“A Trip Down the Loire”
February saw the return of Club member Derek Whitmell to discuss one of his many favourite wine regions The Loire. Much of his talk came from his personal journys round the region. All the wines were sourced from The Wine Society but some of the wines can be sourced from other wine outlets and are noted where known.
The River Loire, is the longest river in France, 1000km long, source in the Ardeche, south of Lyons. Flows (mainly) north for several hundred km then bends through right angle to flow West, entering Atlantic to the west of Nantes.
The climate varies from ‘continental’ at Sancerre to an ocean climate warmed by the Gulf Stream at the western end. The region is at the north western limit of vine cultivation in Europe (excluding England) and frost can cause problems. The climate varies from year to year so that quality and style of harvest varies significantly; cool summers can restrict ripening of grapes, whereas hot summers can produce exceptionally sweet white wines but rob dry white wines of their verve.
Wine varieties: At mouth of Loire, Melon du Bourgoyne (muscadet). Central areas Sauvignon blanc , Chenin Blanc, (and chardonnays); cabernet franc, pinot noir etc
1.Crémant de Loire. Gratien and Meyer, Cuvée 1864. NV 12%
Grapes come principally from Saumur and Touraine. Chardonnay 57%, Pinot noir 43%. Champenoise method, aged 8 months in oak casks. Second fermentation in bottle, stored 32 months in cold cellars in tuffeau caves beneath Saumur. Disgorgement by hand. The Wine Society £12.95; Majestic £9.99; Waitrose £9.74
- Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sue Lie. Ch. L’Oiseliniére de la Ramée, 2013 12%
Chéreau has been a leading name for winemaking for centuries. This Chéreau married Mme Carre (owner of Ch. L’Oiseliniere), joined forces and have been supplying The Wine Society since 1980’s.
Sur Lies (left on lies before racking off) provide extra dimension and character to wine. This wine is crisp, very dry, slightly salt taste from being near the coast? easy drinking, ideal with seafood, but also with a range of lighter dishes. Older years can develop with considerable length. This wine deserves to be more popular
The Wine Society £7.75, Majestic £5.99/£7.99; Waitrose £5.99/£7.99.
- Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, Domaine Guénault, 2015, 13.5%
Fresh young sauvignon (100%) from the Bougrier family’s own property near St. Georges, in the highest part of the Touraine situated on steep slopes overlooking the Cher river near Chenonceau (SE of Tours, South of Amboise), gives grapes excellent sun exposure. Good as an aperitif, with fish, goat’s cheese etc. Dry, light, grassy and scented, with instantly recognisable aromas include ‘greenfruits, such as gooseberries, or nettles or tomcats!’
The Wine Society £7.95, Majestic £7.99, Sainsbury’s £7.
- Sancerre ‘La Reine Blanche’, Domaine Vacheron, 2015, 13.5%, Sauvignon Blanc
Soil has equal parts limestone and flint and at 40 hectares it’s one of the largest to harvest by hand. Limestone contributes to the balanced acidity, flint helps to provide aromas and minerality. 2015 has a riper, rounder style but has freshness, steely backbone and palate length. “Bright and balanced” will keep to 2020. We tasted this in 2006, then priced at £11.95 and rated it 6.8/10. This evening the average rating was 8.5! Our palates or the wine must be improving but the price has increased faster than inflation! Best white wine of the night.
The Wine Society Sancerre’s: (3no.) from £13.50 to £16.50, Majestic (3no.) £ £12.49 to £14.39, Waitrose £19.99, Sainsbury’s £14.18
- Vouvray Moelleux ‘Noyer de Cent’, 2002, Chenin Blanc, 12.0%, £14.05
Chenin Blanc, (Pineau de la Loire) is believed to have originated in the Loire and is still the Loire’s signature grape. It is a vigourous grape with a tendency to bud early and ripen late making it sensitive to climate. It can range from dry (sec) to sweet (molleux). In exceptional years it can produce some of the finest longest lasting sweet wines. Vincent and Tania Carême established the property in 1999 and farm organically 14 hectares supplementing with local grapes to produce a negociant range alongside their domaine wines. Soils are classic tuffeau with some clay and flints in vineyards 300 feet above sea level. The ancient caves are handcut into the tuffeau cliffs overlooking the river.
