TN: Raffault - Chinon-Picasses vertical - 1979-2011 (updated with 85, 89, 90)

On Tuesday, one of my tasting groups did a vertical of Olga Raffault’s Chinon – Les Picasses spanning 1979 to 2011. I really enjoyed the wines.

A few overall thoughts.

• The wines showed more fruit than I expected.

• Only a couple of the wines showed marked green bell pepper/pyrazines on the nose.

• Even the brett-sensitive members picked up virtually none.

• As one might expect, the '89, '05 and '10 were standouts, but the '02 and '93 – vintages where you might have expected poor results in such a northerly locale – showed very well.

• There was surprisingly little difference between the young ones and the older ones (with the exception of the 1979, which was passed it for my tastes). They were a little bit like some California cabs that plateau seemingly forever.

• There was much less tertiary development than I expected in the old ones.

• The corks are quite short for wines that are known to age easily for 30 years in better vintages. But only the ’89 cork was crumbly, and that wine was sound.

• They threw a lot of sediment.

We tasted in order of age, non-blind. We didn’t rank them, so the scores are mine alone.

These were decanted about an hour ahead into pouring bottles, then consumed over an hour or hour and a half. We had turkey meatloaf and a quiche, both of which worked well with the tannins of these wines, as well as bread and cheese. I wouldn’t attempt these wines without food.

I retasted through the lineup after the others left, and again the next evening and bumped up several scores.

2011: Very pleasant, decent amount of fruit for the tannin. Very balanced. 89+/90 points

2010: Some green bell pepper on the nose here, but I don’t have a problem with that. Pretty ripe fruit (at least for a Chinon), and lots of it. Good grip. This is built for the long haul, though not as much as the ’05. Very pleasant now with food. This needs another 5-10 years to really hit its stride, I’d guess. 91+ I preferred this to the Baudry ringer on day 1 because I was put off by the jamminess of the Baudry.

2010 Baudry – Chinon – Les Crois Boissee: This was a ringer. We were told this was the 2011 Raffault and that the 2011 Raffault was the 2012.
Jammy fruit notes on the nose on day 1, and sweet, ripe, jammy fruit on the palate. Lot of grip/tannin. It seemed a bit overripe to me, though, and I gave it 88 points on day 1. On day 2 it came together and seemed Medoc-like, and I bumped it up to 91+ points. It’s bigger, less restrained and a bit less subtle than the Raffaults.

2005: I ordered this in a restaurant in 2011 to go with duck ragu on papardelli, and it was so good I went and bought some. That was a good call. Tasting this bottle, I just wish I’d loaded up!
It’s fabulous now, though still very young. Great concentration – oodles of fruit to offset the substantial tannins, but the fruit is wrapped up tightly, like a bundle bound with twine. Ripe but taut, is what I wrote. It isn’t giving its fruit away, though it’s there.
It seems like it has the makings to be another ’89 with another 10-15 years. 93+ both days. Sadly, I don’t see any on Wine Searcher, even though there are scads of old vintages around, many released in recent years by the domaine.

2002: A friend served this blindly to a group of us four or five years ago and we mostly guessed Burgundy because of its weight and finesse. It was so good we went in on a case together. (It was $26 a bottle or something silly at PJ’s.) No later bottle was remotely like that first one, and some had hard tannins.
This bottle showed very well. There was a faintly smoky note on the nose. Taut – tannin and acid and somewhat closed – but there’s lots of good decently ripe cab franc fruit. Many years of life ahead for this one. 92- for me.

1993: More green notes here, which is not surprising in a difficult vintage picked under clouds and rain. A bit lighter in color than the others. Drier, less fruity, but still really good. Moreover, it really opened up and fleshed out in the glass. Just gets better and better with air. Definitely more austere than any of the others, I found great pleasure in it. I started at 88 points, bumped it up to 91 at the end of the night and to 92 on day 2.

1989: A legendary vintage for Raffault. I remember several wonderful bottles of this ten years or so ago that had been released recently by the domaine.
Both on the nose and the palate, this showed like a Medoc. Rich fruit scents, and rich on the palate, with great structure of tannin and acid. Still youthful, despite a cork that disintegrated when it was removed. The most Bordeaux-like of the lot, but showing much less in the way of secondary aromas than a Bordeaux of a similar age. I gave it 93 during the tasting, lowered to 92 after others left because I found a little less precision there. But it was better on day 2. Tied with the ’05 for WOTN for me.
1979: Some people liked this, but there were marked coffee and caramel notes. Also menthol and ash. The fruit was drying out and the finish was a bit dry. As I said, others’ mileage varied. 78 for me.

You rang???

Would have loved that tasting. Nice line-up and impressions. Would have been cool to have a 1990 next to the 1989. I need to find some 2005. Have some Baudry and Joguet but no Raffault.

I think that 2010 Baudry will be excellent with time, and yes, it’s bigger than Raffault. The leaner Les Grezeaux 2010 would have been a tougher ringer, shows more like a Raffault.

