Domaine de Noiré Chinon Soif de Tendresse (Organic)
This youthful, vibrant, floral Chinon is the wine I’d choose to introduce a novice to this classic Loire Valley region—or to bring someone who abandoned Chinon back into the fold.
Some wine lovers find Chinon’s take on the Cabernet Franc grape to be a little too “green” and muddy for their tastes, and while I like Franc’s pyrazine-derived notes of bell pepper and menthol, I prefer them as background notes, not the whole show.
Domaine de Noiré is a standard-bearer of organically farmed, old-vine Cabernet Franc in Chinon, reliably delivering reds that showcase the grape’s juicier, more perfumed side. This aptly named, entry-level bottling, called “Soif de Tendresse” (“thirst for tenderness”), is calling out to anyone who loves juicy fruit, mineral energy, and floral perfume in an affordable, medium-weight package. There’s something about the flavors of this wine that have me thinking of any number of other occasions when popping a few bottles of this would create a room full of happy people. This is a versatile by-the-case staple for your cellar, as it will continue to deliver immense pleasure over the next few years.
Winemaker Jean-Max Manceau, a Chinon native, has long been a champion of the region’s reds, and his own wines are the standard for the heights Chinon can achieve.
What sets Domaine de Noiré apart is not only its impeccable terroir but also its understanding of the potential of old-vine Cabernet Franc in Chinon, one of the few Loire appellations dedicated to red wines. These are wines that strike an effortless balance between playful and profound—delicate floral perfumes reveal a multilayered mouthful of summer-ripe fruit and spices with each sip.
Manceau is as deeply rooted in Chinon as his many older Cabernet Franc vines. For years, he worked as an enologist for a local winery, while holding the presidency of the Chinon AOC and heading up a commission to preserve winemaking traditions in the greater Loire Valley. He and his wife Odile repurchased Domaine de Noiré in the early 2000s (the domaine once belonged to Odile’s family) and have quickly re-established the estate as a leading producer of exceptionally pure Cabernet Franc wines.
The estate has a storied history, tracing its roots back to the mid-1700s when the first winery was built. The estate that stands today dates to 1904 and, despite having purchased Domaine de Noiré only in the early 2000s, proprietors Odile and Jean-Max Manceau have achieved levels of quality and commercial success that few others could dream to match in such a short period. That is not by mistake: The pair has a proven track record in the wine business and they’ve showcased their talents by pumping life back into the ancient estate. Chinon native Jean-Max previously served as the president of the Chinon AOC governing body and led a commission that preserves traditional winemaking throughout Loire Valley. The name Manceau carries weight in the region, and the couple’s goal is to produce traditional wines that are the purest, truest expressions of Cabernet Franc. You’d be hard-pressed to find another domaine that can compete with them at this under-$20 price point.
Domaine de Noiré owns 34 acres of vines, averaging 30+ years old, on three unique soil types. For this bottling, they picked from a south-facing, high-altitude plateau that sits on sandy-clay soils rich in flint—a perfect recipe for heat retention when temperatures plummet at night. Odile and Jean-Max are strong supporters of organic farming and quickly converted the entire estate within a few years of taking over. They’ve since planted ground cover and implemented biodynamic cultivation practices. During harvest, yields are limited to boost quality and all fruit is picked manually. In the winery, the grapes undergo a two-day maceration and indigenous yeasts are used for fermentation in temperature controlled tanks. After aging briefly in stainless steel, the wine is bottled the following spring, which is why it’s such a delight to drink now.
In the glass, the wine shows a dark crimson core with purple reflections leading out to the rim. The nose is bursting outright with youthful and pure fruits: wild blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry, plum skin, black currant. The sweet core of fruit is followed by wild herbs, lavender, and crushed stones. The palate is nearly identical to the nose, with more secondary notes of wild black fruit accented by damp violet, tarragon, green tobacco leaf and forest floor. This is the opposite of lean, dried-out Chinon. It’s brimming with energy and finishes incredibly smooth (Manceau would probably say ‘tender’), with soft tannins and bright acidity.
This should be consumed over the next few years with a brief 30-minute decant in large Burgundy stems. Just like a Cru Beaujolais, this wine is ideal for a mixture of charcuterie or a nice cold pasta dish like the one attached. Just be sure to always have more than one bottle on hand—they go quick! Cheers!