The defining feature of the Loire Valley, not surprisingly, is the Loire River. The longest river in France, spanning more than 600 miles, it connects seemingly disparate wine regions. Why else would Sancerre, with its Kimmeridgian limestone terroir and continental climate, be connected to Muscadet, an appellation that is 250 miles away on the Atlantic coast?
The river plays a crucial role in moderating temperatures, allowing viticulture to thrive in this cool, northerly climate. Correspondingly, its wines share a common thread of fresh acidity, but in every other way, diversity abounds in the Loire Valley. The aforementioned Kimmderidgian limestone of Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire, also found in Chablis, puts a unique mark on Sauvignon Blanc that differentiates it from other examples produced worldwide. Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur boast the presence of tuffeau, a type of yellowish, chalky limestone unique to the Loire. Savennières has schist, while the Muscadet zone has volcanic, granitic, and serpentinite-based soils. In addition to its geologic diversity, many grape varieties are grown here: Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, and Melon de Bourgogne are most prevalent, but others including Pinot Gris, Grolleau, Pinot Noir, Pineau d’Aunis, Côt, Gamay, and Folle Blanche also thrive. This myriad of viticultural influences leads to the production of high-quality wines in all styles: white, red, rosé, sparkling, and dessert. Some of Kermit’s first imports came from the Loire, most notably the wines of Charles Joguet and Château d’Epiré—producers he featured in his book Adventures on the Wine Route and with whom we still work today. The region's rural charm and the down-home hospitality of its people—without forgetting its traditional rustic cuisine—drew him back consistently, and we now count seventeen fine growers in our portfolio. Discover them here, and enjoy your adventure in the Jardin de la France.
I’m always impressed with how much the wines of Christine and Thierry Boucard have going on. The Beauvais brings you the whole spectrum of Cabernet Franc: the nose is delicate and pleasant, the palate fresh and fruity at first, then finishing on more earthy characteristics of Cabernet Franc—forest floor and morel mushrooms. This is the perfect food wine—your year-round companion that covers all your cuisine bases: from fresh antipasti to chicken in cream sauce, and on to grilled red meat.
Muscadet is one of my absolute favorite dry white wines to drink while cooking at home. Éric’s Clos de la Butte is the perfect combination of freshness, crisp acidity, and a lingering finish that is always a mouthwatering experience. Oops, Honey, did we just drain the whole bottle?!?
The first word that comes to mind when sipping this unique Pinot Gris rosé is delicacy: the color is a lovely pale pink, and the aromas will remind you of a blooming orchard. On the palate, the wine is silky yet showing a certain body. The final mineral notes bring extra life to it, revealing agreeable bitter nuances, and as Yves Leccia, the celebrated Corsican winemaker, says, “It’s the bitter notes that make a fine wine.”
This méthode traditionelle bubbly is from Catherine Breton, who knows a thing or two about Chenin Blanc. She makes a wonderful all-purpose sparkler: crisp, dry, delicate, invigorating, affordable. I might add that the 2005, one of her first vintages, is still providing plenty of thrills today.
It is uncommon, across the world of wine, for a producer to cultivate a single grape variety alone. Of the nearly 200 growers whose wines we import, a tiny fraction do this. Thierry Allemand in Cornas (Syrah). The Raveneaus and Lavantureux in Chablis (Chardonnay). The Lapierres in Morgon (Gamay). Then there are the Champalous, who live and work in Vouvray, just downriver from the Château du Clos Lucé, where Leonardo da Vinci spent his final years. Of this small and impressive set of single-grape devotees, Catherine, Didier, and their daughter Céline draw the widest range of styles out of one material. From a dry sparkler to two of the most sublime late-harvest wines on this planet—and three styles in between—they have not only found, but mastered the diverse, exquisite possibilities of Chenin Blanc. The best introduction to the Champalous’ Chenin magic is their refreshing, elegant, classic Vouvray AOC bottling, which is an equally good candidate for your porch apéritif, dinner table, and cellar. At table, it is stunningly versatile, having paired well recently with a beet and goat cheese salad, two different summery pastas, and an assortment of Chinese dishes. Aromas and flavors of pear, apple, flowers, honey, mouthwatering citrus, and minerals take turns coming in and out and back into focus as you drink this wine, giving it a mesmerizing complexity that is rare at this price. Best of all, it is a real joy to drink—a strong contender for your go-to summer white.
Charles Joguet's “Clos du Chêne Vert” comes from an exceptional terroir, one of the oldest crus in the Chinon appellation. Vintage 2013 was cool in the Loire, but thanks to this exceptional parcel, the Chêne Vert is still rich and dense. You should keep this one for chilly evenings in the fall, or—better yet—keep it for a few years. The wine is carefully aged for eighteen months in oak, giving the terroir time to fully express itself, and making this one of the most age-worthy cuvées of the domaine.
Only a handful of producers we work with have been with Kermit since the 1970s, and Epiré is one of those chosen few. Through thick and thin, changing fashions and tastes, both Kermit and the estate had the foresight to keep on keepin’ on. I can’t imagine what it was like to try to sell a rustic, bone-dry Chenin Blanc back in the day when Chardonnay was King in full regalia of buttery oak. Seems to me, though, that wine drinkers today seek and enjoy character and flair. The Bizard family has cultivated Chenin, known locally as Pineau de la Loire, for six generations, creating timeless wines from this schist and sandstone terroir adjacent to the Loire. Savennières produces a fascinating expression of Pineau, with lively acidity and pronounced minerality in youth before developing a striking range of aromas with age. This bottling from Epiré is a lovely young Savennières to enjoy now, with notes of fresh exotic fruit and a round mouthfeel leading to a stony, mouthwatering finish—a whole lotta wine for the price.
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