This wine is described in its name as moelleux, attributed to its medium sweetness and has been aged for 15 years. The notes go on to say: ‘This wine, from the fine 2002 vintage, notable for its refreshing backbone of acidity and resulting length on the palate tempers the wines sweetness. This mature parcel is in the old style and was too good to miss. Drink over the next year’.
This was certainly a pleasant interesting wine, a 15 year old white wine! With subtle fresh sweetness. Certainly went down well with quite a few members of the Club
Other Vouvrays: The Wine Society: Dry Vouvray £7.75, £25, moelleux £14.5, £25, £30, various to £345, Majestic; demi sec £8.99, Waitrose moelleux £9.99; Sainsbury’
Red wines are in the minority in the Loire but a combination of vastly improved husbandry and climate change are making these wines more and more attractive. Generally lighter bodied, refreshing and lower in alcohol than wines from the south of France.
- Cote Roannaise ‘Eclat de Granite’, Domaine Sérol, 2015, Gamay, 12.5%
Roanne is about 300km south of Orleans, on the Loire, close to the Beaujolais district. Domaine Serol is leading estate, situated on gentle slopes of sandy-granite soils, where gamay does very well. Serol consistently produces plump, fragrant reds, not dissimilar to Beaujolais Village but even brighter. Best served slightly chilled. Hedgerow fruit, raspberry and dark cherry with a long finish. In Touraine Gamay generally has less fruit and a slightly earthy character which is not unattractive but some may find it an acquired taste
In 2006, club tasted this, at £5.95 rated it 6/10. Now The Wine Society £9.50
- Reuilly rouge, ‘Les Pierres Plates’, Domaine Denis Jamain, 2015. Pinot noir.
A small but expanding Domaine which has 11 hectares of sauvignon blanc and 4 hectares of pinot noir. Limestone clay soils, resembling those in Chablis, which contribute to wines stony and mineral character. The best vintage since 2009. silky, supple and fresh on palate, with cherry and redcurrant notes.Goes well with roast pork and chicken. The Vineyard started in 1935 and is now farmed organically.
The Wine Society £12.50
8.Chinon ‘Pierre de Tuf’, Domaine de la Noblaie, 2014, Cabernet Franc, 13.0%
Cabernet Franc is a black grape tending generally to be overshadowed by Cabernet Sauvignon but remains more important in the Loire as it is well suited to cool inland climates. It buds and matures a week earlier, easier to ripen fully and is less susceptible to poor weather during harvest. This example was vinified in a 15th Century limestone vat, hollowed out in a tuffeau cellar which allows a long, slow maceration, then matured in double barriques, which Jerome says “softens Chinon’s somewhat gruff exterior”! Compared with its offspring Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc is regarded as being slightly lighter in colour and tannins light to medium bodied with more immediate fruit than Cab Sav, with a marked fragrance including sometimes herbaceous aromas associated with unripe cab sav. Regarded as an ideal lunchtime red this wine is has intense black-cherry and floral aromas with a touch of pepper and spice, fine mineral core and refined tannins. Can be drunk from now to 2024
The Wine Society 3no starting from £9.95, £10.95, £12.95 Waitrose Saumur-Champigny £12.99, Sainsburys Chinon £7.
A great evening with great wines from the length of the Loire and a big thank you to Derek for his time researching and presenting the wines!
Meeting in the Village Hall between 20:00-22:00 the Club welcomes everyone who has an interest in wine no matter how small. We usually taste 4 white and 4 red wines per meeting which are small tasting measures so hangovers are avoided and being in the village no driving is required!. We try to cater for all tastes and the evening is also enjoyed as a village social to meet with other village residents. A membership of around 60 we average 32 to most meetings and always welcome new members from the village so if you’ve wondered about joining us, please contact me, an existing member or anyone from the committee for more details. You are very welcome to try with your first meeting as a guest. The more the merrier!
The club’s regular meetings continue on the third Wednesday of each
Subject to final confirmation, we intend to enjoy:
15th March: Blind Tasting.
19th April: Food and Wine Pairing.
Kevin Jacklin, Secretary