A few years ago we drank the 90 next to the 89.
I thought ahead of time that I would much prefer the 89 given the vintage differences and my personal preference. That evening the 90 was the much more enjoyable bottle. It had more fruit, sure, but didn’t seem over the top (I mean it’s still Raffault Chinon). Both had fine acids and resolved tannin but the 90 seemed very much at peak with the 89 showing more age, more of a faded glory. It really surprised me.

Had a run of three 2002s that were undrinkably brett infested. Where bret was the dominant flavor/aroma. I guess there is big variation bottle to bottle with this wine and producer, but it made me not want to purchase it any more.

Thanks for the notes, John.

With the '89 and '90, you’d expect bottle variation, no matter who the producer is.

Brett cab vary a lot bottle to bottle, I think, because it can multiply in the bottle at warmer temperatures.

Apart from brett, do people think there’s a lot of bottle variation in the Raffaults the domaine has released over the years?

Thanks for the notes. I started buying these because of all the positive praise and after having some Bourgueil in a restaurant that was very good. They mesh with my Pinot palate and have a terrific QPR. Holding the '10 and will drink the '11s first. Gave my daughter a Jean Raffault which she liked rather well. Are they related? The Loire in general are getting my attention after the local OR PN & Gamay. [cheers.gif]

Anyone here try the 2013 yet?
I find the Raffault style more elegant than Baudry, feminine as compared to masculine.

I have not yet seen the 2013 on offer. I have opened one of four bottles I bought of the 2012. It would appear that the 12 is not a particularly interesting vintage for this bottling; hopefully that changes with time, but I will not be holding my breath. The 2010 is an absolute stunner, and QPR champion. I purchased three bottles and only have one remaining — I deeply regret not buying one or two cases.

Brian - I saw a real positive note on the 12 somewhere on this site, need to track it down. I’ve not bought any but am curious.

I tasted back through some of the leftovers tonight over dinner with one of the friends who helped organize the tasting.

They held up really well. My impressions of the '11, '10, '05, '93 and '89 didn’t really change much three days after the wines were open. The '05 had opened up more and confirmed my sense that it’s destined for greatness. We agreed that the '89 is so much riper than the others that it has a little less precision. And the '93 still drank very well.

We agreed that the Baudry '10 seemed a little big overripe compared to the '10 Raffault.

What a bummer. I have a mag of the 2007 and I was all psyched for a tasting note but I got nada.

John, thanks for sharing. This sounds utterly delicious…and if I could ever rustle up enough Chinon lovers in NOLA I’d do this in a heartbeat, as believe I’ve got these same vintages (and then some).

Bummer to hear about the ‘79s. I think I’ve got 4… sounds like time to drink up.

My friend tonight was saying that he really liked the '79 on Tuesday. Different strokes… So don’t give up hope for your bottles.

Immediate drooling as soon as I saw the thread line. Lucky you. Sitting on 25 bots of various vintages 1977-2012. Thanks for the notes.

Lucky you, I’d say! I have only two 2005s. Drank my '02s too soon, I guess, and didn’t twig to 2010.


I’m not sure that was a good bottle of 1979. I’ve had it within the last year. It’s vigorous.

Thanks John, that’s very interesting and it sounds like a great experience. I came across Raffault on a weekend trip to the Loire in around 2005 when we tried the 89 and 90 Picasses in a château-hôtel somewhere in a forest - we had one bottle each, after a bottle of Savennières, causing the next door tables to complain: “quelle décadence”. Both were extraordinary and we crawled upstairs to the bridal suite sometime in the early hours.

More recently over here in Frogland, Raffault is one of those rare producers who sell older vintages and allow you to buy single bottles, so when I started discovering a little better some Loire reds a few years ago, I picked up a mixed case from 02 to 10. You’ll be fuming at the prices - but I’m going to tell you anyway (!) - around 10€ per bottle. This was in 2014 - nowadays prices have risen to around 14€, which is still very reasonable.

The 2002 was the one I enjoyed the least: I suspect I had a bad bottle, but after a promising start, it was mean and green. I thought it was the vintage, until I tried the Couly-Dutheils. I enjoyed more the 06 and the 07, but the 08 had the most potential. I tried it in 2016 and it was far too young. I haven’t tried the 09 and 10 yet. I bought some more recent vintages recently, including La Singulière, just for the name. I shall report back in due course. Cheers!

I forgot - I completely agree with you about the longevity and freshness of the fruit. In fact this is what impresses me most about the Loire reds in general. Of course Alfert and the other Loire geeks here have known this for years but for for us newbies it’s quite a surprise. Each time I open an old bottle I expect it to have fallen apart like many Bordeaux do. I had a Clos de L’Echo 1998 this week - not a great vintage, nor a great wine, but better than before and what was impressive were the fresh tastes of cherry and redcurrant.

Hey, at that age, there’s always a risk. And, as I keep saying, some people had no problem with the caramel/coffee notes that put me off.

There are regular releases of older vintages from the domaine that come into the U.S. The '79 and '89 and others have popped up again on store shelves here in the last year. The 79 is under $100, the '89 can be had for $85 and the '08 for as little as $31. Really great values.

I popped the '77 Olga at Alfert’s a couple years back…library release…
tasted timeless…gorgeous CF…I think it was Robert’s Franc of the night