Loire Valley Tasting Showcases Under Appreciated Region

rich mauro the peoples palate

Loire Valley Farmhouse

Last month, the Loire Valley Wine Bureau hosted a trade tasting in Denver at the Sheraton Downtown Hotel. This was a great chance to taste many different Loire Valley wines in one place and to experience the variety and quality the region offers. And there is an amazing variety.

Loire Valley wines, from the geographical heart of France. Most of the important growing regions are located along or just off of the Loire River. They produce a diverse and distinctive range of wines with industry leaders in every category: white, red, sparkling and sweet. After Champagne, the region is the second largest and second oldest in France for sparkling wines (unfortunately, I ran out of time to try them). it is also the leader for wines ordered in restaurants in France, probably because of the wines relatively moderate prices.

In case you didn’t know, Loire Valley wines set international standards for Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, as well as producing unique local specialties like Muscadet. The Loire Valley also produces truly excellent dessert wines. This tasting also confirmed Loire wines’ reputation for food friendliness.

One thing for sure, wines of this quality and affordability are worth any buyer’s attention. Below is a capsule tour of the region’s main appellations represented at the tasting moving roughly from the Atlantic coast inland to the valley’s eastern border, accompanied by my recommended wines. (Wines marked with ** are my favorites.)

Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine – near the city of Nantes; crisp, dry whites from melon de Bourgogne (also called muscadet) grape

  • 2009 Chateau de l’Oiselliniere ($13)
  • 2008 Domaine de la Chauviniere “Clos les Montys” ($13)
  • 2005 Domaine de la Chauviniere “Granit de Chateau-Thebaud” ($20)
  • 2008 Pierre-Luc Bouchard ($NA)

Anjou – adjoining the city of Angers; earthy reds and off-dry rosés from cabernet franc grape.

  • 2008 Domaine des Rochelles Anjou-Villages Brissac (red, $14)**
  • 2009 Roc de Chateauvieux Rosé d’Anjou ($12)

Savennieres – west of Angers; powerful, dry chenin blanc (known in the valley as pineau de Loire); prized for great aging potential

  • 2007 Domaine Baumard ($22)
  • 2005 Domaine Baumard “Clos du Papillon” **  ($32)
  • 2007 Domaine Baumard “Tre Speciale” ($38)

Coteaux du Layon – straddles the Layon River extending from the Loire south of Angers; luscious dessert wines from chenin blanc.

  • 2000 Domaine Cady** ($23)
  • 1990 Domaine Baumard “Cuvee lu Pon” ($NA)

Quarts de Chaume – a small area along the Layon also producing great sweet nectars from chenin blanc

  • 2000 Chateau de Suronde (biodynamic) **  ($58)
  • 2007 Domaine Baumard ** ($65)

Saumur – large region extending south from the town of the same name; mostly earthy reds from cabernet franc

  • 2009 Domaine des Hauts de Sanziers  ($17)

Chinon – west of the city of Tours, this area is certainly famous among most people for its historic chateau; among wine lovers, though, it’s the distinctive reds from cabernet franc that draw us

  • 2007 Domaine du Beausejor ($13)
  • 2008 Domaine de Grand Bouqueteau “Tradition” ($15)

Touraine – surrounds Tours; a very large area producing a variety of whites, roses and reds; these are aromatic wines from sauvignon blanc

  • 2009 Domaine Joel Delaunay “Le Bois Martin” ($16)
  • 2009 Chateau de la Roche** ($16)
  • 2008 Domaine du Pre Baron ($14)

Vouvray – just west of Tours; chenin blanc in a range of styles from dry to quite sweet

  • 2003(!) Domaine Georges Brunet (demi-sec) ($15)
  • 2009 Chateau Moncontour (sec) ($18)
  • 2009 Clos du Nouys (sec, $22 and demi-sec, $18)
  • 2009 Roc de Chateauieux ($12)

Quincy – north of the town of Bourges at the eastern end of the valley; a somewhat lesser known region (producing sauvignon blanc) that made an impressive showing at this tasting

  • 2008 Domaine du Tremblay** ($18)
  • 2008 Philippe Portier** ($18)

Sancerre – the first of the two world famous producers of fresh, fruitful wines from sauvignon blanc at the eastern border of the Loire Valley

  • 2008 Domaine Brochard ($17)
  • 2008 Domaine de Buissonnes ($28)
  • 2008 Chateau Sancerre ($27)
  • 2008 Guy Saget “Domaine de la Perrier” ** ($25)
  • 2009 Le Hospices** ($21)

Pouilly Fume – on the other side of the river from Sancerre, these sauvignon blancs tend to be fuller and richer

  • 2007 Domaine Alain Cailbourdin “Les Cris” ($22)
  • 2008 Guy Saget “Domaine Saget” ** ($35)

I also appreciated that all the wines presented are locally distributed.  And the importers – Eberhard Distributers, Robert Kacher Selections, Terlato Wines International, Esprit du French Wine Merchants, Old World Imports, Marnier-Lapostelle, Palm Bay International, Pasternak Wine Imports, Michael Corso Selections, Ex Cellars, Pierre Chanier, and Elizabeth Imports – deserve recognition. These are all reliable importers and frankly a good shorthand way of making sure you are getting a good wine is to look on the label for one of these names.

About Rich

I first became interested in wine while I worked in numerous liquor stores during college in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. In the years following college, I researched, tasted, traveled to vineyards in California and Europe, participated in countless tastings. I began writing about wine in 1995 with a column in Out Front Colorado. For me, wine is more than a drink. It is food. It is a connection to the earth. It is culture. There is just something amazing, even magical, about the transformation of grapes into wine. It is also remarkable how drinking wine with food enhances the taste and enjoyment of both. Appreciation of wine has become an integral part of my approach to life, which emphasizes balance, respect for nature, physical and emotional health, and an appreciation of our nature as social beings. In 2006, I was awarded a fellowship to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers.