Living near New York has a lot of advantages for a wine lover; I receive many invitations to trade shows and that’s one of the ways I do my homework for future tours. Since we are considering the Loire Valley as a 2018 destination, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet dozens of wine makers and also to attend 3 seminars about Loire Valley wines. You never stop learning is one of my favorite mottos and although we’ve been to the Loire in the past with groups, I learned things today that I did not know.It also afforded me the opportunity for personal contacts which are essential in planning our wine tours.
I already knew that the Loire has more to offer than wine; it is a cultural treasure box with dozens of stunning castles and is a wonderful honeymoon destination in my humble opinion.
I learned that the Loire is the #1 producer of white wine in France and the 3rd as far as production. There are 79 different appellations, some so small that there is not enough to export. The entire Loire area does export 68 million bottles, 20 million to the US. For white grapes, there is melon de bourgogne, used in Muscadet; chenin blanc aka pineau de la Loire used in Vouvray and sauvignon blanc used in Sancerre. For reds, there is cabernet franc aka breton, pinot noir, gamay, cabernet sauvignon and cot (malbec.)
I learned a lot in the 3 seminars which I’d like to share with you:
1. Discovering the Diversity of Loire Wines
Under the tutelage of Sommelier Olivier Filograsso, we tasted 6 wines: Crémant de Loire Daheuillers NV, a blend of chardonnay, chenin blanc and rollet; Vouvray Les Roches Blanches 2016, 100% chenin blanc with 1.5 residual sugar so semi-dry- we also learned that Vouvray can be made bone dry, as sweet as Sauternes, and also sparkling; Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu sur Layon Chateau Mulonnière 2014, this appellation is always from chenin blanc and always sweet; Menetou-Salon Joseph Mellot ‘Les Thureaux’ 2014, from pinot noir, the red grape used in eastern Loire reds since it almost touches Burgundy- the wine had good color and balance; Chinon Domaine Dozon 2015, deep red, peppery, berry fruit aroma, good acid and bone dry, from the cabernet franc; Rosé d’Anjou Monmousseau 2016, a beautiful pink color, distinct strawberry aroma, the acidity balances the sweetness, lingering finish, a blend of 70% cab franc and 30% grolleau.
2. Fresh Whites: Muscadet vs Chenin vs Sauvignon
In this seminar we tasted 4 wines: Muscadet Sèvres et Maine Henri Poiron, yellow gold on volcanic soil, a tart lemony aroma and taste, the traditional wine used in France with oysters, since it is usually aged sur lie (on the dead yeast), it can age well; Vouvray Sauvion 2015, a typical semi-dry with 1.5 residual sugar; Touraine Domaine Jacky Marteau ‘Lulu’ 2016, from sauvignon blanc, grassy, cat’s pee, reminiscent of many NZ sauv blanc, a long aftertatste of mango and passion fruit; Quincy Valery Renaudat 2016, with white stone fruit aroma and taste, again from sauv blanc, but what a contrast with the Touraine above, and only 80 miles apart, this had citrus grapefruit aromas and flavor, rich and full bodied.
3. Loire’s Palette of Red Wines
Although the Loire produces mostly white wine, it does make some interesting reds which are overshadowed. We tasted 4 wines: Coteaux du Giennois Emile Balland ‘Les Beaux Jours’ 2015- 70% pinot noir 30% gamay, a delightful interpretation of this grape; Sancerre Domaine Gérard Millet 2015, very fruit forward, dark berry aroma and taste, lean, tart, well-balanced acidity, from 100% pinot noir, typical of red Sancerre; Saumur Les Pouches 2015, dark ruby red, a lighter version of cabernet franc; Chinon Jean-Mauric Raffault ‘Les Galuches’ 2015, deep red color, dark red berry and sous-bois aroma, you feel the soft tannins.
I also had the chance to meet importer David Milligan, who started his own importing company and did a tasting for us in New Haven years ago.
There are many things to discover in the Loire so that’s why it’s high on on our to-do list for 2018.