When we consider lighter, more refreshing red wines, more often than not Pinot Noir seems like the logical solution. It’s the white wine of red wines, right?
Enter the exceedingly obscure Grolleau Noir grape. It even sounds like the aggressive, confrontational cousin to the clean-cut Pinot Noir. The grape is only found in one end of the Loire region and usually only used as a blending grape. If you’ve had Loire Valley red wines, chances are you’ve had a wine involving Grolleau Noir without knowing it. Interestingly, the grape cannot be listed in AOC red wines from the Loire, but can be listed as a blending grape in rosés. Oh, A.O.C. standards. Hence, the “Rouge aux Lèvres is actually a “Vin de France,” usually a term for more inferior wines. That’s not the case here. This is a case of modern bureaucracy and loopholes.
While enjoying the wine at the biodynamic wine bar Terroir in San Francisco, I was told the wine is as close to a single grape Cabernet Franc as you’ll get from a different grape. He wasn’t kidding.
Grolleau Noir is very similar to Cabernet Franc in numerous ways. While Cabernet Franc often functions as the unsung blending grape in Bordeaux’s red blends, Grolleau Noir does the same for the Loire. Cabernet Franc provides strong tannins with a very puckery jam, speckled mouth feel. Grolleau Noir has the same medium bitter raspberry jam note, without the strong tannins. In fact, there are very few, if any noticeable tannins involved. Both sport similar prickly, spice heavy closing elements. Continue reading “Wine of the Week: 2011 “Cuvée Rouge aux Lèvres,” Bainbridge and Cathcart, Loire Valley”