Oenologists and wine enthusiasts know that wines from the Loire Valley offer a high standard of quality. They can smell and taste the nuances that each wine offers, and they look for the perfect balance between the vines, the area and the winemaker’s touch.
Known for its freshness and complexity, wines by which the Loire Valley is known – Pays Natais, Anjou, Seumur, Touraine and Central Loire — are full-bodied, citrusy and elegant. They range from crisp seaside wines of the Pays Natais to the hundreds of miles of underground tunnels of Samur, where the Cabernet Franc sparkling wines are produced, to the center of the Loire Valley, where Sancerre (the world’s most prestigious wine) and Pouilly-Fumé are produced. Additionally, here is the region where excellent fruity, earthy red wines, dry and brut rosés and sweet wines come from. Nearly all Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé wines cultivated in the upper Loire Valley are from the Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
I attended a Spring into Loire, the 2017 tasting of wines from the Loire Valley. The wines I started with were the AOC (appellation d’origine controlee) Sancerre “Cuvée Argile” Old Vine, 2015 and the AOC Sancerre Cuvée Calcaire, 2015 from the Domaine Michel Vattan, imported by the Boivin Selection. The Caillottes (little stones) in the limestone soil are characteristic of Sancerre’s hills and produce grapes that are fruity and pure; the wines are distinctive, full-bodied and well-balanced. The Tres Blanches (white earth) soil of the vineyards higher up on the slopes is rich in shellfish fossils that turn white when dry. Wines produced from grapes grown here are complex and powerful. Thanks to the nature of the soils and the production, these wines are delightfully zesty.
About three acres of the Michel Vattan vineyard are devoted to Pinot Noir grapes, which benefit from the southern and northwestern Maimbray hillsides. The red, an AOC Sancerre “Pinot Noir,” 2014, a ripe wine with a crushed berry flavor and an aftertaste of balanced minerality.
The AOC Pouilly Fumé 2013, Domaine Saget white wine is complex and elegant, a little more full-bodied then the domaine in the Sancerre neighborhood. Unoaked to retain the varietal character, the wine was fresh and earthy, with a good balance between the fruit and acidity. Aromatic notes of dark berries and a slightly smoky flavor lingered in the finish.
The strongly mineral-driven AOC Pouilly, Silex, 2014 from the Espirit du Vin exporters had a smell of zesty citrus and flint, and had the most complex taste of all the Sauvignon Blancs. It can only be made from the Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown alongside Sancerre. Silex, or flinty soil is part of an ancient seabed that runs in a narrow band along a fault line in Sancerre.
As a change of pace I tasted the AOC Vouvray “Cuvée T” 2014, from the Domaine Vincent Carême, a Chenin Blanc sparkling wine. Produced from the middle of the Loire Valley, from Anjou to Samur and to Touraine, its high acidity is prized as a premium quality wine grape able to produce world class wines. The soil of the vineyards of this ranges from chalk, sand, gravel, clay and limestone pebbles, but most notable is a porous limestone that contributes to the acidity found in the grapes of Touraine. This Vouvray “Cuvée T” was a little masterpiece of complexity and freshness, brimming with citrusy nuances, deep and delightfully drinkable, epitomizing Chenin at its best.
At the Spring into Loire Valley, there were dozens of importers representing a great quantity of exceptional wines at affordable retail prices. At the next event I hope to branch out to different parts of this premier wine region.