Olivier Cousin "Pur Breton" 2022
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Press 4 Red • September 2023 Direct Press Selection
Olivier Cousin is in semi-retirement these days. He has fully earned his stars as a natural wine pioneer in the Loire Valley. He's scaled back his production and given up most of his acreage to his son Baptiste, who is a leading natural wine figure in his own right. Cousin's wines are still as wild and uncompromising as ever, yet I also am pleased to find they withstand a level of scrutiny that separates them from lots of natural wine that is later to the party. They are not just funky, they are not simply a checklist of clichéd natural wine 'flaws.' Instead, they are deep, soulful wines with structure, power, and a playful spirit — and some funk, of course, but not enough to dominate, only enough to add layers and color. Cousin is not cashing in on a trend, he is a true believer who has gone on trial, literally, for making wine the way he does.
'Pur Breton' is 100% Cabernet Franc. The grapes are hand-harvested, brought to the winery by a horse, destemmed and gently pressed. Only natural yeasts are used and the juice undergoes an extended maceration. Aged in old oak barrels.
There's the trademark barnyard notes from Brettanomyces, enough there to add some subtle funk, but not enough to be too distracting. Aromatically complex, with dried flowers, wild raspberry, and a whiff of the horse barn. The palate shows off a brambly black cherry glaze with sugar apple, cranberry crunch, and bee propolis. It has the riper profile of Cabernet Franc from Anjou but it's matched with layers of powdery texture and spicy sizzle. Refreshing enough to chill down and drink on its own, it has the depth and structure to pair with lamb or bo ssam. Zero sulfur added. Jonathan Kemp