Despite all the problems that Covid-19 has created for the usual smooth running of the wine supply chain, there are huge efforts being made by generic and trade bodies to give producers and buyers as much of a chance as possible to still show, taste and select wines. This was typified last week with Business France’s Val de Loire Unlocked session that gave buyers and the press the chance to taste in person a selection of 70 AOC wines from producers looking for distribution in the UK. Geoffrey Dean was there for The Buyer to pick out his highlights.
The Loire Valley tasting organised by Business France was one of few actual events to take place this autumn, but if you were not able to attend you can still select and taste the wines shown as part of a special online marketplace. Click here and see at the end for details.
The Val de Loire’s bold and praiseworthy decision to go ahead with a walkabout tasting in central London in early November just before lockdown was rewarded by a strong turnout that included a number of prominent buyers. All the 24 producers whose wines were on show are looking for representation in the UK, and such was their overall quality and general value-for-money that many may succeed in their quest. They deserve to.
Business France UK, supported by Food Loire and Dev’Up, did an outstanding job setting up and administering the tasting in Brettenham House, just off the Strand near Waterloo Bridge. Tasters were allotted a specified window over the course of the day, with no more than six in attendance in any one hour. No one failed to show up, according to the event masterminds, Pandora Mistry and Claire Prothon, senior marketing advisors for Business France UK.
Tasters were able to sample the full range of styles from the Loire – sparkling, dry, off-dry and sweet – with a lengthy list of red and white varietals featured along with some rosés.
For many of us, it was – the seated UGC de Bordeaux event in October apart – the first tasting of its kind since the initial springtime lockdown. It was, therefore, memorable, and many of the wines will live in the memory. Maybe it was the excitement of being back at a tasting again, but a clear theme of it was the sheer freshness of the wines. While Melon de Bourgogne, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc, as well potentially as Chardonnay, lean towards reliably high acidity levels, the winemakers still have to ensure they make balanced wines. Overridingly, they did here.
As might be expected, there were also some appealing single varietal Sauvignon Blancs. Antoine de la Farge and Domaine Chavet were good ambassadors for Menetou-Salon, while Adèle Rouze and Domaine Ponroy flew the flag impressively for rustic Quincy and nearby Reuilly respectively. Domaine des Pierrettes, Domaine Octavie and and Earl Paris-Simoneau did the same for AOP Touraine.
As for Chenin Blanc, there were some terrific wines. Vignoble Vade, with its wacky, rather un-French label, produced a fine ‘Domaine St Vincent’ Saumur Blanc 2019 with honeyed notes and floral aroma; Domaine du Puy Davyeau’s L’Envol 2018 (AOP Anjou) oozed class, as did labels from Domaine de la Chataigneraie and Domaine Oudart.
Domaine de la Commanderie’s Médiévale Cabernet Franc 2018 (AOP Chinon), exported through Flodivins in the town of Sevremoine, was a classic example of the grape. Two Cab Franc specialists that also impressed were Joel Taluau & Thierry Foltzenlogel and Domaine Nau Frères, who each exhibited three different labels from AOC Saint Nicolas Bourgueuil and AOP Bourgueil. Domaine de la Belle Etoile’s AOP Anjou Brissac Village 2018 Cabernet Franc was another to show well, while the same producer made a very quaffable Rosé from Pineau d’Aunis and Gamay. The three other rosés exhibited were made from Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Cab Franc/Grolleau.
A raft of impressive sparkling wines were spearheaded by Maison Louis de Grenelle, a bubbly specialist based in Saumur. Their three non-vintage labels, all aged in tuffeau stone cellars, were a Crémant de Loire named ‘Louis Bio’ (a blend of organically-farmed Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Grolleau and Pinot Noir), and a pair of AOP Saumur sparklings: the Grande Cuvée white (Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay) and a 100% Cabernet Franc Rosé called ‘Corail.’
Other sparkling producers to catch the eye were Domaine des Pierrettes (AOP Touraine) and Château d’Avrillé in Anjou (AOP Crémant de Loire). Three AOP Vouvray estates, Domaine de La Racauderie, Domaine du Clos de l’Epinay and Domaine de la Chataigneraie also stood out, the latter imaginatively labelling their Chenin Blanc fizz ‘Sparkling Bubbles Kiss.’
There were many good examples of lively, scented Muscadet from the Sèvre-et-Maine region, notably Domaine de la Potardiere, Domaine Delaunay and Jean Aubron. Also making a good impression was Château de la Grange Barbastre in the newish Côtes de Grand Lieu (first recognised in 1994), which has the most maritime influence of all Muscadet regions. The Goulaine family has been making wine there since 1777, with Victor Goulaine having just taken over from his father Baudouin, who was vigneron for nearly 40 years. His IGP Val de Loire Chardonnay also showed well.
Perhaps, the most beguiling Muscadet was Vignoble Marchais’ Champtoceaux Côteaux de la Loire 2017 from schist and quartz soils in Thouaré that helped give it minerality. It was certainly a little leaner than riper Sèvre-et-Maine examples.
For unexpected variety, two producers showed approachable damson-fruited Malbecs from 2017 and 2018: Domaine Oudart, based in Mareuil, and Domaine des Pierrettes, situated in Rilly. Two other AOP Touraine domaines, Ponroy and Chavet, sent elegant 2019 Pinot Noirs over, while a third, Octavie, threw a light-bodied Gamay in from the same vintage.
Half a dozen sweet or off-dry wines were available for tasting. Château de la Grange Barbastre’s Pinot Gris-Sauvignon IGP Val de Loire 2019 was an interesting blend for the latter style, while Domaine de La Racauderie and Domaine du Clos de l’Epinay went for 100% Chenin Blanc. Domaine de la Chataigneraie’s AOP Vouvray Saint-Georges Moelleux 2018, from botrytised Chenin, was a reminder of how sumptuous stickies from the Loire can be. It represented a fitting finale to a tasting for which the region must take huge credit.
Still time to take part in Loire Valley Wines: Unlocked Session Tasting
Last week Loire Valley Wines held its Unlocked Session tasting giving buyers and press the chance to taste a wide and varied selection of 70 wines from 24 hand-picked producers looking for distribution in the UK, in an event held in partnership with Dev’Up and Food Loire. There is now the opportunity for those who could not attend to still get in touch with producers and request samples by going to the French Wines Marketplace. Simply click here to see all the wines, register and then you can request wines directly from the producer.
- You can also contact Pandora Mistry and Claire Prothon, senior marketing advisors for Business France: firstname.lastname@example.org: email@example.com.