Exploring the Loire Valley

Join us for our tasting on Tuesday, July 17!

The Loire Valley, by acreage, is the largest wine-growing region in all of France, home to over 4,000 wineries and boasting an extravagant array of wines: salty and electric Muscadet Sèvre et Maine that'll leave you craving fresh Atlantic oysters, fresh and flinty Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre, and Cabernet Franc that favors fruit over force. These are just a few examples of the kinds of wines we'll be tasting at next week's Tuesday Tasting!

We'll start in the sub-region of Pays Nantais, famous for its Melon de Bourgogne (an offshoot of Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais). This grape makes wines with extraordinary acidity and brightness from the area called Muscadet Sèvre et Maine. It's here that you'll find a small group of producers known as the Vignobles d'Art (artistic winemakers) making the best Melon de Bourgogne in the world. It's a group created and led by Louis Métairau, the first winemaker to leave his Muscadet wines "sur lie," which means spending time aging with the leftover yeast particles from fermentation. Most white wines are decanted off the lees as soon as fermentation is over in the fall. Sur-lie wines spend the winter before they are bottled literally on the lees, without first being separated from them. Those dead yeast cells give off acids, which combine with other elements in the wine to give it extra depth and flavor.

The Black Label Muscadet we'll taste on Tuesday is the most classic example of the terroir in the Métairau lineup, with more depth from slightly older vines. It's brisk and super-dry, but balanced by an attractively modest amount of fruit, and is designed to cut through the richness of its classic companion, the oyster.

We'll then taste two different Chenin Blanc wines from it's most reputable appellations in the Loire: Saumur and Vouvray in the Touraine region of the Loire.

The first, from Saumur, is from producer Régnier-David, owned by Maurice Régnier, a pioneer in his region because of his organic viticulture practices, as he converted from conventional methods to more eco-friendly and, at the time, obscure farming practices — now a VERY important and widespread movement in this area of the wine-making world.

This wine is grown from a single hectare of vines in a vineyard planted in 2000, taken from a massal selection of cuttings from Domaine Huet in Vouvray, a very prominent producer with some of the oldest and more reputable vines in the Touraine sub-region of the Loire. Massal Selection refers to the “old way” of propagating vineyards. The technique is being brought back into use because of its potentially profound benefits for high quality wine.

The other Chenin Blanc wine we'll try is from the larger sub-appellation of Vouvray, found a little further down the Loire River from Saumur. Vouvray enjoys a warm, continental climate during the summers. Slowly dropping temperatures in autumn make for a long ripening season. Chenin Blanc, more commonly known as Pineau de la Loire in this part of the world, is a grape with which both soil and climate play key roles in the diversity of its incarnations. For instance, a Chenin from California gives one no hint of what the grape is capable of in the right soil, but in Vouvray, the gravel and chalk in the vineyards play major roles in absorbing the sun’s rays, lending to increased ripeness in this part of the Touraine. 

Catherine and Didier Champalou, co-proprietors of Domaine Champalou, both came from vigneron families, yet their mutual sense of independence prompted the couple to brave it on their own right after completing viticultural school in Saumur. Since starting the domaine in 1983, they have not only grown their business, but their label is one of the most highly-acclaimed in the appellation. Didier tends the vines and Catherine oversees the cellar. Their wines are stunning - harmonious, restrained and a true reflection of the terroir. Their wines are, simply put, just absolutely stunning!

The fourth wine we'll taste is from another famous appellation— probably the most famous in the Loire Valley: Sancerre, in Central Loire — a region known for its mineral-driven Sauvignon Blanc.

The Family Bourgeois of Henri Bourgeois, the producer of this wine, has been making wine in Sancerre, in the village of Chavignol, for ten generations. They work comes from some of the most revered vineyards with combinations of soil that are the most ideal for growing Sauvignon Blanc.

La Côte des Monts Damnés (translated to "the side of the of the damned mountain") is a very steep, south and south-west facing slope composed of Kimmerigdian soil (a soil composed of Jurassic era fossilized sea shells and clay). This terroir, according to the family, "gives roundness, deepness and a great longevity to the wines." The near-vertical slope of the Monts Damnés produces a wine that has delicate tropical fruit aromas (a proof of ripe Sauvignon grapes) and clean mineral and fruity palate testify to La Côte des Monts Damnés' pedigree.

The last wine we'll taste is from the last of the four sub-regions of Loire Valley — Anjou. Cabernet Franc, native to the Basque region, flourishes in the Loire Valley, where it's known as Breton, and is the principle red grape of the whole region. These are simple, both fruit and earthy wines, that are easy to drink and pair with almost anything. The Cabernet Franc we'll taste is also one that we pour in our restaurant, so if you're looking to taste before purchase, but won't be with us Tuesday evening, you can always stop by our bar or wine bar and try it for yourself, first!

It's from Domaine de la Bergerie, a family run operation since 1961, when it was purchased by Marie-Schlastique at the age of 37, who has been running it with her children and grand-children ever since. With the varied soils of Anjou as their bedrock, and mild oceanic climate, the environment of this domaine is conductive to making a wide range of wines with full expression of the terroir. "Le Carisaie," which is the Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon blend we'll be tasting, is a fruity red with medium body, black fruits, and a bit of spice.

We hope you'll join us at our tasting of all these wines!
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