Before plunging into my WTNs, I think that it would be useful to provide a brief overview of the Loire valley region. Although the source of la Loire is river quite far south of the main wines growing regions, the Loire valley is taken by wine-lovers to mean the area extending from Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire in the centre of France to the sea round Nantes; it takes in wines grown along certain tributaries like le Cher, la Vienne and le Loir. Without measuring it, I guess that the distance from Nantes to Sancerre is roughly 500 km so the region is far from homogeneous in soil types, in climate and consequently in its wines. The most common themes in Loire wines due to their northerly latitude are lively/crisp acidity, fresh fruit, vegetable and mineral flavours varying with the different terroirs and grapes.
The main distinctive wine regions within this overall area are three.
1. The Oceanic Region (Le Pays Nantais), close to the mouth of la Loire, where the most famous wine is the crisp white Muscadet made from the grape Melon de Bourgogne. Most of the best Muscadets enjoy the appellation Muscadet Sèvre et Maine. It is generally drunk when young and fresh with seafood but certain examples, e.g. from Luneau-Papin, age very well acquiring complexity. Other wines are grown in the area, including some from Chardonnay and Gamay, but I have never had any of much interest.
2. The Heartland (L’Anjou, Le Saumurois, La Touraine) is the real hunting ground of Loire-heads. IMO the whites from Chenin blanc, dry, demi-sec and sweet, are up with the very best in the world. The Cabernet franc based reds often have real class and elegance but rarely the weight of their more important and expensive cousins from Bordeaux and Burgundy. The best appellations are –
For Chenin: Savennières (mainly dry), Coteaux du Layon (sweet), Coteaux de l’Aubance (sweet), Vouvray and Montlouis (sweet, demi-sec and dry), Jasnières and Saumur. There are also some good bubblies with the appellations Crémant de Loire, Saumur Mousseux and Vouvray.
For Cabernet franc: Samur-Champigny, Chinon, Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil. Good but more rustic CabFranc can also be found in the Anjou and Anjou-Villages appellations.
Alongside these two local aristocrats, Gamay gives good results in both Anjou and Touraine, Sauvignon blanc makes some nice and inexpensive wines, sometimes blended, in Touranine, Pineau d’Aunis has its firm fans and interesting blends are made including Malbec (known here as Cot).
3. The Eastern region (Les Vignobles du Centre) where Sauvignon blanc is king and where some very nice reds and pinks are made from Pinot Noir. The most famous appellations are Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé but there are very good and similar but less expensive wines made in Menetou-Salon, Reuilly and Quincy. With all due deference to New Zealand and Pessac-Léognan, some would argue that the finest dry expressions of Sauvignon blanc are found here.
And now for WTNs on two Loire wines which I drank last week. Both come from what I describe as the heartland about 25km only from each other though Saumur is in Anjou and Chinon in Touraine.Saumur L’Insolite 2006 – Domaine des Roches Neuves, Thierry Germain
– Alc.13% - (€14,30), made from Chenin blanc. After reading Chis Kissack’s note on the 2007 http://www.thewinedoctor.com/weekend/ro ... te07.shtml
which reinforced my memories of this 2006 at a tasting about 18 months ago, I was expecting more than I got.
The nose was very subdued with hardly any fruit and floral component but with a lot of attractively gravelly minerality. The palate was medium/light in weight with good length, great purity like spring water, crisp acidity and again fine minerality but with not much flesh and with only a little fruit (apple and citrus) beginning to peep though towards the end of the bottle. I think that the wine may be going through a closed phase; furthermore the rather ingratiating scampi dish was not an ideal pairing for such crispness and later on even the Selles-sur-Cher goat cheese, usually a winner with Chenin, did not get it singing. So it was a refreshing and invigorating drop probably needing more time for full expression and complexity; 15/20++ now with +++? potential.Chinon Clos de la Dioterie 1996 – Charles Joguet
– Alc. 12.5% - (€24 for 2006). Joguet has been the subject of a lot of criticism. Many connoisseurs claim that they went through an off period from the early 90s to 2002 and, in addition, disciples of Davis complain about a lot of brett at the estate (the new management is trying to eliminate this; pity IMO). Most people agree that Dioterie and Chêne Vert were often wonderful up to 1990 but I don’t think that this 1996 was much, if at all, inferior.
Colour was a limpid and quite light garnet. The nose was wonderfully delicate with a floral essence of red fruit (a lot of raspberry) mixed with some wet leather and hints of Darjeeling tea and minerals. The palate was medium bodied at most and beautifully harmonious and classically shaped with gentle crescendo towards the decently long and well supported finish; acidity was still fresh and mouth-watering (but not astringent like with a lot of 96) and some primary fruit was still present mixed with secondary nuances all enhancing the same aromas as on the nose. There was a welcome absence of parasite wood notes (no new oak used). Lovely 17.5/20.
Warning for the brett phobic; those wet leather notes may disqualify this for you.