A Bummer of a Vintage? - 2013 Domaine Laroque Cabernet Franc


2013 Domaine Laroque Cabernet Franc
100% Cabernet Franc
Languedoc Roussillon, France
13% Alcohol

I first came across this bottle from Domaine Laroque several years ago at Binny's when the 2012 vintage was available. The wine was phenomenal; I still remember exactly when and where I was drinking it (bathtub, no joke). Well-balanced, varietally accurate for Cabernet Franc, and structured in a way that would have me guessing it cost twice, if not more, its paltry $9 price tag. The Cellar Tracker community agreed with me too. "A really excellent cabernet franc at a true bargain price," says one of the reviews. Another reviewer added, "This is quality Cab Franc -- on par with a Loire Chinon or St. Nicholas. It has surprising complexity and development for a wine at this price." I only wish I would have bought a few more bottles to stow away for aging. 

So naturally, when I saw the 2013 on the shelves several months ago, I snatched it up and was excited about another blockbuster bottle of sub-$10 Cabernet Franc. But, le sigh... as you may have already guessed, it didn't turn out as planned. The 2013 was completely different, and while not the worst bottle of alcoholic grape juice I've consumed, it was lackluster and uninspiring. I still drank it of course, but it left me wanting the 2012.

There's nothing offensive about the 2013 vintage of this wine but it's painfully mediocre on all fronts. The nose is mild and pleasant with soft berry notes and a hint of vanilla, oak, and spices. The palate reflects much of what I found on the nose, with medium to high acidity and a short to medium length finish. The biggest disappointment was that I didn't register the green bell pepper notes that I love so much in 100% Cabernet Franc. 

Is this the worst $9 wine I've ever had? Not by a long shot, but it shows that, barring any major change in sourcing or handling the grapes, vintage really does matter. Few other fermented beverages in the world are at the whim of mother nature as much as wine. The quality of the vintage greatly influences most wines produced today, from Two Buck Chuck to the most expensive bottles of Bordeaux and Burgundy. While better vineyard and winemaking practices and advanced technology have mitigated vintage variation to some degree, it's impossible to snuff out entirely and, I'd argue, remove a lot of the whimsy and romance of producing and finding good wine. The 2013 may have been a dud, but I'll be buying the 2014 in hopes of finding another gem. Fingers crossed!