François Saint-Lo Cabernet Franc Les Palennes
After learning with natural wine legends Olivier Cousin and Eric Dubois, François bought his own place near Saumur and started to make unconventional and very natural wines in huge cathedral-like troglodyte cellars. These caves are ideal for vinifying because of the natural temperature control and humidity. In the cellar, he uses old barrels, fiberglass tanks, and the hundred-year-old press that was there when he bought the place. Based 15 miles south of Saumur in the Loire Valley, François prefers to work the vineyards with horses or by hand.
A sublime Cabernet Franc from this prodigious young Loire vigneron. The vines in the Palennes vineyard are well-established (around 70 years old) and the fruit is of excellent quality. Here the grapes go through vinification as a mixture of both destemmed and whole bunches - this technique results in an impressively fine tannic structure once the wine is complete, as the contact between the juice and the stalks and stems of the grapes is carefully managed. There is always great depth to Saint-Lô's Cabernet Franc; the dark cherry fruit, bitter dark chocolate and the hallmark herbaceous lift of the varietal marry together perfectly. The wine is glossy and plush.
In the Loire Valley hamlet of Berrie, you will find François Saint-Lo. More accurately, you will find him under the village in a series of caves hewn from the chalk and limestone, that now serves as a cooperative.
These caves had been abandoned for some time and François wasn't sure what he and the others would find once they cleaned the entire maze of tunnels and chambers out. In its prior life, the passages had served as stables and for defense and resistance against various belligerents across the centuries. Today, the hive of caves teams with activity: here a blacksmith, there a carpenter, down the tunnel a farm incubator, a brewer, a few other vignerons, and a shelter for a variety of farm animals including the horse that François uses to plow his fields.
Farming is Biodynamic, of course, and he uses no sulfur in any of his wines. The eye-catching labels are designed by his sister, Justine.