there will be enough to satisfy every order.

I couldn't resist picking it, because wines that possess such purity, such an out of place old-fashioned sensibility, deserve the spotlight.

To order, please email us at or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Joe Salamone
Wine Buyer
Crush Wine & Spirits