Tue 19 Aug 2014

The Loire: My Voyage of Rediscovery

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When buying wine for drinking at home, I have become conscious of a feeling of guilt.

Not for the impending amount of alcoholic units that I’m about to stack up, nor even for the effect on my bank balance. No, my guilt comes from that creeping feeling that by choosing my select few I’m missing out on so many other great wines.

The agony of choice...

The agony of choice…

I would normally consider myself a decisive person but when this nagging feeling of missing out sets in I experience a type of paralysis. Am I wrong to have chosen my favourites again? Am I drinking myself into a rut, albeit a delicious one? Of what delights am I depriving my taste buds? Which regions have fallen off my wine radar just waiting to be rediscovered?

Jo Locke MW, The Society's buyer for the Loire.

Jo Locke MW, The Society’s buyer for the Loire.

Recently I’ve been lucky enough to have been working on a project involving the wines of the Loire Valley with buyer Jo Locke MW, a region which certainly hasn’t been on my wine radar for a very long time but after some exploration and education is set to refresh my list of usual suspects.

The odd thing is that, looking back, I always used to be a fan of these wines but at some point I simply stopped drinking them. Perhaps the tidal wave of good-value, refreshing whites from the Southern Hemisphere turned my head; or the start of my love affair with vinho verde and all things Portuguese cast a shadow over them. Whatever the reason, it has been some time since I seriously considered the Loire as a candidate for regular drinking.

But why should the wines of the Loire demand attention in a wine world where we have so many quality wines, wine regions and world class producers competing for our hard-earned cash? It seems as if not a week passes where the Chileans haven’t discovered a new valley perfect for one grape or another, for instance.

By contrast, the wines of the Loire don’t shout. They don’t scream of innovation or trends or of multinational branding. In most ways these wines are restrained – even understated.

That doesn’t mean they’re dull or out of date – far from it. I’d forgotten the staggering diversity available from the Loire. From bone-dry sauvignon blanc to great-value sparklers, fresh, fruity rosés (often with an appealing touch of sweetness) to full-blown luscious dessert wines, it covers a lot of ground, both metaphorically and physically (the Loire River runs for over 600 miles, after all).

Our new online Loire offering

Our new online Loire offering

Could be that this restraint is the Loire’s strong suit as well as its Achilles heel? When overwhelmed palates tire of overtly gooseberry-laden sauvignons or Fifty Shades of Citrus from the new world then the beautifully balanced flavours and precise purity of the wines from the Loire suddenly look very attractive.

I heard recently someone describe the Loire as producing ‘pretty much everything but monster reds.’ I’m quite thankful for this refreshing alternative, and whether looking for an energising white (think nicely chilled Muscadet) great-value sauvignon blanc (look to Touraine) or something classy and serious (top Vouvray and Sancerre), the Loire has most bases covered.

It’s just a shame that’s it taken me so long to remember!

Gareth Park

Marketing Campaign Manager

The Society’s current online offering, Discover the Loire, is now available, featuring a wide range of wines to explore and a wealth of useful information on the region, its grapes and winemakers. We hope you’ll take the plunge and discover, or rediscover, this special wine region.

Categories : France, Loire

Comments

  1. Cathi McGill says:

    Completely agree about Sauvignon de Touraine, which is wrongly ignored. Muscadet however can be a bit more variable. And I’ll put in a word for the rosés of Anjou, which I rediscovered during the otherwise disappointing Nantes pool in RWC 2007

  2. Peter Brennan says:

    A pity – given the above – that the Society only has one Vouvray on offer below £65, and it seems that that one wine will be past its best shortly, though traditionally Vouvray has aged for decades. Has the relationship with Huet been severed? It’s one of the great domaines, whose wines the Society used to offer on a regular basis. Now only highly priced ‘archive’ bottles seem to be available.

    Strange also that Mr Park has ignored one of the Loire’s strongest suits – its superb reds deriving from Cabernet Franc and, further east, Pinot Noir. These are certainly not ‘monsters’ though those from the best producers in Chinon and Bourgueil are eminently age worthy.

