Domaine Olga Raffault

Loire, France | website

The late Olga Raffault is a legend in the Loire Valley. She not only championed organic farming and sustainability long before her contemporaries, but her Cab Francs are also consistently delicious. Olga died a few years ago, but the estate continues with the next generation: her granddaughter Sylvie and her husband, Eric de la Vigerie, who is now the winemaker.

The estate has terrific plots of land in the Savigny-en-Véron district hard by the Vienne riverbanks. The ‘les Picasses’ vineyard stands out from the rest: old vines of 50-ish years on a fairly steep slope from the riverbank that is alluvial clay with a chalk limestone base. The fruit is particularly expressive of dark fruits of cassis and dark cherries with a terrific mineral content and good acidity for structure.

The winemaking is most traditional at this estate. The grapes are handpicked (of course) and fermented in stainless steel; the wines are then aged in larger, neutral oak and sometimes chestnut, which is a traditional barrel wood in the region. The ‘Picasses’ spends 2-3 years in oak to reduce the wine and soften the tannins, and is usually released about 4 years after the vintage.

Raffault’s ‘les Picasses’ often has a light garnet color belying the depth of fruit flavor and complexity. Its style is rustic and quite earthy, with hints of orange zest and deep, dark cherry flavor. The tannins are soft, but present, and the mineral complexity in the finish is superb.