Pierre Menard, “Orion Alpha” Anjou Cabernet Franc
Pierre Menard, “Orion Alpha” Anjou Cabernet Franc

Pierre Menard, “Orion Alpha” Anjou Cabernet Franc

Loire Valley, France 2019 (750mL)
Regular price$46.00
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Pierre Menard, “Orion Alpha” Anjou Cabernet Franc

As promised, here’s another reason why Pierre Menard is one of the brightest stars in the Loire right now. Talk about a powerful one-two punch: We started the day with shimmering, succulent Chenin Blanc and now here’s the “closer”—Menard’s sublime Anjou Rouge, “Orion Alpha.” Even in regions with the most dedicated and fastidious winemakers—Burgundy, for example—rare is the producer who excels at white and red wine production in equal measure. But Pierre Menard’s touch is as deft with Cabernet Franc as it is with Chenin.

He envelops Franc’s signature spicy bass notes in huge floral and fruit tones to produce one of the best examples of the variety we’ve ever tasted. It’s a testament to Pierre’s skill that he’s able to render this often rustic variety into an article of genuine beauty. I’ll just come out and say it: “Orion Alpha '' establishes Pierre as a member of the Loire Cab Franc elite, right alongside Clos Rougeard and Domaine Guiberteau. It’s perfectly poised right on that knife’s edge between Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits and Bordeaux’s Right Bank, as you might expect of a wine this outrageously good, quantities are extremely limited. Act fast and go deep!

Pierre comes from a viticultural family in the tiny hamlet of Valette. His parents farmed about 20 hectares, but were never interested in vinifying the wine themselves. Instead, they sold all of their harvest to the local co-op. But they owned a veritable treasure trove—plots of perfectly maintained Chenin and Cabernet Franc vines dating back to the 1920s. Pierre was determined to take over some of the family holdings upon graduating from viticulture school. But it was only after working in New Zealand, Portugal, Hungary, and at the legendary Pauillac First Growth, Château Latour that he felt truly ready to return home and tackle his family’s terroir. 

Pierre works just a handful of hectares at this early stage in his career, but each is special. One of his most prized inheritances is a vineyard of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc called “Le Clos des Mailles.” This forms the base of “Orion Alpha,” with 70-year-old vines planted to light soils over schist bringing finesse and delicate high tones. A 0.4-hectare plot close to the family home, with heavier and more clay-rich dirt, adds booming depth and darkfruited weight. Pierre hand-harvests and hand-de-stems the biodynamic fruit, macerating it gently for about three weeks, then sends it to neutral oak barrels for a year of aging.

I dare anyone who clings to notions of Cabernet Franc’s rusticity to continue doing so after tasting “Orion Alpha.” The 2019 pours a deep blackened garnet, with flecks of pink and magenta. Great Loire Cab Franc toes the line between earthy, spice-laden bass tones and high-toned trebles. Rarely is it done so well as here: black cherry, boysenberry, blackcurrant, and rose petal rest atop washes of black pepper, cedar, bay leaf, dried oregano, tobacco, and eucalyptus.  The melding of ripe, sweet purple fruit with those savory, spicy, “greener” notes is pure magic, the mark of a Cabernet Franc master. And that vein of tensile, schist-y minerality that so clearly marks out Pierre’s Chenins is present here, providing lift and energy to the medium-bodied palate. “Orion Alpha” has got the vibrant structure and aromatically beguiling personality of great red Burgundy. Definitely give this a decant for at least 30 minutes if you’re enjoying it now, and hang onto some bottles for the future. Not only will they get even better in a few years, but when Pierre’s wines are going for double what they are now, you’ll know you were there at the start.

Pierre Menard, “Orion Alpha” Anjou Cabernet Franc




Enjoying the greatest wines of Beaujolais starts, as it usually does, with the lay of the land. In Beaujolais, 10 localities have been given their own AOC (Appellation of Controlled Origin) designation. They are: Saint Amour; Juliénas; Chénas; Moulin-à Vent; Fleurie; Chiroubles; Morgon; Régnié; Côte de Brouilly; and Brouilly.

Southwestern France


Bordeaux surrounds two rivers, the Dordogne and Garonne, which intersect north of the city of Bordeaux to form the Gironde Estuary, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The region is at the 45th parallel (California’s Napa Valley is at the38th), with a mild, Atlantic-influenced climate enabling the maturation of late-ripening varieties.

Central France

Loire Valley

The Loire is France’s longest river (634 miles), originating in the southerly Cévennes Mountains, flowing north towards Paris, then curving westward and emptying into the Atlantic Ocean near Nantes. The Loire and its tributaries cover a huge swath of central France, with most of the wine appellations on an east-west stretch at47 degrees north (the same latitude as Burgundy).

Northeastern France


Alsace, in Northeastern France, is one of the most geologically diverse wine regions in the world, with vineyards running from the foothills of theVosges Mountains down to the Rhine River Valley below.

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