    • Martin Brown says:

      Thanks for your feedback and questions, Mr Brennan; I’m sorry to say that those best placed to respond regarding Vouvray (Gareth himself and Jo Locke MW) are away at present, but I have passed on your queries.
      We quite agree with you regarding reds and have a selection of them here: http://www.thewinesociety.com/Shop/Shop.aspx?section=pl&prl=xuz
      Best regards
      Martin

      • Peter Brennan says:

        Thanks, Martin. They look interesting, though the wines I had in mind were those from producers such as Taluau and Druet. (You have stocked the former in the past). Well aged, highly characterful wines from these domaines have been available quite cheaply elsewhere for some years now.
        For me, the wine the Society needs to beat in terms of youthful cabernet franc is the Chinon Domaine du Colombier, which is both authentic and delicious.
        All the best.
        Peter

    • Jo Locke MW says:

      Thank you very much for your comment.
      Vouvray has had a couple of particularly tricky vintages of late and there is less good wine around but we continue to look out for it (we have been buying Careme wines for a couple of years for example) along with Montlouis which, whilst less fashionable, is producing even better wines these days.
      A mixed case of 3 Huet Moelleux (2009 vintage) wines is scheduled to appear in the Christmas Fine Wine List and an additional new parcel of demi-sec in our main Christmas List.
      It is true we have done less with Huet since recent increases in price, but it is of course a great domaine and the vineyards are still in the same capable hands, so we will continue to taste, and hopefully buy, regularly.
      Jo Locke MW
      Society Buyer for the Loire

      • Peter Brennan says:

        Thanks for your kind reply, Ms Locke. My reason for holding back where Careme is concerned is that – to judge by your drinking windows – the wines are not built to last, whereas in the past Loire Chenin could be trusted to evolve with age (as your venerable bottles from Huet attest!).

      • William McCurdy says:

        Cabernet Franc is my favourite red wine grape. In the small village of Chace near Saumur, the red wine from Clos Rougeard can genuinely be mentioned in the same breath as Grange and Petrus, but fame brings demand and high prices. (Twenty four years ago were given an opportunity to visit Clos Rougeard and taste all the wines then in cask. It was an honour and experience we will never forget.) A short walk from Clos Rougeard lies Domaine des Frogeres, a family favourite and the winery that introduced us to methode biodynamique unoaked Saumur Champigny, a decade before the above visit. Two non-Society Loire Cabernet Franc wines that we have enjoyed more recently, were the light and delightfully fruity Saumur Rouge Bagatelle 2010 from Manoir de la Tête Rouge, Le Puy Notre Dame and the fuller-bodied and equally delightful Saumur Champigny, Domaine des Roches Neuves 2010, Varrains.

        We like the very wide range of Loire whites too and on the sweet front, there is one 25 year old bottle of Clos des Cocus Coteaux du Layon Faye d’Anjou – Cuvée d’exception, from Chateau du Fresne, quietly awaiting a suitable occasion in the not too distant future.

        It would be wonderful if the society could consider the merit of wines from all the growers recommended in these posts, for inclusion in any 2014 offer. I believe that the Loire has red wines to suit most tastes, if not in all recent years. If 2014 does turn out to be a great year for Loire reds, I look forward to the Society’s offer with great interest, especially any Saumur Champigny suitable for cellaring for a few years.

        • Jo Locke MW says:

          Thank you very much for your comment and recommendations, Mr McCurdy – I will look them up at the earliest available opportunity.
          Jo Locke MW
          Society Buyer for the Loire

  3. Benedict Hunting says:

    I’ve not noticed many of the Domaine de Bellivière wines on the Society List recently. They used to be stocked in the past. Might they (particularly the whites) be stocked in the future?

    I do wish some of the other Loire producers I love were stocked by the Society: Baudry; Filliatreau; Domaine de la Louvetrie; Luneau-Papin; François Pinon; Olga Raffault; Richard Leroy; and, especially, Domaine de la Pépière.

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