Domaine de l'Enchantoir 'l'Amarante'
Wine: Domaine de l'Enchantoir 'Amarante'
Region: Saumur Le Puy-Notre-Dame, Loire Valley
Grapes: Cabernet Franc
I feel a little badly telling you about this wine. It's hardly my intention to torment you with something you will likely never have - no one likes a tease - but this wine made such an impression on me that I feel compelled to write about it. It's like a mysterious woman of incomparable and unusual beauty - way out of your league - who begins inexplicably to flirt with you. Do you walk away? Do you abandon all hope of it becoming anything more? Okay, perhaps I'm getting a little too poetic about a weird wine from the Loire Valley, it's just that too few wines make me want to profess such adoration.
You see, there's not much of it around. Maybe none at all, because it's a DI only from Daniel Johnnes, meaning unless his national distributor, Skurnik Wines, specifically orders it, this elevating experience in a bottle will remain in France. Maybe it's better off, more appreciated over there, but I think my mind isn't the only one potentially blown by this Lambrusco-like treasure. (Maybe if we all email & call Skurnik and ask them to bring it back...) Actually, I'm a little surprised it hasn't been billed as an allocated cult bottling, sold out every year. New York somms love that shit.
There's more to this story than gushing over an elusive bottle of red bubbly. On one side, it's from an incredible producer not long on the scene. I've written about vignerons Pierre & Brigitte Van den Boom's Domaine de l'Enchantoir before. The 'Terres Blanches' Saumur, made with 100% chenin blanc, is one of those wines that etched a deep sense-memory of joy and comfort into my brain. And for the price, it's so freaking delicious that it can do no wrong.
If the 'Terre Blanches' is the blonde bombshell, the 'Amarante' is her dark beauty cousin. It's a vin mousseux, which is another French term for sparkling wine (in the simplest comparison, crémants by law must be made by the Champagne method where mousseaux can be made in the Charmat method). Made from 100% organically grown cabernet franc in the méthode traditionnelle, the 'Amarante' spends two weeks with its skins, which gives it the rich plummy color, and is fermented with native yeasts, then aged in bottle for one year.
It's labeled demi-sec, with only a hint of sweetness that intermingles with herbs and blackberries and cabernet franc's calling card aroma of bell pepper. I've read a few positive reviews across the interwebs calling this a drier version of Lambrusco. Yes and no. Too many consumers think all Lambrusco is all sweet when there are many dry versions out there of admirable quality. Actually, the dry versions are the traditional wines of Emilia-Romagna, their high-acid frothy personalities pair nicely with the region's hearty cuisine. There used to be - and perhaps there still is - an Italian restaurant off Union Square in NYC, on 5th Ave I think, maybe around 22nd street, that served the region's classic dishes and offered a wine list of Lambrusco and Lambrusco alone, most of it dry. That's the other side of this story; red sparkling wine can be a friendly, approachable option to pairing with tomato dishes and cream and hard salty cheese. I drank this one with my friend Kristy, paired with a mushroom brie and dry Italian sausage that carried a hint of spice. It was late afternoon on The Carriage patio in Florence, Alabama, perfect weather and the best company. You don't have to be a wine geek to get this wine, or most dry Lambrusco for that matter. So shoot Skurnik a note about this princess in the tower and let's make the daydream a reality.