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At a tasting recently, a woman told me of her plans to visit France with her family. The Champagne region would be on the itinerary, she said, but where to go next? Burgundy or Bordeaux, perhaps? “No,” I blurted out, surprising even myself. “Visit the Loire!” Compared to these two fabled wine regions, the Loire is perhaps the underdog, but a closer look reveals it has just as much, if not more, to offer. Want to dig deep into an ancient wine culture, stewarded by countless small farmers guided by tradition? Check out the Loire. Interested instead in seeing an impressive array of truly splendid châteaux built in centuries past? The Loire has them, too. Most of all, the Loire Valley has unrivaled charm. Its people are warm, generous, and down-to-earth, just as its landscapes are refreshingly serene. The region is accessible—that goes for the character of its wines, as well as the value they provide. It also describes the disposition of most vignerons, who welcome visitors with open arms and gladly share the fruits of their labor. From the Pays Nantais, with its briny oysters and Muscadet, to the Sancerrois, with its zippy Sauvignons and chalky goat cheeses, the Loire is a region with a lovely diversity of wines, local foods, and other noteworthy attractions. Do not miss the troglodyte caves, quaint villages, and majestic Renaissance châteaux set amid a countryside of utter tranquility, which is also home to the world’s greatest Cabernet Francs and Chenin Blancs. Having made my case for the Loire, I propose you taste (and drink) your way through your own case of Loire to discover the region’s charms. On your next trip, you may forget the most renowned regions and instead find yourself off the beaten path, exploring the underappreciated heart of France and savoring everything it has to offer.
NV Vouvray Brut • Champalou $26 2018 Reuilly Pinot Gris Rosé • Domaine de Reuilly $22 2018 Chinon Rosé • Charles Joguet $23 2017 Pouilly-Fumé “Vieilles Vignes” • Régis Minet $26 2017 Coteaux du Loir Blanc • Pascal Janvier $20 2017 Savennières • Château d’Épiré $25 2018 Anjou Rouge “Clos de la Cerisaie” • Château d’Épiré $20 2017 Bourgueil “Beauvais” • Domaine de la Chanteleuserie $22 2017 Bourgueil “Trinch!” • Catherine et Pierre Breton $27 2017 Chinon “Cuvée Terroir” • Charles Joguet $26 2015 Chinon “Le Clos Guillot” • Bernard Baudry $38 2015 Saumur-Champigny “La Marginale” • Thierry Germain $55
Pierre Breton in front of the Château de Louy in Restigné
SPECIAL SAMPLER PRICE $247.00
(a 25% discount)
The defining feature of the Loire Valley, not surprisingly, is the Loire River. As the longest river in France, spanning more than 600 miles, this river connects seemingly disparate wine regions. Why else would Sancerre, with its Kimmeridgian limestone terroir be connected to Muscadet, an appellation that is 250 miles away?
Secondary in relevance to the historical, climatic, environmental, and cultural importance of the river are the wines and châteaux of the Jardin de la France. The kings and nobility of France built many hundreds of châteaux in the Loire but wine preceded the arrival of the noblesse and has since out-lived them as well.
Diversity abounds in the Loire. The aforementioned Kimmderidgian limestone of Sancerre is also found in Chablis. Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur boast the presence of tuffeau, a type of limestone unique to the Loire that has a yellowish tinge and a chalky texture. Savennières has schist, while Muscadet has volcanic, granite, and serpentinite based soils. In addition to geologic diversity, many, grape varieties are grown there too: Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Melon de Bourgogne are most prevalent, but (to name a few) Pinot Gris, Grolleau, Pinot Noir, Pineau d’Aunis, and Folle Blanche are also planted. These myriad of viticultural influences leads to the high quality production of every type of wine: red, white, rosé, sparkling, and dessert.
Like the Rhône and Provence, some of Kermit’s first imports came from the Loire, most notably the wines of Charles Joguet and Château d’Epiré—two producers who are featured in Kermit’s book Adventures on the Wine Route and with whom we still work today.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
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