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Chinon is an appellation in the Loire Valley that produces some of the most exceptional pure versions of Cabernet Franc found anywhere in the world. I love it and have always loved it although it did take me a while to understand as Cabernet Franc can be a bit herbacious or as Chinon haters cry "green." In some vintages where
the ripeness of the grapes is not exactly perfect you get that grit which I believe adds aromatic complexity, especially with bottle age. Just like any region in the world there are a handful of excellent producers while the rest are not so great. The producers I generally lean towards hand harvest, use natural yeasts, are either natural/sustainable, organic/biodynamic and tend to make wine in small quantities. 

Most of the great Chinons are relatively easy to get in the big markets of NYC, Chicago, SF and LA but also you can find Chinon if you look hard enough in the middle too, although it will be a hunt. Most producers of Chinon produce multiple levels of bottlings. Maybe an introductory blend that is ready to go when it hits market and some single vineyard bottlings that need bottle age from three to twenty years. It all depends on producer, site and vintage to give you an idea of longetivity. Chinon typically tastes lighter than Bordeaux or wines from the South of France but always will have lots of earthy, berry and cherry fruit and wonderful finesse and will go great with so many different types of food. Chinon is also a great value as the Loire Valley has yet to be "discovered" by most wine people (critics) so the prices are reasonable. Top bottlings rarely cost more than $40 and introductory bottlings are typically under $20. Here is a list of my favorite Chinon producers in no particular order. It is a small list but if you stick with these producers you will be a happy Chinon drinker. 

Notable Recent Vintages: 2010, 2009, 2005, 2004, 2002, 1997, 1996, 1990, 1989

Top producers (in no particular order) include: 

  • Bernard Baudry
  • Olga Raffault
  • Catherine and Pierre Breton 
  • Olek-Mery
  • Charles Joguet
  • Chateau de la Grille
  • Chateau de Coulaine
  • Phillipe Alliet (a bit slickly modern but still great Chinon)
  • Fabrice Gasnier
  • J.M. Raffault
  • Jerome Lenoir
  • Pascal Lambert
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